Exploring video workflows for the modern religious organization
Video has become an expected commodity in modern consumer culture. Tech-savvy shoppers, sports fans, binge-watchers, and ambitious DIYers alike head online to watch product reviews and companion content, catch up on series programming, or view instructional content. Given the growing prevalence of online video, religious organizations are turning to streaming content as a way to reach congregations and grow their audience. Live and on-demand video enables them to better accommodate viewers who can’t physically attend services, supplement sermons with dynamic faith-centric content, and more. Thanks to recent advancements in production and delivery technology, it’s never been easier for religious organizations to embrace video.
The near-infinite amount of video infrastructure options available can seem overwhelming at first, but working with a partner like Amazon Web Services (AWS) can lighten the load and help ensure success. For some environments, a completely cloud-based video workflow might make the most sense, while for others, on-premises encoding appliances for contribution to the cloud, or third-party streaming platforms like BoxCast and StreamShark, may be more advantageous.
Whatever the customer path, the ability to share broadcast-grade live and on-demand content that captures audience attention with minimal technical knowledge and staff overhead is the ultimate goal. To this end, AWS offers a range of cloud- and appliance-based tools as well as partner services built on AWS that make it easy to develop reliable, scalable, and low-cost workflows for delivering high-quality video that can capture and engage religious audiences. For inspiration, look to video workflows developed by organizations like Harvest Christian Fellowship, Moody Bible Institute, and Trinity Broadcasting Network that have all leveled up their video strategy with help from AWS.
Harvest Christian Fellowship (HCF)
Riverside, Calif.-based HCF is using video to extend its ministry to audiences who can’t always attend services in person due to illness, travel, or other reasons. With congregants spread throughout the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, the ministry produces and delivers a breadth of religious content for live and on-demand viewing, ranging from services to Bible studies, special events, and more. To deliver such a massive volume of content, HCF teamed with AWS provider Stream Monkey to build a robust video-streaming infrastructure powered by cloud- and appliance-based technology from AWS.
The HCF video infrastructure comprises AWS Elemental Live on-premises encoders that convert MP4 content to HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) with bitrates to accommodate multiscreen devices, and delivery to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and a third-party CDN. The encoders are also used to convert live streams to video-on-demand (VOD) content and to RTMP for distribution to social channels, including YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitter. Amazon S3 and Amazon S3 Glacier power on-demand playback and archival.
Josh Morris, Director of HCF Marketing & Communications, shares how AWS Elemental products and services help reimagine the church’s ministry offering, “Having access to the dynamic scalability and reliability of the AWS Cloud, along with the flexibility of AWS Elemental appliances, allows us to quickly and easily deploy an entire video workflow while ensuring a quality viewing experience for our congregants. We’ve also found the flexibility of pay-as-you-go pricing a boon to innovation. We’re able to find different ways to reach a new class of connected congregants and focus on spreading our message.”
Moody Bible Institute (MBI)
Christian institution MBI is dedicated to training students for full-time ministry in churches and parachurch organizations. Its evangelist-focused Missions Conference event attracts thousands of video viewers and students from international backgrounds spanning six continents, while its Founder’s Week event, which includes streams for American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish translation, attracts 30,000 viewers a day. To live stream its conferences and events and make internal broadcasts available on-demand for its students and employees, MBI harnesses BoxCast, a flexible live streaming platform built on AWS.
Each video stream is ingested by Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and transcoded into bitrate ladders using Amazon EC2 G3 instances. Live or VOD HLS streams are then published to multiscreen devices while an RTMP pathway publishes to social sites. Amazon Route 53 load balances live streams while Amazon S3 stores on-demand assets, delivering via Amazon CloudFront. Commenting on the workflow, MBI Product Manager Drew Smith explains, “Running the BoxCast platform on the AWS Cloud allows MBI to scale from simple internal broadcasts to live conferences streamed from remote facilities and attended by thousands of participants from six continents. We can now focus on our mission of training students for full-time ministry rather than technical infrastructure.”
Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)
Tustin, Calif.-based TBN operates 30 faith-based networks that collectively reach up to two billion global viewers each day. Its programming slate features original faith-based series and films from distributors. As audience viewing habits shift in the digital age, TBN has expanded its content delivery strategy beyond cable and satellite to support live-linear multi-streaming to over-the-top (OTT) channels. The production relies extensively on AWS Elemental Live encoders to bring domestic and international audiences 11 OTT channels accessible across a range of device types.
TBN chose to build its infrastructure with AWS technology to ensure reliable, scalable, and cost-efficient delivery of high-quality streams to its OTT audiences. To create HD ABR streams for delivery to Vimeo Livestream and Pluto TV for TBN channels, multi-studio automation playout systems and international satellite receivers feed AWS Elemental Live encoders. SD streams are delivered to Akamai for storage and transmitted via the Glorystar Satellite Network to its set-top boxes. The AWS Elemental UI and SDK allows TBN to easily manage and control multiple encoders. Rich data logs provide TBN with the autonomy to help solve challenges with ISP, CDN,and third-party platform live-stream engineers.
Larry Haley, VP of Engineering and Operations at TBN says, “AWS Elemental Live has streamlined how we deliver content to our providers. We can efficiently encode and stream our 11 live channels at the highest video quality with varying bitrates, saving on cloud transcoding and relying on its rock-solid stability. The technology is simple to troubleshoot and its user interface allows us to adjust parameter configurations remotely and on-the-fly. Since bringing it into our video production and live-stream delivery pipeline, our team has seen noticeable quality and stability improvements.”
Harvest Christian Fellowship, Moody Bible Institute, and Trinity Broadcast Network represent a handful of a larger cohort of religious organizations tapping into video to reach increasingly digitally savvy audiences. While each workflow is unique in its own right, collectively their successes are a testament to the benefits that video-based strategies can offer small and large religious organizations alike.
More information about our technology and services for this market is available on the AWS Media for Religious Organizations page.