For churches that are looking to begin streaming their services, mixing for streaming can be difficult for a number of reasons.
If you are fortunate enough to have a helper that has an ear for music and sound, you can have them listen and take notes, while you mix.
For starters, what sounds good live in a sanctuary, does not always sound good in a recorded or streamed mix. Therefore, when working on a mix, it requires a lot of listening to the stream, after which one will need to make adjustments.
I recommend spending the time in practice to work on mixing during the week, practicing and then listening to how it sounds.
Often, the vocals can be overblown, and it is easy to miss turning up a microphone, if someone was not in rehearsal during the week or at practice Sunday morning.
It is a good idea to go over the service program with the music director, ahead of time, so that you have a solid understanding of who is singing and playing throughout.
It is also a good idea to know about any solos or special parts that are scheduled during the service.
In planning out the service, keep in mind that songs ebb and flow. Also, don’t forget that songs tend to get louder during cord changes or transitions, so you will need to make sure that you have enough headroom (space for the sound to get louder), so that you do not blow out the feed.
Once you get a handle of each song during practice, try to control the volume with the master volume knob. You may find that you need to run the sound a little lower, to make room for this increase in volume.
Taking notes throughout this process is paramount to a good mix.
Knowing when the stage will increase in sound and when there is a solo by a singer or an instrument, it will allow you to make an adjustment before it happens.
One of the most important things in a service is to not have any distractions from the message. If you miss a cue, for example, the audience will know that you did not turn up the microphone at the beginning. This can distract them from the overall message and the mood that you are trying to create, that being bringing people to Christ.
The songs that are chosen, should be to get people in the spirit for the message. The words, the tone, and the message all lead to the pastor’s sermon, and we want people to get every bit of that message.
There is at least one person that needs that message, and we do not want to aid the Devil in taking them from that message.
If you are fortunate enough to have a helper that has an ear for music and sound, you can have them listen and take notes, while you mix. From there, you can then discuss the needed changes.
One of the big considerations and potential problems for streaming is whether you have a separate mix for the stream.
Many churches opt to send the audio signal straight from their soundboard into their stream. This can be tricky to fix. It may be possible to make some compromises at the front of house, and then decrease the volume of the feed. If not, try inserting an equalizer between the mixer output to the feed input and make the necessary adjustments to the feed, to improve the sound.
Many times, the equalizer will have a master volume control, for adjustments during the service, to keep the sound as even as possible. If this is the case, you will need to account for the people and pastors that are speaking in the equalization, so that they may be heard easily.
If possible, have the pastors speak on the worship space’s stage prior to the service, and increase or decrease specific frequencies, so that the speaker is loud and clear enough to be heard by those in the congregation, as well as those watching the stream. This may be a compromise for the singers, but the pastor’s message is the needs to be the priority.
Any time you are mixing for streaming, it is a compromise, because you rarely have control over the platform that you are streaming to or from.
Practice is essential to getting the sound correct for your mix.
As I have said in many articles previously on Worship Tech Director, sound is the most important part of your service.
You can get anything else wrong, to a point where even having a video screen go blank, but that won’t cause things to screech to a halt, if the congregation can still hear the message.
Get the sound wrong, though, and not even a $10,000 HD video camera will be able to fix your situation.
Looking back to an article I wrote in November 2017, “What to Account When Building A Church’s Sound System from the Ground Up,” I wrote that one should make sure to get the best microphones one can afford, especially the pastor’s mic.
It is extremely hard to fix a bad microphone during a stream, especially with all the other compromises one needs to make in the midst of working on a stream.
Something else to be mindful of: effects. If you are running an effect and are using the output from the board to stream, you may need to make a compromise at front of house.
If you are streaming from a separate mix, don’t forget to add the effects channel to your mixer, and then adjust the effects into the mix.
Mixing for live streaming can be a tricky animal. One must acknowledge that things on the internet can change quickly. If you run your streaming through a service, many of these issues will likely be taken care of, but you may need to do an update to implement the fix.
If you can, go to church a day or two before, or if you can, dial in to the computer remotely, so that you can check for needed updates. I like to do updates on Monday, so that I have time to correct for mistakes.
In addition, stay on top of your emails from your internet provider, as well as from your upload service for encountered problems and needed updates.
If you are streaming to YouTube or Facebook, they have their own set of protocols. It’s worth knowing that in either case, they do not do a very good job of letting you know about problems that have arisen or required fixes, and that many times, you will find out when it is too late. I suggest joining online chat rooms with others who stream, to keep up on the latest changes.
Being a member of such a group online, can benefit with the fountain of information that it can provide, and how it can serve as a lifesaver when you are busy.
It is highly recommended that you come in early to check your internet and to do a test stream to make sure everything works, and that the sound quality meets your standards.
Just because the mix sounded great last week, does not mean that it will sound as good after an update is made. Sometimes these updates affect the sound in a way, to where it is compressed and can negatively impact the sound.