Since the pandemic took hold of the globe, all churches were forced into live streaming.
Every day I talk to people from across the nation who have been streaming from a phone or iPad. There’s nothing wrong with that, they were doing what they had to do. But now, most churches are looking to upgrade their video and live streaming capabilities.
After working with a bunch of different video switchers over the years, I wanted to write about the best video switchers for churches.
Best Video Switchers for Church Streaming
To avoid confusion, let’s talk about what a video switcher is and what it does. At a basic level, a video switcher is a piece of hardware that collects all of your video feeds and, with the push of a button, “switches” which one is showing to the “program” output.
If you have four cameras, a switcher will aggregate all of those signals and bottleneck them into a single output signal. And you get to choose which signal (or signals for picture-in-picture) you let through the bottleneck at a time.
In basic terms: it takes multiple cameras and allows you to switch which camera is showing at any given time.
That’s it. That’s all a “switcher” does.
Can A Switcher Stream to Facebook or YouTube?
Yes and no.
A switcher can’t. It’s just a switcher, and it requires an encoder to take the video signals it’s pushing out, encode them into a format that can be uploaded to the internet and broadcasted to your audience.
With that said, some switchers (like the ATEM Mini Pro and Extreme models) have built-in encoders. Others do not, and rely on hardware encoders, or most commonly, a streaming PC.
How Much Doe Video Switchers Cost?
Again, this depends. You can spend thousands of dollars for some of the larger professional switchers. The Blackmagic ATEM and some of the more expensive Roland products cost quite a lot of money.
But, if you’re reading this article, that’s probably not the kind of switcher you’re looking for.
Since the pandemic, brands have been inventing amazing products for the “consumer” level. In other words, for those who need to live stream on a “we’re not a TV station” budget.
You can get a basic switcher in the ATEM Mini for less than $300. And you can get the switcher + encoder in the ATEM Mini Pro for less than $500. They really are cheap these days.
The more features and inputs, the more expensive they are. But Blackmagic Design recently released the ATEM Mini Extreme, which can get you up to 8 inputs for under $1000.
Switchers vs. Streaming PCs
There are also popular software switcher/encoders like OBS, Vmix, or ECAMM. They work great, but they are software which usually means configuring them is a little more complex and involved. And, your computer has to be powerful enough to run the software and encode the video at the same time.
Switchers, on the other hand, are hardware. Most of the time, that means you plug in the cameras and cables, and it’s ready to go. Some configuring is sometimes required, but it’s usually basic. All the functionality is on the operating surface.
The 5 Best Video Switchers for Church Live Streaming
There are a lot of choices. But, after helping churches all over the nation put together custom streaming solutions, we’ve narrowed down this list for our favorite switchers. These are the ones we highly recommend.
1. The Roland V–8HD HDMI Video Switcher ($2,050.00)
Roland is a well-known brand in the music industry. But they have been a producer of video equipment for a long, long time.
The V–8HD gives you the ability to add up to 8 inputs with FHD support. With its built-in scalers, adding sources like mobile devices and tablets is easy – even older computers.
With this switcher, you get three outputs as well, which gives you a lot of flexibility for monitoring and distributing the video footage for a variety of uses. You can even use one of the outputs to send video signals out to the foyer or an overflow room without the need for additional splitters and hassle.
2. The ATEM Mini Extreme ($995.00)
While not packed with a lot of professional studio features like the Roland V–8HD, the ATEM Mini Extreme is newer and packed with just the right features that have made this a hot product.
Like the Roland, the Extreme is an all HDMI product. So, all your inputs are HDMI only. And it also gives you 8 FHD inputs.
You only get two HDMI outputs with the Extreme, but most churches find that sufficient.
If you need more than three cameras for your church live stream setup, then the Extreme is my go-to recommendation. It’s low-cost, high quality, and it has enough inputs to give you more than enough flexibility to do just about anything you need.
And bonus: the ATEM Mini Extreme has a built-in encoder. This means you can stream to Facebook, YouTube, and Restream at the push of a button without the need of a streaming computer.
3. The Atem Mini Pro ($495.00)
The next step down from the ATEM Mini Extreme is the Pro version of the ATEM Mini line. It too features a built-in encoder but is downsized to four total inputs.
There are a few other features that make the ATEM Extreme more desirable for some churches. But for most churches, the four inputs and built-in encoder are enough to make the ATEM Mini Pro the right choice.
Upgrading to the ISO is attractive to some churches that want to produce creative mixes of their church service recordings. The ISO version records all inputs into separate video files. So, even after the service, you can go back and edit from all the cameras’ footage to “remix” the service, if you wanted.
4. The ATEM Mini ($295.00)
This one is the cheapest of the bunch, however, it is just a switcher. So, you will need to pair it with a streaming PC or hardware encoder to do a live stream.
However, it gives you the full quality of all the ATEM Mini line, and up to four FHD inputs just like the PRO. So, if you have access to a streaming PC or Macbook Pro (or Mac Mini), you can use the ATEM Mini as a switcher, and connect it to your streaming computer via USB.
5. The RGBLink Mini Plus ($499.00)
This is also just a switcher, but it has some additional features that make it an upgrade over the ATEM Mini, especially if you are using PTZ cameras.