Captioning for Online Church Services

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has forced everyone to change their daily habits, with health officials advising that social distancing should be a top priority. Churches and places of worship, which encourage close proximity by design, have been particularly affected. But most are adapting, as well, having moved their services online in response to the pandemic. Captionmax is helping religious organizations to ensure their sermons and other ceremonies remain socially distant yet spiritually near for all, including the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing followers. Live-streaming your events is surprisingly simple, and there are many ways to do it:

Prerecorded events: Some churches have gone the route of recording their sermons and posting them online for their congregation to watch on their own. Depending on the video player, Captionmax has the ability to create a sidecar file (usually an .SRT or .VTT) so viewers can toggle live captions on and off as they please. If the web player doesn’t support captions, we also offer the option to render captions directly onto the video.

Custom streaming solutions: For some churches, having your own bespoke streaming service is the way to go. There are some religion-specific livestream platforms available, and our realtime caption data can be embedded into most all of them. Some broadcast options require you to have an encoder; there are plenty of companies to purchase or rent an encoder from, and we can help set up everything from there. For the platforms that don’t accommodate captioning functionality, however, that’s not a problem for us; we have the ability to provide captions via URL, which you can send to your congregation before the daily sermon kicks off for them to follow along with on their own web-connected device. If you’re hosting the stream on your own website, we can provide an iFrame embedded version of our URL captions which can be placed directly alongside your livestream.

Video conferencing: When it comes to smaller houses of worship or more interactive congregations, you can utilize video conferencing tools like Webex or Zoom to bring the spirituality into the houses of everyone tuning in. We’re able to integrate seamlessly with most popular web conferencing platforms (see our guides here). Or, if the web player being used doesn’t have captioning functionality, we can still provide a URL that displays captions in real time.

Social media streaming: Sites like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Twitch are also popular options for streaming church services for online followers. Some of these solutions are more amenable to live captions than others(Facebook Live, for example, require an encoder, which adds some complications) – but either way, we’ve written a handy guide on how to bring captions to any live stream you put on these platforms (link to the guidebook from this sentence).

2020 has added complexity to some of the simple things in life, like attending church services. In times like these, especially when you’re providing a spiritual service to the people in your community, it’s important to be adaptable. Making your sermons accessible during these trying times is a great way to ensure that everyone can enjoy the verses of the day and find some hope and peace.