When we launched Grace North over a year ago we upgraded our entire video stream to HD. Everything from our cameras through the recording process is 1080i. We have been recording our Saturday evening service and sending it to Grace North since the launch, so we have worked out a pretty good process. One of the things we realized over the last year was that we had all the recording equipment sitting unused on Sunday. So we began recording the sermon and compressing it for an internet feed. It took us about 4 months to get the compression right so that we could get the whole HD sermon crunched down to less than a GB to upload to vimeo, but we figured it out and have been uploading sermons consistently for the last couple months. (these have been available on the Grace Video page of this blog, and the current week is always in the left side bar). Over the next two weeks we are hoping to make the sermon video available from our new sermon page on the Grace Fellowship website. We will continue to record the internet sermon during the 9am service and let it crunch throughout Sunday, then upload it on Tuesday.
Once the internet recording process was established, we had another crazy idea: what if we streamed live to the internet during the 11AM? We began looking at service to host our live stream about three months ago and worked with both ustream.tv and livestream.com. From our trials it appeard that ustream was much more reliable and consistent than livestream, so we are going with that. There have been two major challenges in getting the free stream usable for what we want to do. First was the quality of the stream, second was the aspect ratio. We were ecstatic that we could stream for free and resolved to start with the lower res stream until we saw what the traffic was, but the 4:3 aspect ratio was unusable. As I mentioned, our new system is 1080i native, which means a 16:9 aspect ratio. The only option for all free services is 4:3 aspect ratio. As we watched the service, everything on both the left and right one inch of the output was being cropped. This meant we were losing sermon notes, lyrics and people would walk out of the shot. Last week we found the solution to our problem. This week we streamed the service using Wirecast software over ustream and it was an amazing improvement. The aspect ration was 16:9 and the stream quality was really good. So good that the stream could be viewed full screen at 1920×1080 and still look pretty good. We were very impressed with Wirecast and will continue to use this as our streaming solution. You can watch the service live on Sundays at 11AM EST at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/gracelive
If you are working on getting up a live stream or internet recording for your church, feel free to leave me a comment with your contact info and I would be happy to help out in any way we can.