Over the past several years, it seems almost every church is livestreaming their worship services. For many reasons, options like Facebook Live are a great way for churches to easily livestream their services.
Streaming can be a great alternative for those that are sick and not able to make it to the church for the service. In addition, it can be a great way for people who are looking for a church home, to get a feel for what your church is like, before visiting for the first time.
When it comes to the audio of your livestream, there are many ways to produce quality audio, depending on your budget.
For starters, you can start simply by taking a mono feed from your main audio console and send it to your video mixer. Keep in mind that option does not produce very good results, though, as the mix is not going to be well balanced or equalized for that stream.
There is a much more ideal method for producing audio for your livestream.
The best way to think about your livestream is that it is like a live broadcast mix or even a recording studio environment. To achieve this, you will need an audio split from your main sanctuary audio console that will feed a separate audio mixer. Ideally, this will be a digital split (Dante, MADI, AES50, SoundGrid, etc.), but could also be an analog split, using a splitter snake going into a separate digital mixer. This way, you will have all the channels that are being sent to your main sanctuary audio console, while having a separate feed for your stream.
You will also want to place this mixer in a separate room that is sonically isolated from your sanctuary (it’s kind of hard to build a separate mix of your sanctuary, as the system is rocking away at 95 dB).
In addition, you will need to get a good set of studio monitors for you to follow along on your mix. There are a ton of great options on the market, and I would suggest going with powered monitors. You are just looking for something that is flat or neutral sounding, to capably build your mix on.
Now that you have set up a separate mix room, using a decent set of studio monitors, make sure that you are working with a video monitor, displaying the live service, to avoid anyone from having to guess about what’s happening on stage.
In such a setup, we should also make sure that your audio signal that came from your audio split, is straight off the preamp. If you are using a digital split, it would be best to send the signal from the preamp or stage box, to both your main audio console and your livestream console.
A lot of times people will use the digital direct outs on their desk to send that signal, and if you are doing this, make sure that the direct out is set to pre-EQ and pre-fade.
You want to get the raw audio unprocessed, so you can build your own mix that works best for a livestream.
In addition, look to have a couple of audience mics set up, routed to your livestream mixer. This will help make the stream more personable, as the congregation is either singing along when the instruments drop out, or when the pastor is telling a joke with an anticipated response from the people shortly thereafter.
Upon having your audio correctly routed to your mix desk with a video monitor, you can get started on your mix. If you are new to doing this, you will want to be at the weekly rehearsals to work on your mix for Sunday.
One of the great things about live sound is that it only needs to sound great once. No one will hear it again, unlike your livestream, where people can go back and listen to it several times.
You want to make sure that you are putting in the time to achieve a great mix.
Besides the normal EQ and compression choices, you will want to spend more time panning things (which not only makes it more exciting/interesting to listen to, while making room for what you put in the center), but also your effects choices, which should be well thought through.
The use of reverbs and delays or chorus effects can really add depth and space to your mix, but only if they are used properly. When doing this live, you might just use one reverb across everything, when you should have a few different reverbs set up. Some examples might be a drum reverb and an acoustic guitar reverb (depending on the song), along with a couple of different reverbs for vocals (a shorter on and a longer one).
Many times, when I hear a church livestream of their service, it will sound dry and unpleasant. Like anything, if you overdo it, the results will not be good. If used appropriately, though, it will add a certain polish to your mix that people are used to hearing.
One of the really great things about having a separate mix, compared to just using your main sanctuary’s audio feed, is that you can match the levels of your band, pastor, and the person doing announcements.
If you just use the live feed, you will find that there will be a great volume drop off when the pastor comes on, compared to the band. For those watching the livestream, those volume differences are frustrating. Upon accounting for that, you will be able to, on a weekly basis, give a consistent mix that stays at the same volume level.
Which leads to our final point of master bus processing. You want to think of this more like audio mastering. If you are not familiar with audio mastering, there are a lot of good resources out there to help get you started, including. Puremix.com. That site will help you with different methods and concepts for not just mastering but mixing in general. One such method would be where you have some light compression on your master bus, after which you will need to adjust your EQ on the master bus for your stream.
Usually you will need to lighten up on your low end and sometimes low mid area (like 40-80 Hz and 125-250 Hz range). You might need to add some upper midrange around that 2-4k Hz range, to help it cut through. You will learn how best to do this, the more you do it and go back and listen to your mixes, and critique yourself.
Having a multiband limiter or compressor will be helpful in getting your frequencies under control, for your live mix. The last thing on your chain should be a limiter. Unlike commercial music, we are not trying to slam the limiter to get everything as loud as possible. You should set your limiter up to make sure that the volume never goes over -2 db. For some cheaper computer sound cards, this will help make sure the audio is not distorted as it works through the system.
Mixing a separate mix for your stream is a lot of work, but the benefits are significant.
Having a mix that sounds great and the ability to make sure all the instruments and vocals are sitting just right, lets you put your best foot forward. Sometimes, by being able to strip out some of the background vocals that might be struggling to hit those harmony parts, the mix can be improved. Or being able to perfectly mix a large vocal group together. Having this flexibility in preparing a mix is a lot of fun, and a great way to serve your local church.