Thursday, July 14, 2011

Streaming Your Services - Get Judaism Online.

Streaming Services
It's everyone's dream to walk down the street, and one day get spotted by Steven Spielberg to be the star of his next film.  I can almost guarantee this won't happen, sorry everyone.  But that doesn't mean you still can't be a star in your own right.  

Since the advent of YouTube, the internet has become the next place to get "found" in Hollywood.  From people like Rebecca Black (who used her Bat Mitzvah money to make a music video which became a viral hit) to the Star Wars Kid (one of the first internet sensations when he filmed himself wielding his Light Saber), it's now easier than ever to get noticed.  But we aren't really concerned with becoming famous, now are we?  What we want to be able to do is show the world that it's not what you do that makes you important, but how you live your life.

Today we are going to take a look at how to get that message out there, and how to make it easier for your members to attend services.  We are talking about streaming your Synagogue Services over the internet.

But, why should I stream, this is just something extra to spend money on! There are many times where your members are out of town either on vacation or work.  By streaming your services they can still feel like they are part of the community.  This also goes for the sick and elderly.  These people have trouble leaving their location, yet we don't want to exclude them.   Moreover, a member may have a B'nai Mitzvah, where the members family is out of town.  How great would it be if they could join in the celebration over the internet?  These are just a few reasons why you should think about streaming your services!

Now you could go all out, spending thousands of dollars, bringing in professionals to operate your camera, an editor to throw in some transitions, a sound op to make sure that your choir sounds just right, and even a director to switch from camera A to camera B.  The problem with this, the cost would be way too high for just about any synagogue, and it would involve of working on Shabbat, a big no-no; but that doesn't mean that you can't stream your services.  

The best way to do this is to first find a site to host the stream.  I would suggest using either Justin.TV or Ustream.TV.  Both Justin.TV and Ustream.TV let people set up streams of their lives, TV shows, sports events, and even web cams of their pets.  What's great about both of these sites is that it is free!  You can use Justin.TV or Ustream.TV to host the stream, then just embed it into your website.  It's really easy to use, and makes it so that there is no cost.  The only problem, your viewers will see ads when they first start watching.  There is some good in this also; you can run ads in order to generate some revenue (based on how many people are watching your stream).  

"But Mike, we can't turn on the computer or open web pages, we're shomer Shabbos."  Well, I would do the same thing you do for all your other electrical needs.  Turn your computer on and set everything up before Shabbat.  When the services start, everything will already be running. Because there is no time limit on how long you are allowed to stream, you can just "set it and forget it!" (I think that's how it goes).  

Once you have an idea of how you are going to actually stream your services, you have to find a way to get it to that stream.  A lot of Synagogues will videotape their B'nai Mitzvahs and if you do, then you are already halfway there.  If you don't, then you need to find some sort of camera that will do this.  You could go all out and buy a Sony HXRNX3D1U but do you really need a camera that shoots in 3D and costs thousands of dollars?  Just go to and look for web cams.  The technology is there, and you can get a 12 megapixel web cam that shoots in full 1080p HD for less than a hundred dollars.  Try and find something like this; it will do exactly what you need and won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Next, you will need to plug your camera in so that you can stream video, and your mics so you can stream the sound.  The camera is a little more tricky than the mic, so we will cover that first.  One of the many reasons I recommend a web cam is that it is just plug and play; you plug the web cam directly into a usb port on your computer and you are ready to go.  If you decide to use a camera, you will need some sort of capture card (a special piece of equipment that goes into your computer to convert the analog video signal into a digital one).
The mics are the easy part.  All computers come with an input for mics, a mini plug (like the one you see on your head phones).  Just connect your mixing board to your computer using one of these cables, or just string a second small mic from the pulpit to the computer.  This will take all of five minuets to do.  Need help?  Just talk to the technician who set up your sound system in the first place and they will be able to take care of it.  Once you've done this, you need to find a way to stream to the internet.  

A laptop would be your best bet to do the actual streaming (in fact, even an older laptop running Windows XP would work).  The laptop would connect to your internet and send the video and audio feed onto the site.  The reason I suggest a laptop is that they all come with Wifi, making connecting to the internet a lot easier.  If you want to go with a desktop, or you don't have Wifi, you can string a small Ethernet cable into the sanctuary (just string it with the other cables you use for mics and speakers) or like I said, use Wifi.  There are other options such as a device that plugs directly into the wall and into an Ethernet cable and runs the internet through your AC/DC circuit.  
Once you have this all set up, just head over to Justin.TV and sign up.  After entering a few pieces of information (name, email, etc.)  you are eady to stream.  But you don't want to send your members to Justin.TV and have them search for you.  The best way to fix this is by embedding the stream into your website.  Justin.TV already provides the code for embedding.  This makes it really easy and simple.  

This may seem like a lot of information or a lot of trouble, but it is actually easier than you think.  With just a few items you can be broadcasting to your members and others around the world in no time.  To give you an idea of what a high quality stream looks like, check out these synagogues who are already streaming:

So what are you waiting for?  Get online and start streaming your services; it's easy, fun, and a great way to spread some Tikkun Olam all over the globe without leaving your house!

No comments:

Post a Comment