August 6, 2020

Adding song lyrics and slides to your livestream

Adding song lyrics and slides to your livestream

There are several ways to add lyrics to your livestream, and the goal of this blog is not to go through all of them, but to offer a recommendation from my experience that is easily adoptable. To limit the scope of the discussion, I’m going to continue from where I left off in my last blog, “Intermediate and advanced livestreaming: A helpful guide.” If you have implemented the suggestions in that post, then you are likely using OBS Studio as your broadcasting software. This will be my starting point here. I will assume that you have already implemented a livestream broadcast and are now interested in adding text elements to the broadcast. The method I will suggest here will be the most efficient method to use if your parish has implemented projected lyrics for in-person Mass. I’d also like to stop before we proceed and offer two caveats to what I’m about to share:

  1. Different parishioners will of course have different preferences. Therefore, it’s important to provide them with more than one option, i.e. digital worship aid or personal missals that parishioners can use at home. You know your parishioners best, so that’s a decision you will need to come to within your community. The happier your parishioners are with the experience, the more likely they are to use your online giving link, which is something we all need to be more cognizant of during these times.
  2. These advanced streaming features require more set up, and God bless the time investment of the saint running your livestream. But incorporating so much additional preparation and set up for each Mass really begs the question: Should a staff member be dedicated to this ministry? I’ll speak more to this later, but as we all move together into the new reality presented us, we should be reevaluating staffing needs. I also don’t want to create the impression that this is too complex for a lower-income parish to adopt. This solution is arguably one of the easiest methods to address engagement with the parishioners worshiping at home via livestream.

So, caveats aside, here’s a simple method to support parishioner engagement through a livestreamed celebration of the liturgy.

Adding song lyrics and slides to your livestream

Before we get started

I mentioned above that if you are currently using projection in your parish, this method could be the simplest way to provide worship aid content to support the livestream. If you are currently creating a projection file, you can simply continue using that file with this method. If you are not yet creating a slide deck with text for the assembly, you’ll need to do so before proceeding with this solution. A template for how to put together a projection file for songs is available here, and you’ll want to read through this blog again to make sure you are sharing texts that are appropriately licensed. For the sake of brevity, we won’t rehash the licensing topic here.

Livestream slides with or without projection

For parishes who are currently projecting, you no doubt have a computer installed within view of the projection screen and the sanctuary. Ideally, you would be using the same computer for projection that you are using for livestreaming, but if that’s not possible, the projection file should be copied to the computer running the livestream. If you are not projecting or if you are using a different computer for projection, the process is essentially the same. Yet, because two computers will be moving through lyric slides at the same time, it’s best to have two people run them. That could get challenging, which is why this walkthrough is created with a single computer in mind. You’ll need to adapt this walkthrough slightly if your technical situation is different.

Using one computer for projection and streaming

You will need a minimum of three screens to accomplish this method, including the screen where the lyrics are being projected. In addition, you will need a computer on the higher end of the performance side of things, as it will need to be able to run OBS Studio, receiving multiple video inputs while simultaneously running PowerPoint or another projection software of your choice. You’ll need no less than 4 GB RAM (preferably 8 GB). If you are using a PC, you should have at least an Intel Core i5-4670 processor and a graphics card. If you are using a Mac, you will want to be using one of the newest available models or a high-end model no more than 2–3 years old.

The three screens you will need for this method will be used for:

  1. The projection presentation
  2. The presenter side of your projection software
  3. OBS Studio interface

A very important step here is arranging your screens so that you are comfortable with how the mouse moves between screens #2 and #3.

Once everything is plugged in correctly (see the intermediate/advanced streaming blog), you’ll want to set up a scene in OBS Studio that displays your slideshow screen as a “Picture in Picture” of the wide-angle camera you are using. Alternatively, you could set up a scene for just the lyrics, but then the viewers won’t be able to see the liturgical movements around the altar.

Once you’ve created your scene, add screen #1 as a media source with the “Display Capture” option and label your media source with a unique name.

Adding song lyrics and slides to your livestream
Adding song lyrics and slides to your livestream

Now, you will be able to drag and resize the slide presentation in your livestream scene.

Adding song lyrics and slides to your livestream

At this point your set up is ready to go, and you should practice moving between the OBS Studio software and the slide projection software, which in my case is PowerPoint. You’ll need to switch the scene at the appropriate moment and then move over to the projection software in order to control the lyrics. Then move back to OBS Studio software when you want to switch scenes again. This will require some practice before you attempt it during your liturgy.

When first starting out, I recommend not switching between cameras while you are broadcasting with lyrics. However, with practice, you could create multiple scenes using the media source with the lyrics and switch between the two software. That level of coordination will take practice, and it may be easier to accomplish with ‘expert level’ equipment, like a video switcher, to move between scenes and media sources.

Other lyric options

I also mentioned above that there are multiple ways one could add lyrics to a livestream. For the sake of being brief and concise, I won’t go through each of them in detail, but feel free to ask for more information on Facebook, and I can follow up with you there.

Here are some other options for displaying lyrics:

  • Use separate PNG files for every lyric slide – You could save each slide of your lyrics as a separate PNG file. This would allow you to customize how the lyrics are displayed, eg. in the lower third of the screen or on a semitransparent grey background. To do this, you’ll have to add every slide as a separate file into a new media source under the option “Image Slideshow.” Then you’ll be able to flip through the slides from within OBS Studio. You’ll only need one screen to do this, but it requires a lot of manual set up, and unless you have a paid media person on staff, this might be time prohibitive. This option however can add other elements as well. For example, if you want to put the name of the celebration in the lower third, or if you have a parish logo you want to include on the corner of the live feed, you can add any stationary media element this way.
  • Include the projection screen in your wide angle shot – This is a lower tech option that might be easier for some who are currently using projection, but there are some down sides. For one, the licensing for text content from the USCCB has different rules on streaming vs. projection. So, you’ll have to be careful what you project, or what you show yourself projecting on your livestream. You might run into copyright concerns with this method. Additionally, the screen may not be in the ideal place of visibility for a wide angle shot, making it difficult to read.
  • Secondary device – If you can effectively protect a PDF worship aid from public distribution this could be a very good alternative. Using Flocknote or an email service, you could send a file to parishioners who can follow along with the songs on a separate device.
  • Text (free type) – This is not a good solution. I put it here just to encourage you to avoid it. However, it is possible to type the lyrics in the “Text” option and display the full text of the song. It will then appear as white text with a transparent background. You could set up a different scene for each song and add the full text of each song to that scene, but the text is small to read and will yield low-quality results. If you don’t like the preparation needed for the other options, you could explore this one, but again this option is not recommended.
Jethro Higgins
Jethro Higgins

Jethro Higgins, father of 6,  has Directed Youth & Young Adult ministry programs and led liturgical music ensembles since 2004. Jethro received his Master of Science in Business Analysis from the Catholic University of America and is currently studying at The Augustine Institute in the Master of Arts in Theology program.