While working in my first job at a church, I started as a production tech. In that role, I ran audio for a youth service during the week, while handling the audio, video and -lighting (AVL) for the kid’s church service during the weekend.
Just like you have multiple microphones on stage for multiple audio sources, you should consider multiple cameras and video sources.
From that position, I moved into exclusively doing video, because that’s what I wanted to do and where I had the most experience.
By the time I moved on from working at that church, I had become their video director for the main weekend services, managing the feeds for the multisite locations, as well as handing the online campus stream.
Throughout those years at that church, I learned the importance of a good mix for a venue and for a web stream.
I’m not the expert on what every setting should be exactly, but I learned a lot about what sounds and looks good, so that we as a church could strive to produce the most professional audio and video mix.
Mixing for Audio
A quality audio mix is just as crucial, if not more paramount, than the video or lighting that makes up a web stream.
Although audio isn’t my forte, I know enough that without good audio, the viewer of the web stream can’t follow along comfortably. During worship songs, there usually are included lyrics that allow one to follow along, helping the viewer with what to sing, and to help in understanding the words.
As the viewer, though, I need to be able to hear the rhythm and harmony in order to enjoy a song as well. This means just using your house mix from the audio board isn’t going to translate well. Here’s why.
The house audio mix is created by someone standing in the room listening. They are dealing with the acoustics of the room, the live band, the drummer in/out of a drum cage, etc.
There are so many factors that will shape the way you mix the sound for those listening inside the venue. These days, viewers could be listening to the stream from their laptops, cellphones, TV speakers, theater room speakers, or headphones. This requires us to change the way we mix the feed, so that it sounds just right for our web stream viewers.
It can’t be the same as the house mix.
Therefore, I recommend assigning a secondary mixer for the web stream output. This requires you to monitor the mix on speakers, most likely in a separate room and similar to speakers that your viewers might be listening with.
Also, throw on some headphones and listen with them. If it sounds good to you using the headphones, then it should sound good to your viewers as well. You might need to run some compressors to keep instruments and vocalists from peaking, especially if you are mixing for both the house and web stream.
Use your rehearsal time wisely and be sure to listen to the videos that are coming from your playback sources, so that you can be sure to hit the sound effects intended, or that the source audio from a video has the right balance for your viewers, and not just the house mix.
Be sure to monitor your levels and keep the talking dialogue inside the decibel range that sounds best, -6 to -12 db, for an example. This will keep listening levels consistent for your viewers, so they can come to expect where to set their volume knob.
Consistency is key. You don’t want your viewer to mess with their settings while trying to be a part of the experience.
Mixing for Video
Another major consideration to make when creating your web stream mix, is good video.
Oftentimes, churches that want to start with streaming, will add one camera to their venue and stream the video and audio together.
Just like you have multiple microphones on stage for multiple audio sources, you should consider multiple cameras and video sources as well.
When you have these multiple video sources, you’ll want to work with a video switcher that you can utilize in switching (or mixing) these sources together. For example, you can dissolve from one camera to another or slide in a lower third name title for the new speaker. There are many ways to do this, and there are a few major things to look out for.
When working with multiple cameras, make sure that your cameras produce identical video output, creating the same look regardless of which camera is being used in terms of the video picture and the quality of that image. For example, you don’t want to be distracting the viewer, if you alternate from one camera to another, where one camera displays reds or blues differently from the other camera. Another example that can distracting is when one transitions from a really grainy looking image created by one camera only to move to a smooth, clean image being captured by another camera.
Either of these types of differences can be particularly distracting to watch for a viewer. If possible, look to buy the same brand camera to limit the likelihood of significant differences between individual cameras, or make sure to review images captured by cameras you are considering to purchase, to ensure they can match in their output.
To help in creating the best image capture for your cameras, look to provide quality tripods, bases, and operation for each of your cameras. By investing in such quality accessories, it will allow you to create fluid shots, while being gentle during a slow moment or to be quick and agile when things get moving fast. Upon setting up the cameras, you want to make sure they are level, along with being stable, not shaking as a result of the camera being too heavy, or being positioned on a platform that is wobbly.
Provide consistency from shot to shot in your video work, with the goal of telling the story in a nondistracting way. It can even enhance the story you’re telling, by helping shape the moods of your viewers, with intentional camera work.
Be purposeful with the actual transitions of the video sources that make up your final product. Among the more effective tools is to dissolve, as are entering and leaving a particular ‘scene.’ As an alternative, cut when you are following action, but think about slow dissolves to help blend two slow moving images together.
Essentially, do what feels right.
In conclusion, our job as the AV operators is to provide a distraction-free, interesting and compelling experience.
The best thing to do to achieve this each time, is to record and document how you are mixing the audio and video together.
Review what you’ve recorded and critique yourself.
The most well received advice that I give my volunteers is for their homework, to go watch their favorite events, that relate to what you’re doing. Watch how they mix the cameras and videos, while listening how they mix the various instruments together to create a cohesive sound. Recreate what you love and tweak it to add your own little spin.
Aim on being happy with the end result, but if you aren’t, don’t hesitate to change it to make it better. Your viewers will most likely enjoy and stay engaged, as you work to make it better.