Installing fixed live streaming cameras might look like a great turnkey solution for adding live streaming to a funeral home, but costs and limitations should be considered.
In this post I will explore the hidden aspects of fixed live streaming cameras and why they might not be the best choice for funerals and memorials.
Some might come to mind really quickly, such as how expensive they are. That’s always easy to spot, as you will see the -outrageous- bill before getting them installed. But what about other aspects that you didn’t think about?
Considering how cumbersome they are to use or how limited they are due to their indoor (and fixed) nature, using these cameras might prevent you from offering the funeral streaming service when you really need it.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of fixed live streaming cameras.
What are Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) Cameras and are they good?
For streaming a funeral, many funeral homes use cameras that are able to pan, tilt, and zoom. These are known as PTZ cameras.
These became so popular because they allow the camera itself to be controlled remotely, which means that the live streaming company can start and finish the service from their office, amongst other things.
The main benefit of using PTZ cameras is that a live stream producer can choose where to focus the camera, who should be in the frame, and which angle the viewers will see.
As you can imagine, this also means that unless you notify the company with enough time in advance, there might not be someone available to produce the live stream for you.
I’ve been referring to these cameras as “fixed”, since they are almost always attached to a wall or ceiling, and cannot be moved for outdoor services.
The quality of fixed PTZ cameras tends to be ok… not that great. There have been improvements in technology but the ones that can compete with the quality of a smartphone tend to cost over 2000 USD each, and that doesn’t include routers, encoders, audio interface, wiring, or installation costs.
Installing costs of live streaming cameras
If you’ve been getting your information from one of the honest companies out there, setup costs should be included or at least entirely laid out before making a commitment.
You can either pay a hefty monthly subscription, which includes the lease of the equipment, or you can install the cameras using third-party providers. In any case, the cost of the entire kit can range from $4500 to $24.000, depending on the complexity of the setup and the number of cameras used.
The installation is complex, which makes it equally difficult to spot problems when they arise, as well as fix them (which becomes now your responsibility, not the company's).
Some businesses will lease the equipment, provide installation and charge you for it as you use the service. They will take all the equipment back when you decide to swap providers, usually charging you for anything that wasn’t accomplished as per the contract.
On the other hand, you can always hire an Audio-Video specialist to do the installation for you, which guarantees that you own the equipment and you can test different companies without being a hostage to any of them.
In any scenario, this will incur a very expensive live streaming journey that might not be right for your funeral home. You can start live streaming with something as simple as a smartphone and a tripod and see how families react to the virtual service.
Pros and Cons of PTZ Cameras for Funeral Streaming
- They are hands-free once you’re at the service. Someone else is taking care of the live stream, which allows you to focus on all the things you need to do
- You don’t need to learn how live streaming works, but you have to deal with notifications in advance and extensive planning to make sure that there’s always someone ready to live stream the service effectively
- It’s a money-oriented solution. As long as you pay, the service will work
- The ability to use multiple cameras and zoom in on subjects can increase the perceived value of the live stream
- If you invest enough, you can match the quality of smartphones and similar devices
- Installation costs tend to be high
- Live streaming is restricted to the premises where cameras are installed
- Dealing with a remote operator can be time-intensive, especially when they change and don’t know the flow of your service
- It only produces static shots, as the cameras cannot be moved
- If there isn’t a live streaming producer available, you won’t be able to provide the service to the family
- If you failed to notify the live streaming company with enough time in advance (usually 3 days), the live stream will not be executed even after you offered it to the family
- When there’s a delay in your event, the operator might have a defined cut-off time that usually clashes with the reality of the funeral service
- Producing regular services can become more expensive as you grow since companies charge per hour of additional time
- You cannot choose to show or hide certain aspects of the service, as you cannot control the camera/audio
- In most cases, you cannot customize each live stream thumbnail, or information about the funeral home
- Getting video download links for the family sometimes involves emailing the streaming company back and forth
- Image quality is not as good as other cameras unless you spend $2000+ on each one of them
- You don’t own the equipment, as most companies lease it
- When returning the equipment to the company, extra charges can be made if everything doesn’t match the original state in which you received it
What’s a better alternative to PTZ Cameras for funeral streaming?
Using what you already have might be a good idea to start offering live streaming services.
By doing so, you can actually see what families are looking for and you can better assess the situation before committing to a huge expense (that you might not need).
There are two ways to go around this:
- You can start with a smartphone or tablet and a small tripod
- You can contact a local videographer and ask them to live stream a service for you.
The first alternative is extremely affordable, but it requires a few minutes of your time. You can do this with a live streaming app that can be installed on any mobile device. It doesn’t involve a learning curve, it provides better quality than most PTZ cameras, and it is as easy as recording on your phone and sharing a link with the family.
Amongst the benefits of using a mobile device for live streaming, I can mention:
- You can move indoors or outdoors, as needed
- You don't need to invest much, if anything, to get started
- You don't need to wait several weeks for installation or analyzing contracts. You can start immediately, and for free.
- Image quality is better
- Sound quality can be better, with the right tools
Hiring a videographer, on the other hand, can be a little expensive but you can transfer the cost to the family, if they requested the service. In this case, you can expect better results and a hands-off solution, but it’s not ideal in the long term as you depend on a third party to provide this. It can be as cumbersome as using PTZ cameras, but with much better quality and more predictable results.
At the end of the day you should decide what's best for you and the families you serve.
While offering live streaming services can be a valuable service for your community and the ones who are unable to attend in person, choosing the right option can simplify your experience, and your expenses.