Where do we start?
Many churches are now getting in the act of streaming their services, live meetings, or for future viewing. The reasons vary for why the church would initiate such an endeavor, but one overwhelming goal is to continually work toward enlarging their audience. As a result, some small churches, numbering around 300 members or less, have seen their virtual congregations grow to where they are now numbering in the thousands.
Many times, churches who are looking to update their audio consoles consider the number of inputs but fail to account for how many outputs they’ll require.
The message is seen and heard by way of various portals, most notably Facebook and/or YouTube. How you deliver that message varies and can often be dependent on the size of the church’s budget, as one may not have the bandwidth for streaming at the highest quality or resolution. Based on those contingencies, free services are often chosen by churches, and the quality of video and audio may be compromised.
I am not going to delve into which way to deliver your message by way of streaming is the best in this piece Instead, I am going to talk about the simplest ways to get a good mix relevant for your video, whether it’s live or archived.
Have you ever heard the record “Frampton Comes Alive”? (I am showing my age, but it is among the top all-time live albums in terms of sales).
Imagine listening to this collection of 14 songs, or any well-produced live record, and not being able to hear the audience singing along?
Audience microphones will capture the essence of what is happening in the room. Without the audience’s interaction as part of your mix, the listener won’t feel a part of the concert, or the meeting.
To do this, you can start with a pair of condenser mics and experiment with where the right placement should be. Don’t use your choir mics.
If your worship team is using in-ear monitoring, they should have as a rule: that ambient microphones are placed on the stage, facing the congregation. This allows the musicians to hear the room that they are playing in, and to hear the church singing. If this is the case in your church, you can utilize these for your audience mics as well. If you don’t have these, get some.
Nonetheless, you’ll need at least a pair of condenser microphones or more, depending on the size of the church, and what you’re trying to capture. Don’t ever add these to your house mix. Roll off the lows, with a high-pass filter. Orient left and right for stereo. Add the right amount of level to your stream/broadcast mix outputs, as this could be a prefade aux bus or matrix, (more on that in a second) and voila!, you’re now hearing a less dry and markedly more natural sound, like what one would hear in a sanctuary.
Depending on your audio mixing console, you will have many auxiliary buses that are prefade or postfade. Prefade is typically used for monitors for the musicians, recording devices, etc., as this will allow for independent level changes from the house mix.
Those of you who are using a direct copy of your house mix for your stream/broadcast may have noticed that the vocals are dominant in such a mix, while the guitars and drums may not be coming through at a sufficient level.
This is especially true for smaller churches. Why? Think about it.
If the drums and guitars are loud enough in the room, how much do you have to reinforce them? Vocals on the other hand, need to be amplified. Look down at your console and notice where the faders are set for loud, amplified instruments versus the vocals.
Vocals are up, drums are down.
That is a mirror image of what your mix will sound like.
This is why we set up a different mix for the recording.
It may be a difficult proposition for you to handle the house mix and a streaming mix simultaneously, but what else is new? Some sound ops need to run lyrics at the same time or need to simultaneously collect the offering, so one more responsibility shouldn’t be an issue, right?
If you have a stereo aux bus, that would be the best. If you don’t, I pray that you have at least an extra aux to send the stream mix from.
If you don’t, it may be time to consider investing in a new mixer.
Many times, churches who are looking to update their audio consoles consider the number of inputs but fail to account for how many outputs they’ll require, either now, or more importantly, in the near future.
Once you have the required output(s) determined, build your mix, just as you would a musician’s monitor mix. Balance the levels of the elements along with the audience mics, EQ it to your taste (remember to cut before you boost), dynamic process if necessary, perhaps a little compression or limiting, and send to the device that you’re recording/streaming on.
Separate mixer in a room outside of the sanctuary
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to hear a different mix from the house, if you’re in the house.
To create a truly different and separate mix from what those in the church are hearing, you need to be isolated from that room. If that’s not possible, then at least use an isolating earphone or headphone, so that the room sound is reduced to a sufficient level, so as not to affect what you are trying to hear in your stream.
Broadcast mixes in big churches have separate mixers, in separate rooms, isolated away from the sanctuary, where one could craft the mix for the listeners at home, while at the same time making it sound as if the listener was in the sanctuary.
Networked audio devices make this easy. Analog mixers not so much.
With network stage boxes, rack mixer and consoles, the microphones and instruments on the stage can be sent to multiple devices on the network simultaneously. With analog systems, we need to employ transformer-isolated splitters to send the devices to multiple locations. Take into account that the splitter snakes that are needed to do this, would cost as much as a digital mixer, in some cases.
If you have a digital mixer, it may have its own personal monitor mixer accessory. These work great for the talent on the platform, to create their own monitor mix, independent of the house, as they also are a very simple and easy way to craft a stream mix.
While digital mixers are becoming increasingly prevalent, I recognize that some of you are still working with analog mixers, using Aviom personal monitor mixers, or something similar for your team. You now have a way of adding one more, to create streaming mixes.
An entirely separate mixer, though, would allow you to mix with more detail, however.
If your console has matrix mixing, then that is also a very easy way to create your stream mix.
A matrix is the Swiss Army knife on your mixer. It’s literally a mix of mixes. It’s used to send mono to stereo and vice versa, as I use it for my front fills, when people are sitting close to the stage and underneath the main speakers, where they may hear lots from the stage, but no vocals.
By way of the matrix, I can send a little of the main mix and pump up the vocals in the front fills, and in two steps, have a mix appropriate for those who are situated toward the front of the church.
This is a great and simple way to build your stream mix.
Start with the main mix, add what elements are necessary to make you feel as if you’re in the room: drums, guitars, etc., and finally add your crowd mics and … done!
Try it, you’ll like it.