Live streaming your church services can be a great way to reach your congregation. In fact, it may be the only way some members can even attend church.
With live streaming becoming such a critical service, it’s important to make sure the quality of the stream is as good as possible. Most people focus on the video quality first. But the real question is, can they hear you?
You know that audio is the most important part of any live stream, right?
If your audio quality is decent and your video is so-so, I’ll probably stick around. But if your audio is terrible, I don’t care how good the video is, I’m tuning out.
It is really important to send a consistent audio feed to your live streaming service. There are a few ways to do it, depending on your setup.
Alright, let’s get this out of the way first: do not use the built-in microphone on your video camera. It’s just not going to give you the quality, full-range audio that you need for good sound on your live stream.
If you can’t get a direct connection to your mixing console, then at least use a good external microphone that plugs into your video camera or encoding hardware/software. Make sure this microphone is on a stand and positioned in such a way that it will capture the best signal possible (music and spoken word if you’re streaming both).
Use good isolation headphones to monitor the audio feed regularly to make sure that it is clear.
Product Tip: The Zoom H6 or similar audio recorder can work well as an off-board live audio source (with the added benefit of simultaneously recording the audio), or you can use a stereo condenser mic like the Audio Technica AT2022. Just be sure to have a phantom power source for any condenser microphones if your camera doesn't provide it.
Capturing a live audio feed from the mixing console can be a great way to get quality audio. HOWEVER – you need to make sure that this feed is mixed appropriately for the live stream.
I’m glad you asked!
The live audio engineer is mixing for the room, not your live stream. This means that some sources coming through the loudspeakers could be much louder or quieter in relation to other audio sources, depending on what is happening in the live acoustic space. This could make for a very unbalanced audio mix on you live stream.
Mix Tip: See if you can get a group or auxiliary mix from the live sound console that is not subject to the same live room mixing levels (PFL or Pre Fader Level).
Note: be aware that your live sound operator may not be able to give adequate attention to the levels of this mix, since he/she is primarily focused on delivering great sound for the local congregation in the room.
By far the best option for a high quality live audio feed is to have a separate audio console and engineer mixing just for the live stream. This will ensure that all audio sources are mixed and balanced for one purpose – the live stream.
While this is not always the most feasible or budget-friendly option for some churches, it will provide the most consistent quality results.
But with or without a dedicated feed, this next tip could really help take your audio up a notch…
Live audio is supposed to be dynamic. Music volume will rise and fall. The pastor may whisper and shout. But your live streaming audience should have the benefit of a consistent, even audio feed, regardless of the local volume dynamics.
Even if you only have one room microphone, it can be helpful to place an audio compressor between it and the camera/encoder input.
It’s fine to have compression on individual channels in a mix, but for live streaming you need to make sure the main mix output has a compressor on it. This will help glue the mix together for the live stream and control the dynamic range for the live streaming audience.
Product Tip: Many digital consoles will have built-in compressors that can assist with this process, but if you’re looking for a cost-effective portable solution, check out the Rolls CL151. It is a Compressor, Limiter, and Gate all in one. Or for a rack mounted solution, the DBX 1046 is a solid choice. Some live streaming encoder software solutions also have compression effects available for audio sources.
Monitoring the audio feed into your camera or encoder is critical, but make sure you also check in on the final live stream from time to time. Confirm that everything sounds clear and is easy to understand – especially the spoken word. Make any adjustments as needed.
Product Tip: My favorite isolation headphones for monitoring audio in a loud environment are the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, providing up to 32dB of outside noise attenuation.
One of the biggest problems in live streaming setups is distortion on the audio feed. This happens because audio levels between different pieces of equipment are not set properly.
It is common to overdrive a computer sound card input or the audio input on a smart phone. To avoid this, start with a low output volume on the sending audio device and raise it until there is a clean signal level on the smart phone or computer. Be sure to leave enough headroom for louder volumes that may come through when the band starts up.
A compressor or limiter on the mixer can also help control audio clipping and distortion before it has a chance to reach the encoding computer, camera, or smartphone.
Another big issue that’s easy to fix is to allow more time for testing your live stream. This is especially true if you’ve just started live streaming or if you’re working with different equipment than you might be used to.
There can be any number of issues that cause the live stream quality to suffer – anything from network connectivity, internet speed fluctuation, software problems, and more.
When it comes to audio, testing each point of the audio signal path is critical to ensuring a good quality mix. Take a moment to listen to the test stream audio on several devices, including mobile devices, computers, and through headphones. Adjust the mix and compression settings as needed to ensure a good listening experience.
Just like mixing sound for the live room, crafting a great sounding mix for your streaming audience takes a little preparation, attention to detail, and some small tweaks and adjustments along the way.
The result should be a great experience for viewers at home and less stress for you and your team.
Improve consistency for every live stream by following a checklist before you go live. Download this Live Streaming Soundcheck Checklist to make sure you and your team follow all the right steps.
Need a new microphone, compressor, or adapter for the next live stream? Take a look at some of these options available on Amazon.
Note: portions of this post originally appeared as a guest post on the ChurchTechToday blog.
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