ProPresenter is a cross-platform (Mac and Windows) worship and presentation software for live events. Make high-quality live productions easy. Read more Third-party applications have not been checked, verified, certified or otherwise approved or endorsed by Skype. NDI® (Network Device Interface) is a free protocol for Video over IP, developed by NewTek. It is designed to allow distribution of live professional video over existing IP infrastructure, freeing users from hardware constraints and gives the benefits of reduced cost and deployment time.
OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) is the most popular live streaming software available today. It is especially popular among churches setting up live streaming of their worship services. What initially draws churches to OBS is the price. Since the software is completely free, churches working with little-to-no budget can access powerful broadcast software without paying a one-time or monthly fee. But the popularity of OBS has to do with a lot more than price. OBS is packed with professional-grade features with a massive support community, and it keeps getting better with continuous updates.
If your church is just getting started with live streaming, check out the book Helping Your Church Live Stream. This is a great way to better understand the power of live streaming and learn some of the best practices for getting your stream up and running. If you want a more specific look at OBS, be sure to get a free copy of The Unofficial Guide to Open Broadcaster Software: OBS: The World's Most Popular Free Live-Streaming Application.
What Is OBS and What Role Does It Play in Church Live Streaming?
OBS is a multi-function software suite that enables a computer (PC, Mac, or Linux) to record and live stream video. It combines the functionality of video device capture, video encoding, recording, and broadcasting via RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol). In simpler terms, it allows users to combine multiple video sources from cameras, other computers, and pre-recorded videos. It then allows switching from one source or 'scene' to another. Finally, it can either record the output or send it to a live streaming destination like YouTube or Facebook.×
Zoom being used on one laptop and OBS being used on the second laptop. A PTZOptics USB camera is being connected to the laptop running Zoom. OBS takes an IP video feed from the PTZOptics camera and is able to record much higher quality video than Zoom. The audio system provides a 3.5mm audio output which is connected to the PTZOptics camera and used for audio into both OBS and Zoom.
Easy to Use in a Church Setting
Few churches can afford to pay professional producers or broadcast engineers. Instead, most rely on volunteers with little to no experience or training. Set up correctly, OBS can be very simple for new users to learn and operate. Transitioning from source to source is simple, with one click switching. In studio mode, the operator can see both the current image being streamed or recorded and a preview of the scene that will go live with a push of the transition button.
To make things as simple as possible, scenes can be set up with custom labels. This can be really basic, or it can be highly customized. In a simple setup, scenes can be labeled by source; for instance, there can be a scene for 'Camera 1', 'Camera 2' and 'ProPresenter Computer.' The operator can select the next scene and push 'Transition' to another camera. Transitions can be customized to be a simple, fast cut or a fade of a specific duration. The operator can even use the transition slider to control the fade from one scene to another manually.
Connecting OBS to another computer that runs Pro Presenter and other worship presentation software like EasyWorship is also incredibly easy. This is because OBS has a plugin which will enable support for an NDI connection. NDI is a simple way to send video and audio from any computer directly into OBS; for example, if your pastor has a laptop being used to advance slides during the presentation, NDI can be used to bring the video of those slides into OBS for your live stream. Another great example is a second computer running Easy Worship or Pro Presenter. Both worship presentation software solutions support NDI outputs which can easily be brought into OBS as an input.
In a more custom setup, scenes can be created for each component of worship. For instance, there could be scenes created for scripture reading, sermon, baptism, communion, and songs. The scene could include the correct camera or other sources. For setups using a PTZOptics camera connected over a network, the scene can even send the commands to the camera to move it to the right preset location for the scene. For example, a scene set up for communion could select the camera with the best angle and pan, tilt, and zoom it for a closeup of the baptismal font.×
With the growing needs of live streamers and the new upgrades to camera functionality, OBS is continuously updated to fix technical issues within the software, improve the user interface, and add features. Some of the features that have been released in recent versions include dynamic bitrate controls and the availability of the PTZOptics Plugin.
Dynamic bitrate is a lifesaver for churches, many of which have limited and often unreliable broadband connections. Poor connections and network congestion often lead to dropped frames, which can significantly impact the viewer experience. With dynamic bitrate, the software automatically detects any issues with the internet connection and automatically reduces the bitrate to compensate. The overall quality is reduced slightly, but it is far less noticeable than dropped frames. When the software detects that the internet connection has been restored, it automatically returns to the original value. This is a fantastic feature that requires no input from the operator, which is great for volunteers.
The PTZOptics plugin allows an operator to control every aspect of the live stream from one computer screen. Without even leaving OBS, users can control up to 8 cameras and 9 presets for each. This is especially helpful when a church has a limited number of volunteers since it eliminates the need for an additional camera operator.
The newest version, now in a limited beta release, will be ready for download in time for this year's Advent and Christmas season. It brings several vital improvements, including native virtual cameras, media control, and a new AI-powered noise removal filter.
The native virtual camera feature replaces a third party plugin for a very popular use of OBS. Churches that use Zoom or even Skype to connect with their congregations have started using OBS to better produce the outgoing video and have more content options. Since video conferencing software typically looks for a webcam, many churches used the Catxfish plugin to create a virtual camera that could be selected as a source in Zoom or other software. In this new release, OBS will add their own version that will include a button in the main interface to turn it on or off.×
This look at the OBS interface has been customized to include two PTZ camera controllers. The PTZOptics camera controls allow the user to control the pan, tilt and zoom of the cameras inside of OBS. The PTZOptics OBS Plugin also allows users to control the cameras with an Xbox controller.
The newly added media controls will be a beneficial addition for churches that use media sources like pre-recorded videos. It will now be simple to control the playback of these sources while they are in the live view.
Since many congregations have trouble getting a perfectly clean audio feed, it will be exciting to see how the new RMNoise, AI-powered noise reduction filter works to improve audio quality. AI-noise reduction has been around for a while in higher-end audio production software and will be an exciting addition to OBS.×
White PTZOptics camera is mounted on the wall in the sanctuary. This camera is mounted using a white HuddleCamHD HCM-1 wall mount. The church has run a cable conduit to bring ethernet and USB cabling into the two laptop setup shown above.
A Massive Support Community
Since OBS is an open-source, community-developed software package, there is no customer service or technical support line to call. However, that doesn't mean you can't get help. There is a massive community of support. Other users love to offer assistance in online forums, videos, and Facebook groups. You can even find support specific to churches to deal with particular issues that arise in worship settings. Again, the free book The Unofficial Guide to Open Broadcaster Software: OBS: The World's Most Popular Free Live-Streaming Application is another great place to look for help.
Propresenter 7 Ndi Obs
Churches have many options for equipment and software for live streaming. OBS may not be a perfect fit for every situation, but it is a great option to try since it is free of charge. Some congregations may eventually choose to upgrade to paid options such as Wirecast, vMix, or Ecamm Live. Others stick with OBS over the long term even as their budgets grow. It's a quality product that is always getting better.