You’ve made the choice to stream your Sunday services … wonderful!
Depending on your resources and budget, you may find yourself having to decide on several things. The questions you are likely needing to answer begin with: What type of camera, switcher or encoding system should you choose? Do you go with a streaming service or try your hand at navigating YouTube or Facebook Live?
Regardless of where you land in on the questions above, one thing remains constant - you need good sound.
Not just good sound. Really good sound.
Let me say it another way. The most important element of good video is found in excellent, clear, untainted sound quality. Even a subpar video signal with good audio will not usually generate complaints. The reverse, though, will produce agitated viewers - every time.
Just like in our sanctuaries, if people can clearly hear the music and speaker, that means the message is being conveyed. Turn the lights off and what you have is essentially radio - which brought millions to faith in Jesus!
So, let me be clear: Bad sound equals no video should you stream!
Here are three important things to remember when mixing for your livestream:
1. First, consider not streaming your service!
Even if you have the cameras and other video gear, launching a livestream needs to be backed by intentional goals. Don’t decide to stream just because “that’s what everyone is doing.”
You may find support out there for launching a livestream with a single camera using Facebook Live. This could be OK with a specific target audience, but it could also make your ministry unattractive to perspective members who expect a certain level of quality, as we approach the year 2020!
Make sure you understand why and when you should be launching this new ministry. Do your homework!
So, you’ve done the research? Nice. You’re being intentional about your goals - perfect.
You have everything you need, but you only have the budget for an eight-channel audio mixer, when your band represents 16 or 24 channels of music.
Hit the pause button please!
This is a reason to consider not streaming your service! It is too difficult to mix well using subgroups and other corner-cutting techniques. And please, please, do not be convinced to just “take a tap from the board.” You will regret the notion later - I promise.
You may be tempted or even pressured by leadership to “get things going and grow into it when you can.” The truth is, a lot of time is wasted by struggling with your limited streaming sound during those “stop gap” seasons.
Meaningful policies, procedures and training programs are built around intentionality. And most often, this means waiting to launch until you are truly ready.
All of that is in place? Wonderful! Everything is going to sound great, because you’ve purchased the best and most upgradable gear. Your sound team will also have fun “growing” into the role of audio streaming engineer! Hmmm …not so fast. The human factor is quite important. If you don’t have a dedicated stream mix engineer ready to tackle every service, this too could be a reason to abort the launch!
If you can, put your most experienced mix engineers in the stream mix seat. That is, if you want this ministry to gain traction, and not turn away your viewers.
2. Dedicate a room for mixing.
It is extremely difficult to build a pleasing, natural sounding audio mix when you are in the sanctuary, alongside the front of house engineer, lighting designer, lyrics operator, or other tech team members. Even if you are using headphones while mixing, a dedicated room of some kind (sometimes a big closet will do) is essential for mixing for your stream well. The distractions that exist in the sanctuary, both sonic and even human, will cause your mix to suffer without such a separation.
This really holds true for directing multiple cameras and interacting with people online during your service. Do you not have extra space to create a streaming studio? This might be a reason to abort the launch! (See a trend here?)
3. Soundcheck is still your most valuable moment.
Hopefully soundcheck is more than a moment! Actually, I believe that God requires a two-hour soundcheck! And the audio for video mix engineer needs to be at his post during this time!
This is where you go back to the basics - every time. Zero out your gain, EQ and mix settings. Focus on every channel individually. Provide the needed headroom and compress where needed. (Read part 2 on this topic, for a continuation on web deployment EQ, audio compression, data compression and more.)
Why are these topics important?
Because unlike mixing sound for the congregation, the at-home audience is hearing every nuance of the sound coming through your streaming system. They are not influenced by the acoustics of the room or the fact that the drums, piano or even acoustic guitars can be heard with little amplification.
The streamed mix is subject to an unavoidable scrutiny that will inevitably echo in your mind week after week.
Finally, use a few room mics and make sure they are in phase.
You need the ability to mix in the natural sounds in the room. Besides, the real-life stage sound, applause, laughter and even the occasional cough are all important when creating an environment that is welcoming to the online viewer of your stream. After all, they are not just eavesdroppers. They are valued members of (hopefully) a growing online community for your church.
Streaming ministries can have a profound impact on so many people searching for hope in a noisy, tech savvy world. Streaming can introduce not only church shoppers to your community but introduce Jesus to the hurting and the lost.
But we only get one chance to make a first impression.
Stream if your church is called to reach people that would not otherwise hear the good news.
Stream if your online congregation can’t physically make it to church.
Stream if your message reaches remote places around the world that you’ve prepared to receive those messages through mission organizations, etc.
Don’t stream, though, if you simply are feeling the pressure to keep up with that church down the street.
Proverbs 16:32 says, “Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s temper, than capturing a city.”
Yes, do your research.
Be ready and prepared.
When it’s time to go live on your first broadcast, I hope your sound will be heard as simply and clearly as the love of Jesus itself.