People wonder why their livestream mix doesn’t sound like the mix in the room. It’s because your mix needs are different. Here are the five areas to consider.
1 – Effects Usage
Mix a live space and the room acoustics play a role in what effects you use in the mix, especially any type of delay or reverb. Mix for live stream and this is as close as you can get to mixing in a studio. Without room acoustics, the mix sounds dry – lack of natural reverb.
Talk with a person in a room and you’ll hear just a bit of natural reverb, especially the smaller the room. Almost imperceptible but it’s there. Now listen to their voice through a microphone and wear headphones and that’s a dry voice.
As every space is different, the livestream mix can require more effects or less of an effect, but most likely more.
For example, in a live room mix, I might dial in 0.5 seconds of plate reverb for a song and set it so it’s heard at a nominal level, but when I mix the song for livestream, I have to increase the amount of reverb in the channel to make up for the lack of room acoustics. Also, room reverb might be a better choice over plate reverb.
Don’t assume what works for live will work for livestream.
2 – Stereo Mixing
The majority of church sanctuaries have a mono speaker setup. This means whatever is coming out of the right speaker is the same that’s coming out of the left. The reason is you have to have the ideal room for stereo mixing to be useful.
Think of movie theaters with surround sound. They are long and narrow so the people sitting on the far left and far right are still relatively close together. This means everyone in the room can hear what’s coming out of both speakers even when it’s panned left or right and they can tell which side of the room it’s coming from. Church sanctuaries tend toward being wide instead of long.
When it comes to livestream and recorded services, the majority of people will listen to those through headphones or through a home system with stereo speakers. And stereo mixing is a wonderful way to gain separation in a music mix.
A simple way of stereo mixing is to first keep centered:
- Lead Vocal
Everything else can be panned a little to the left or right depending on what the person sees on the video. So, if the piano is on the right side, pan the piano a little to the right. This will also enable better instrument separation in the mix.
3 – Livestream Mixing is Dangerous
Mix a live room and it’s easy to watch the stage. But move to a separate room for a broadcast mix and it’s easy to focus on the audio console and forget what will happen next. If you have a broadcast console in your sound booth then you’re living in headphones and you can still watch the stage. But, if you’re in a separate room your likelihood of missing a mic cue escalates.
Ideally, you’re broadcast mixing in your production room or another room that provides you access to either the livestream feed or a video feed of the stage.
Don’t assume that just because it’s not a live mix that it’s not as important.
4 – Mixing for a Room vs Broadcast
Mix live and you mix for the room, feeling the energy of the room and adjusting accordingly – often through volume changes in a mix. Mix for broadcast and you’re mixing for yourself. You can bring in an audience mic if you have one to add but, for the most part, the energy of the mix has to come from you. You need to feel it and adjust accordingly.
Most of us have enough experience that we know how to modify song mixes during the song – bring up a lead or backing vocals, or bring down something, all to add to the song dynamics.
Let me be clear, mixing for livestream does NOT mean you’re allowed to mix for your personal preferences if they are vastly different than what is expected.
Consider the two mixes like this:
- Live Room: Mix for the congregation and meet the expectations of the band and church leadership – in short, produce a professional mix.
- Livestream/Recording: Do the same thing. The mix can be different, from a technical point of view – such as more reverb or stereo panning, but it should still sound similar to the live room mix.
5 – Broadcast Volume Levels – Be Consistent
The last point here can be a bugger of a problem. Mix a live room and it’s easy to adjust the spoken word volume as well as the band so everyone can hear. But, mix for broadcast and while you might hear those two volumes about the same, what makes it to the livestream can be different.
Imagine someone listening to the worship on headphones and then the pastor comes out and they have to crank up the volume on their headphones. As soon as the sermon is over and the band starts, POW!
There are a few ways to deal with this. One, listen to the livestream audio while mixing and bring up the spoken word volume to meet the band. Two, and this is what we do, use a visual VU meter that displays the livestream signal. Using this method, I know the range in which to keep the volume.
Bonus tip: Watch your Broadcast Monitor Level
My short story:
I was mixing in the broadcast room with small monitor speakers when another audio guy stopped by. I turned down the volume on my monitors and we had a short conversation. He left just as a song was ending. When the next song started, I noticed all my volumes seemed too low so I started boosting channel volumes. The next thing I knew, my production manager is yelling down the hallway, “WHY IS EVERYTHING SO LOUD?”
I’d forgotten to turn my monitor volume back up.
Now, whenever I mix for broadcast, I always run my monitor volume at the 10 o’clock position on the volume dial. For me, that’s the ideal spot for mixing and if I ever do need to turn the monitor down, I know exactly where to turn it back up.