Awakening Church has been producing live video since 2016 by simulcasting video on our own website and Facebook Live. We have a ton of experience running a live video production. We currently use Vimeo Premium to host our videos including our live productions. Here’s why I recommend it and some background on how we do live video.
Why not Facebook, YouTube, or another free option?
Great question! Here are some reasons to consider:
- Ad-free. Using a free player like YouTube may contain ads, especially after your video ends. You might not want to present the content which appears after your stream ends to your audience — but this is not something you can control.
- Not everyone can use Facebook or YouTube. Some folks have intentionally decided to restrict their use of Facebook or YouTube for personal reasons. By hosting exclusively on one of these platforms, you are closing yourself off to parts of your audience.
- Facebook Live requires the Facebook app on mobile. Mobile devices must use the Facebook app to watch your live stream. Web streaming only works on desktop.
- Reach all platforms with simulcasting. By using a third-party, you can reach all platforms by having your broadcast simulcast to other other social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. You can also host your stream on your own website or Church Online.
- You get what you pay for. If something goes wrong, you have nobody to contact — these free services are provided as-is.
- Bundled streaming software with Vimeo Premium. Vimeo provides Livestream Studio, a full-featured production switcher, for free with your Premium subscription.
Self-hosting with open source software
How did we decide on Vimeo?
In 2016, there was not a lot of choice in live video hosting providers. Livestream cost over $500 a month for our relatively simple Sunday-only streams. There were a handful of church-specific hosting providers, but they had their own reliability and cost issues. We were producing videos on a very limited budget and monthly costs were a very sensitive concern.
I created awakening-nginx-rtmp to make it economical to run a live stream. I combined the open-source nginx-rtmp project with the other necessary software to create your own HLS live stream. This software ran on a DigitalOcean droplet for about about 25 cents an hour. It only cost about $1 a week to run our live stream! We did this from 2016 until 2019.
Hosting live video yourself is tricky. We needed a rotating team of sysadmins to run the live video hardware. The setup and teardown was automated with Terraform, but it still took weekly effort. In 2019, I spent about a week updating the software to work with new Facebook Live RTMPS protocols, but this work was taking me away from other important projects.
Live hosting becomes cheaper
In the meantime, hosting a live stream became a lot cheaper. What used to be a $500+ monthly expense became $75 a month with the introduction of Vimeo Premium. We were already paying $20 a month for Vimeo Pro, so the extra $50 a month became easier to budget.
The catalyst for our switch came from an unfortunate incident: the theft of our live streaming gear. We lost our live streaming PC and the hardware license key for our production switcher software inside. Vimeo Premium includes a license for Livestream Studio for free, so this became an easy decision.
Reliable, easy simulcasting, and free software
Vimeo Premium has been very reliable and automatically handles simulcasting — a painstaking manual effort back when we rolled our own solution. We can go live to Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook with no extra effort. The majority of our audience can visit our own website, but
Livestream Studio is bundled for free, runs on macOS and Windows, and is very powerful. If you need something simple, you can go live from the web with just a webcam.
Best compatibility with Church Online Platform
Vimeo videos are generally the best supported option on Church Online Platform. YouTube Live can have issues with live streaming on the Platform and Facebook Live requires viewing in the Facebook app on mobile.
I would strongly recommend you consider Vimeo Premium for hosting your live production. Paying for video hosting means your videos are ad-free, you can get an unbranded player, you can simulcast to all other video platforms, and it’s much cheaper and easier than other options.
Do you agree? What do you use for live video? Is there something I missed? Let me know!