As a teenager, I became interested in running sound at my church. After college, I joined a large church and got involved with the audio/video ministry there. My primary role was mixing for broadcast. Over time, I started running front of house more often and did less mixing for broadcast.
On the contrary, when mixing sound for livestreaming or recording, you don’t have any stage volume supplementing the sound.
After joining the staff at Clements Baptist Church, where I currently serve, I ran front of house, or FOH, sound for several years before training volunteers to take over in that area. When we began livestreaming at Clements and gained the ability to mix from our production room on an iPad, I went back to some of the roots of my church broadcast mixing.
Mixing FOH sound in a room is much different than mixing for livestreaming or broadcast.
While mixing FOH, you will deal with stage volume; not just what is coming out of the main speakers. If a guitar player has an amplifier turned up really loud, then you will not have very much of it coming through the speakers. The same goes for drums that are not in an enclosure (or electric drums), as well as stage monitors.
On the contrary, when mixing sound for livestreaming or recording, you don’t have any stage volume supplementing the sound. This obviously gives you more control of the individual elements of the mix.
No longer do you have to worry about the drums being too loud in the room; you can turn them down. A guitar player with his amp on stun, turn him down …
With the advantage of more control, comes the disadvantage of not having a room to provide natural reverb. The natural reverb typically helps the instruments blend together better. It reminds me of the “magic” of analog tape (for those of you who are old enough to remember what it sounds like).
Ambience (or audience) microphones are a way to add natural reverb into the livestreaming mix, to mimic what it sounds like in the room.
I have taken studio recordings, ran them through the sound system, set up microphones in the room and recorded the room sound. I then mixed those microphones back into the studio mix, to give the recording a “live” sound. This helped add a missing live feel to the “live” recording.
The ambient microphones can also pick up the congregation singing. This helps the livestream viewer get more of a “feel” for what it is like to be a part of the worship service.
One consideration for livestream mixing is monitoring. While mixing for broadcast at my previous church, I learned to mix on a little TV speaker.
At the time, that was the best approximation of what the largest number of our viewers then were typically using to watch and listen to our broadcast.
If it sounded good on the little TV in the production room, then it would probably sound good on the viewer’s TV at home. Obviously, you are not able to make as accurate choices of EQ, compression, etc. on a TV, but it is a good point of reference to supplement with studio monitors.
These days, you can use a phone, earbuds, a computer speaker or other device that your average listener would likely be viewing on and apply this same philosophy.
Mixing for livestreaming can be a challenge but considering your viewer and your listening environment, can get you a long way down the road to a good livestream mix.