As Covid-19 restrictions continue to fluctuate, the need for a funeral remains constant. Funeral Homes have been tasked with acquiring the appropriate technologies to allow for families to take part in the experience, even if they are not physically present. We have had to adapt, and quickly, to ensure that anyone who wants to be a part of the service can be. I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the evolution of the livestream and the options made available in recent months.
First, let us go back to 2019. Live streaming funerals was always a distant possibility, but there really had not been much of a demand for it. In fact, as recently as 2019, there were many people who did not want their loved one’s funeral to be broadcast online for all to see. We have been recording funerals for over a decade, and often those family members who were not able to attend the funeral would be provided with a physical recording of the service. This ensured privacy, but there was certainly a delay in the experience.
When the first lockdown occurred in March, funerals were limited to 10 people, including the clergy. In these extreme circumstances, funeral homes, like many professions, had to adapt very quickly. Live streaming was still an obscure concept for most and there was not an infrastructure in place to allow for the world to start live streaming in an instant.
In its very primitive stages, we started by using Zoom. For those of you who are not overly familiar with Zoom now, it is essentially a means by which to hold face-to-face meetings online. We would use a laptop and provide a link for family members to click on to ‘attend’. We would often mute the microphones and turn off the webcams in order to avoid creating too many distractions. This was helpful when inviting a group to a private event. However, making the link public was risky. At least one non-profit group in Chatham-Kent fell victim to individuals posting extremely offensive content during one of their meetings. It was also not very user friendly to those unfamiliar with a computer.
From Zoom meetings, we moved to lives treaming. This way guests could attend the service simply by clicking the link. There was no need to download additional software or enter a password. There were different vehicles to chose from. Facebook and YouTube were the main choices, and they made live streaming accessible in a hurry. We liked YouTube as it allowed us to create a private link we could embed into our website. We started by live streaming services with our phones, but quickly moved to live streaming cameras as they provided a much higher quality product. Eventually, other video platforms allowed for live streaming as well. This was helpful, as YouTube changed their platform, requiring a minimum of 2000 subscribers to livestream to a remote device, such as a live streaming camera. We opted for Vimeo. This was a more costly option for us, but it allowed us full control of the live streaming content and removed any advertisements, which would often be found on YouTube.
The restrictions of 2020 have allowed us to transform the profession into a much more accessible format. Not only are we able to livestream a quality product, but we can do so remotely at any number of locations. Live streaming - the very concept of which had previously made people anxious in the past - is now essential in helping our families get through this pandemic. While there is no substitute for in person contact, we very are fortunate to be able to at least provide a shared experience for those people who, due to present circumstances, are unable to attend.