In this pandemic-induced era, numerous venues and churches have been compelled to embrace the realm of livestreaming. Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of livestreaming or seeking ways to enhance the audio quality of your broadcasts, this article will prove invaluable. The main production goal of a livestreaming broadcast mix is to recreate the live worship experience for online listeners and viewers. With this in mind, let’s dive into five best practices for livestream broadcast mixing for church audio.
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5 Best Practices for Livestream Broadcast Mixing for Church Audio:
#1 – If You Want It to Be Heard, Plug it in
When it comes to capturing everything in your broadcast mix, this is the rule of thumb; “If you want it to be heard, mic it or plug it in.”
Mic each drum, electric guitar amps, percussion, and acoustic piano, and don’t forget to set up a pair of audience mics. Plug in anything that uses a direct box (DI), like acoustic guitars and keyboards, etc.
Microphones and direct boxes are like ears for your broadcast mix. Just because something is loud in the house to your ears, doesn’t mean that the broadcast mix can hear it.
#2 – Create a Dedicated Broadcast Mix for Your Church Livestream
Do not send your main house mix to your livestream. Your main mix should be dedicated to the house only. When you’re mixing the house, you’re accounting for acoustic noise in the room. You may not choose to reinforce every instrument at the same volume. Sending your main mix to your livestream will result in an unbalanced mix for the online listener.
Instead, use the auxes/buses on your mixer to create a dedicated stereo broadcast mix for your livestream:
#3 – Make Use of Your Stereo Field
Pan instruments to the left and right of your stereo field. This helps create delineation between instruments resulting in a wider, fuller-sounding mix. Generally, when applying panning for a broadcast mix, you’ll want to place instruments in your sonic landscape according to where the musicians are positioned on stage. Spoken words should always be mixed up the center:
#4 – Pay Close Attention to the Amount of FX in Your Broadcast Mix During Your Worship Time
When used in the proper amount, FX, like reverb and delay, will create the feeling of being in the same space as the audience. If you’ve listened to your mics in the broadcast mix without FX, you’ll find they’re very dry and in your face.
As you’re listening to your dedicated livestream mix, use your ear when adjusting the FX returns for your broadcast. You don’t want your band to feel like it’s swimming in FX but you do want the feeling of space.
#5 – Monitor Your Broadcast Meters So That They’re Hitting Near the Same Level Throughout Your Service
The online listener should never have to adjust their volume. It’s the job of the person running the church broadcast mix to monitor the broadcast meters and make the proper adjustments during the service so that those meters are hitting at about the same level.
Keep the output meter for your broadcast mix in front of you at all times. Whether that means customizing the fader banks on your console to include the broadcast meter or using an iPad or tablet to display it in front of you, that meter and access to the broadcast master fader should be in your line of sight at all times.
4 Options to Run a Broadcast Mix
Option 1 – Run a Broadcast Mix on a Separate Mixing Console
For ultimate control of all processing of your input channels, run a separate broadcast mix from a separate mixing console. In this scenario, the front-of-house and broadcast mixing consoles are sent their own set of input signals from the stage.
In the analog world, this is accomplished by using an audio signal splitter which distributes or splits an audio signal into two.
Many digital mixers have the ability to share the pre-amp signal from a digital stage box via Dante or whichever digital protocol is being used to send and receive the signal.
Mixing front of house and broadcast from two separate mixing consoles is a considerable investment in gear and audio personnel for most churches which is why you’ll often see this configuration in larger churches
Most mid-sized and more intimately sized churches are under pressure to produce a great-sounding livestream mix with only the one console they have in the main worship center. So, let’s look at options for running a stellar livestream mix from one console.
Option 2 – Run a Broadcast Mix in Post Fader
If you’re one person managing FOH, monitors, and the broadcast mix at the same time, then this is the best option for you. Post fader means that any time you make a level change to a channel fader in your main mix, that channel in your dedicated broadcast mix will reflect the level change as well.
Before you start working with your broadcast mix, balance your house mix. Your post-fader broadcast mix will be set based on the fader placement of your house mix.
When running your broadcast mix in post fader, you’ll need to implement something I call broadcast compensation. Broadcast compensation is compensating in your broadcast mix for the lack of level being sent to from your main mix. You may find yourself applying broadcast compensation to instruments that produce significant acoustic noise like drums or instruments that use loud amps, like electric guitars and bass.
Option 3 – Run a Broadcast Mix in Pre Fader
This option is perfect if you have an additional person dedicated to mixing broadcasts.
Pre fader means any changes you make to the main faders will NOT affect the broadcast mix. Because of this, you will NOT have to compensate for anything generated from the main mix. The volume levels in your broadcast mix are running totally free from the main mix.
In the pre fader broadcast scenario, the person mixing can be in an isolated space with studio monitors to reference the service. This allows for a truer sense of what the online listener is experiencing. The person mixing is now able to make fine adjustments to the levels in the mix since they are now free from hearing noise bleed from the main service meeting space.
Brenden from Calvary Chapel Fellowship in St Petersburg, FL mixing in pre fader from iPads while referencing through studio monitors.
By connecting via Wi-Fi multiple tablets or iPads to your FOH console, you can create a whole virtual broadcast console.
Option 4 – Run your broadcast mix from a digital audio workstation (DAW) on a computer.
For example, Garage Band, Logic, Pro Tools, or Reaper.
This is an affordable method that is fast becoming a popular way to produce a broadcast mix. Unlike mixing broadcast from the same mixer as FOH where channel EQs and dynamics are shared between the main mix and broadcast mix, mixing from a DAW gives you complete control over every aspect of the broadcast. It’s the equivalent of having a completely dedicated console just for your broadcast mix.
However, with such great flexibility and control comes complexity. Not everyone has the chops to create their own great-sounding mix in a DAW. There are wonderful DAW template resources available from companies like SundaySounds.com to help novice users create a wonderful-sounding mix. The user simply needs to connect the input channel signals from the mixer to the channels in the DAW and then adjust the faders to their preference.
It’s best to have a dedicated person running the DAW broadcast mix.
The Importance of Excellence in Livestream Broadcast Mixing for Church Audio
An engaging and well-balanced livestream will allow the online listener to focus their attention on the message being conveyed. For the person who happened to scroll across your church’s livestream on social media, their first impression of your church will be based on what they see and hear at that moment. These are a few reasons I encourage every church fellowship to pursue excellence in crafting a wonderful-sounding livestream broadcast mix.
Golden will be speaking at WAVE 2023 on broadcast mixing. Her session is entitled: How to Optimize Your Worship Service Mix for Broadcast and Live Streaming.
Why Attend WAVE? (What makes us different)
The WAVE conference focuses on audiovisual and lighting first and is a traditional conference and expo with the best church AVL exhibitors and vendors in the industry. At WAVE, you and your tech team will have the time to talk with exhibitors because our expo floor is less crowded and better organized than other AVL conferences. WAVE offers the opportunity to see what others are doing and even boasts and church tour local to the conference. Experience roundtable discussions during meals and after sessions. Visit the biggest manufacturers in your area. Maximize your team’s time for education, training on equipment, and industry connection and collaboration. Lastly, WAVE offers incredible value for the education, exhibit access, networking, worship, and amenities for the price of the ticket. Lastly, we at WAVE want to see your church grow, help others find God, and feel personal satisfaction with their jobs by being educated and connecting within the AVL church tech industry. Register for WAVE today!