Help for Church Webmasters
Issue 12 04/10/02
I am often asked about what is the best way to put the pastor’s sermon on the web. This question frightens me, because I haven’t tried every method – so how would I know the best way? Even if I did, would the best way for me be the best way for the person asking the question? Oh well, such is life… So let me answer the question – there are two best ways. One is best for the person who wants to listen to or read the sermon and the other is the best for the person posting the sermon.
Best For The Person Who Wants To Experience The Sermon
When I am online looking for a sermon on a particular topic, I prefer to have a text transcript of the sermon (vs. a audio version). It allows me to very quickly scan through the sermon and see if this sermon topic is what I am looking for. I can print the sermon and take it away from the computer if I want to. And most people can read faster than person giving the sermon talks. So I think there are several advantages to a text version of the sermon. However, unless your Pastor completely types out their sermon, it can be difficult to get a text version of the sermon. First the sermon would have to be taped and then converted to a format that could be used with a Dictaphone (or similar technology). Then someone would need to sit down and using the Dictaphone transcribe the sermon. Dictaphones are not very easy to find these days nor is it easy to find someone who is willing and able to do this. So again, unless your pastor completely types out their sermon, converting the sermon to text is a fairly daunting task.
Best For the Person Posting the Sermon to the Website (You)
This would be providing the sermons in some type of audio format. This option is usually fairly straightforward. First of all there three common formats that are used: MP3, Real Audio and Quick Time. I believe that MP3 and Real Audio are more common than Quick Time. All three formats have free players, so the person listening to your sermon will not have to pay to get a player. However, the person converting the sermon (you) will have to purchase some software. I personally use the Real Audio format. There are two reasons for this. Real Audio is far and away the most common format on the web so most people already have a free player. And it streams well. That means the Real Audio player on person’s computer listening to the sermon is playing the sermon while it downloads. This is a big bonus, as the person who wants to listen won’t have to wait for a large file to download.
The software that I use can be found for $25 at http://www.acoustica.com/mp3-audio-mixer/index.htm. This software can save in Real Audio or MP3 format. Today I am only going to be discussing the Real Audio format.
Before we start there is one thing to remember. Be careful of copyrighted information. This includes special music and praise music that you may record at church. It is stealing to copy this information and post it on the web unless you are authorized (have paid) to use it.
Prerequisites: Make sure your server supports streaming audio. This is a MUST. You also need a high quality audio tape of the sermon. There are going to be several conversions in this process, so if you don’t have a high quality original, you are going to be disappointed in the results. It’s a bit like making a photocopy of a photocopy – the results are usually disappointing.
Connect: Hook a cassette player to your computer. Plug the outputs of the tape player (RCA jacks – in a real pinch you can use the headphone out) to the line input or mic input on your sound card. You will have to experiment to which will give the best results. Start with the line in, this should give the best results.
Create WAV: This step will be to create a WAV (sound) file in the computer from the audio tape. This step will vary based on the software you are using. But generally start the software and get ready to record. Press record in the software and then press play on the tape deck. If possible, monitor the levels of the recording in the software and adjust as needed. Press stop in the software and on the tape deck when the sermon is finished. Now hit save in the software and it will save a fairly large file .wav file. In my case, our sermons are usually right around 30 or 35 minutes, at that equals about a 50 MB file. After you convert the wav file to a Real Audio or MP3 file, this large wav file can be deleted.
Edit: This step is optional. In my software I can see a graphical representation of the wav file. I can play any part and see what is happening. I can also edit out parts. Usually I use this to edit out blank space at the beginning or the end and occasionally something out of the middle of the sermon (the pastor’s coughing fit or fighting with the microphone). After the wav file has been suitably edited, you are ready to convert.
Convert: Now you need to convert the very large wav file in a smaller file that will be usable on the web. In my software I press one button and it generates a .ra file that is 2 to 3 MB. Much better than 50 MB! I generate a fairly low quality copy of our sermon. It makes the file smaller so it streams (plays) better for people with modems. Some people offer a low and high quality version, I don’t like the disk space on my server that option requires so I only provide one version. And since I am only offering the spoken word (no music) the lower quality doesn’t sacrifice too much. Your mileage may differ.
Post: You can’t just post a .ra file to your server and hyperlink to it. You need to create a .ram file. This is a simple text file that will have one line it. That line will be the fully qualified path to the .ra file. For example:
The file name of the .ram file in this case would be sermon04062002.ram. Pretty simple. Now you can hyperlink to the .ram file, which in turn points to the .ra file. (The reason for this extra step is it protects your content. No one can download your file and save the .ra to their local disk, which is also known as stealing). When the person clicks on the hyperlink, Real Audio will start and your sermon will start playing. Cool!
Now this process sounds like it’s involved. But after you do it a couple of times, it’s as easy as playing a tape and bunching a couple of buttons.
Now you are equipped to get that fresh new content on your site every week! I’ll be listening…
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