Based in Detroit, Michigan, Unity Baptist Church has a rich 97-year history sharing God’s word and serving the community. Like so many churches, the global pandemic put a strain on the Unity Baptist congregation as they, like others, were required to shutter their doors, making in-person gatherings impossible.
Having grown up at Unity Baptist for 40 years, Rev. Jerome L. Warfield Sr. was thrilled to be called back home to be the pastor in late March 2020, but with the pandemic in full swing, he quickly realized the church needed a solution to keep the congregation connected.
“We needed to get our services out to people while everyone was social distancing,” said Warfield. “I’d had experience of live streaming during one of my visits to Jerusalem. I had previously tried different streaming systems at other churches, and knew I really liked Telestream Wirecast. Unity Baptist needed something that would allow us to stream to Facebook but also YouTube since not everyone necessarily had a Facebook account.”
Warfield brought Wirecast into Unity Baptist because it could do everything they wanted and more in a single unit, saying, “The first time I started using Wirecast, I was amazed at how flexible it was. In addition to live streaming, we were able to record our events and upload or play them later, and even add subtitles to the video as required.”
At Unity Baptist, they typically run four or five cameras that they can switch between. Wirecast can even control PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) on cameras to supply alternate angles or close-up shots and make sure remote viewers stay engaged.
“It’s like having a national broadcast service that’s housed right here in the church. We’ve had more people join our church online during this pandemic than we originally had in person,” said Warfield. “I also do a radio Bible study program, and I use Wirecast at the radio station to simultaneously stream to viewers while we broadcast the show over the air. Online viewers have access to chat and can qualify for prizes, etc. just the same as those listening to their radios. It doubles our reach.”
Engagement features builds an online audience
Since using Wirecast, Unity Baptist has seen exponential online growth in viewership of streamed sermons and other events.
“When I first arrived at Unity Baptist, we were streaming services with my laptop camera app. We were getting around 100 viewers watching and might max out at about 200 a week,” said Warfield. “Now we’re getting thousands. We’re routinely getting between 2000 to 3000 people watching our service every week. Wirecast enables us to simultaneously stream to YouTube, Facebook, and the church’s own web page. I credit that increase to the high quality and engagement we’re able to bring to our broadcasts. We’ve taken our message beyond our four walls in this church in a way we couldn’t have anticipated. As word gets out about the teaching, more people tune in and tell others. We are now being seen around the world, literally.”
Part of that engagement is due to the inclusion of online comments from Facebook and YouTube viewers during the service.
“Those who are watching at home can see their comments live on the screen. Wirecast lets us control which comments are featured, so they don’t just stream indiscriminately, which is important of course. It’s one of our favorite features, and it truly makes remote viewers an important part of the service,” says Warfield.
Rev. Warfield appreciates the wealth of customer service options available, from online support to a wealth of video tutorials that help users get setup and streaming right out of the box.
He said, “For those who have never tried Wirecast, once you try it, you will be amazed. It’s literally a one-stop shop. A complete production studio to bring in all your sources or playback pre-recorded content. We like using shot templates, and we have things set up so we can easily produce a consistent looking program week after week. We’re actively training younger people to be able to change shots, insert lower-third titles for speakers and more. There’s not a need that we have had that Wirecast has not helped us deliver. Take it from someone like myself who was not very knowledgeable about the technical side of broadcasting and streaming; if I can do it, you can too.”
Options for building a streaming system
Setting up a capable computer that can run Wirecast software can seem a bit daunting for those unfamiliar with the hardware streaming requirements of a PC or Mac computer. For those looking for an out-of-the-box, plug and play solution, Telestream created Wirecast Gear.
“Wirecast Gear is a studio in a box. It includes both a purpose-built computer in a portable rack enclosure with all the connections that you need such as SDI or HDMI, audio, USB, monitors, keyboard, etc. and the Wirecast software completely configured. I really recommend it if you don’t want to think twice about the type of computer you need,” said Warfield. “Everything flows through that box. You can also run church worship service applications on the same computer hardware as well.”
He continued, “Wirecast fit well within our budget, and I believe this would be true for most churches looking for a similar solution. One thing we did need to do is upgrade our Internet connection speed at the church to support the bandwidth requirements for our live streams. It’s also a good idea to invest in quality cameras and mics. You’ll want the sound from the mixing board to go straight into Wirecast for the best possibly quality.”
Warfield concluded, “In these busy and challenging times we find ourselves in, it’s one of the best investments that you can make to keep your congregation involved and growing.”
Wirecast, a Telestream product, offers professional live video streaming and production studio software that lets you create high-quality live-streaming video in minutes, www.telestream.net/wirecast.