A Guide to Mixing For Streaming

One of church productions bigger challenges is finding the right mix in the venue live, but then a much different one for streaming.

Brad Duryea  ·  December 30, 2016

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Mixing for live streaming doesn’t have to be difficult, but there are a few key things to keep in perspective, in order to get great results. I’m going to point out the big ones here, like speech vs. music levels and the use of audience mics, and then talk briefly about the typical ways people manage their broadcast mixes. And notice that I’m referring to this as broadcasting, as that’s exactly what a web stream is.

In fact, the way you mix for a web stream is no different than mixing for television. Either way, there’s someone watching or listening in their home or at work. They want to hear the same qualities in the mix regardless of how it gets to them.

Remember that remote viewers/listeners will have a significantly different experience than those in the room during worship.

One of the biggest challenges is that the blend we want to hear live in a venue is often quite different than what we’d want to hear somewhere else. For example, in a small room, you may not have a lot of drums in your mix, because they might already be plenty loud acoustically. However, a broadcast listener will certainly want to hear them. In addition, you might have the vocals “on top” of the mix quite a bit live, because the congregation likes that, but that may not sound good on a broadcast.

You also may like to have a really dynamic mix live, because it’s exciting and sounds more “open” than one which is heavily compressed. However, the better broadcast mixes tend to have a more restricted dynamic range, to give the listener a more consistent experience.

Another common issue is that we tend to enjoy quite different levels for music and speech in a live setting, with there often being as much as a 20 dB difference in what feels right live. For example, let’s say you mix your music at an average level of 95 dBA.

That might be nice and energetic, and gets everyone on their feet worshiping, but speech that loud would probably send people running for the exits.

On a broadcast, though, those segments need to be roughly at the same level, or viewers will constantly have to adjust their volume to chase the drastically changing mix levels.

Depending on your room, you may or may not add a lot of effects like reverb and delay to your FOH mix. You might add a lot of reverb, because it could be hard to notice in your room, and so it takes a lot before you get the desired effect. Or you might not add any, because the room is already reverberant, and you don’t feel like you need any.

These music and speech stems should be fed entirely post-fader to broadcast so that any fader moves at FOH are reflected in broadcast, which is usually a good thing with this type of setup. The final set of inputs for the broadcast console would be the audience mics, which might simply be left on the entire time, or, if an engineer can attend to the mix, he or she can ride the audience mics up or down to suit the moment.

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