The lights dim, the background music fades, and everyone is seated as someone steps on stage to give a welcoming announcement and transition into worship. It’s at this moment that we all turn our attention to the large screen above the platform.
And that’s when things fall apart.
The video stutters, flashes, then briefly appears in a magenta-toned burst.
Ok… now, it’s stable. I’m seeing a nicely lit stage with the familiar faces from our main church campus across town. And they are worshiping.
I just can’t hear anything!
Click. Static. Pop. Buzz. Whoosh. Oh, there it is. Loud and clear, we got it!
Cool. But now… is it delayed? Something is out of sync with the video and audio. How did that happen? That’s distracting.
This goes on for a few minutes until suddenly the video and audio feeds are restarted and everything comes up perfectly timed just as the second worship song begins.
Wow. That was a hair-raising 5-minute trial for the tech team frantically scrambling around in the booth behind me!
(Those of you responsible for the technology at a satellite church are nodding your heads…)
Running sound for a remote broadcast campus can be challenging.
If you’re just beginning to consider the technical needs of simulcasting your services, or if you’re a tech team member involved in making it all work, I’ve got some tips that could save you a little time, stress, and distraction.
Near-End (Broadcasting Campus) Audio Tips
As the main mix engineer (or broadcast mix engineer if you have separate consoles), your responsibility is to make sure the live remote audio feed is clear, balanced, and well-mixed.
The first step to achieving this is to do a thorough sound check.
If you are the only engineer that is supervising both the main front of house mix and the remote live audio feed, then you have a big job. Make sure that you plan your workflow so you can efficiently navigate between local and remote feed monitoring.
And please, please, please–put a compressor on the mix-down signal before it is sent to the live streaming encoder or other broadcast equipment. You don’t need to completely crush the audio dynamics, but make sure you have enough control of the audio signal so that it doesn’t clip your encoder input or distort on the receiving end.
Some Other Considerations:
- Soundcheck both the near and far end feeds.
- Regularly monitor the main broadcast output feed (or monitor constantly if you are the dedicated broadcast engineer).
- Use a compressor on the audio signal before it goes into the encoder or broadcast gear.
- Establish a regular system of communication with the remote receiving end(s) to ensure that they are getting the signal you expect them to.
- Pay attention to what is happening in your sanctuary and adjust the mix for any anomalies (like someone holding a mic too low or speaking too softly for the remote end to hear it).
- Be prepared! Test all components within your scope of responsibility and engage with other tech team members to make sure they are receiving a quality audio signal from you.
- Consider adding a backup audio transmission path to your remote location(s). The most important part of a broadcast is the audio. The video can stutter and fail, but if audio is still present, you’ll still be able to hear the Word.
Far-End (Remote Campus) Audio Tips
As a remote campus sound tech, you might feel like you have very little control over what you’ve handed from the main campus tech team. But you are a critical component of delivering a quality audio feed to your local satellite church.
Be proactive about communicating with the main campus broadcast team. If possible, establish a real-time intercom connection with them so you can discuss any problems that may arise.
Make sure you understand their workflow and technical setup. This will help you understand how the audio feed arrives at your location, and you may even be able to help do some remote troubleshooting if you know a thing or two about the broadcast infrastructure.
Most importantly, be solutions-oriented. If the feed goes down, stalls, or stutters, try to work with all of the tech team members involved to resolve the issue. Sometimes it requires restarting equipment or re-patching connections. Be there, and be present.
- Be part of the main campus broadcast soundcheck from your location.
- Have a good understanding of the service flow and worship transitions at both your local site and the main campus.
- Work with your local worship and leadership team to go over timing cues or procedural changes that may change before the service begins.
- Monitor the incoming audio feed regularly, and do this well before you need to go live.
- Be ready and on cue when the local-to-remote feeds need to transition.
- Establish good communication with the main campus tech team and audio engineer(s).
- Make EQ changes to the incoming signal if the audio isn’t sounding right in your facility. You may need to cut some lows to get more vocal clarity, or cut some highs or mids to sweeten up the musical components.
- Be prepared to adjust your mix as the content changes. You might only get one or two channels to work with, but make them sound great!
Now that you’re ready…