It seems that almost every week someone reaches out for help with their broadcast mix. Now, that mix could simply be “broadcast” into the lobby or cry room, but it seems to be an ongoing issue for many people. As I keep telling more folks about it, it occurred to me that I should do a video that I can send people to. So here we are.
I can’t take complete credit for this. I wrote this up as a four-part series some years back. I had been working on some ideas a good seven or eight yeas ago when I got spend the evening in deep discussion with my friend Andrew Stone. Somewhere about hour 6, I asked him about how he set up his broadcast mix. Several hours later, we headed to bed with just enough time to sleep for a few hours before we had to be back at the conference.
What follows is a hybrid approach. Some of this is from Stone, some is from me. I say this mainly to give credit to where credit is due. Over the years , I’ve refined this pretty well and it gives great results every time. Check out the video below and search the site for more detailed write ups.
This week Mike talks about stewardship. Not the kind where you get the cheapest thing possible, but the kind where you get the best value for the money spent. He also talks about a new product he got to install, which was, incidentally, good stewardship.
We had just landed in Orlando and were still acclimating to the insanely high humidity of early June. Scott got a text from a friend of ours letting him know he just talked to the pastor of his former church. This pastor told Joe he needed help with getting a new PA installed, and fast. Joe told them to call us. We didn’t think too much of it until we got into the rental car and started driving toward the hotel when the phone rang.
Initial Investigation It was Pastor John who told us that the church had been renovating the sanctuary and it was nearly complete. There was concern that the existing speaker system was not going to be adequate for the newer worship style they were going for in the newly upgraded space. [It was pretty bad…] Funds had become available to install a new PA, but there was a catch; it needed to be installed by the end of July, just over 5 weeks away.
We talked with him for about 30 minutes, learned about the church, the style of worship they were going for, what their values were and what they desired from their new PA. The worship style would be contemporary, but not rock and roll. A big value was evenness of coverage as the current system was not great in that regard, especially with the sound booth being in the balcony. There was a big disconnect between what the sound guy heard and what the congregation heard. He texted us some pictures of the space and a solution began to form in my mind.
The Building A traditional A-Frame building, the peak was high up in the air—over 40’—and the ceiling was all wood. There was no treatment in the room, and it is more than twice as long as it is wide. A line array would give us the distance, but at the expense of putting a lot of energy onto the wood ceiling, which would find its way down to the audience area out of time and out of phase.
The more we talked, the more I became confident the solution I was envisioning would work. But, I wanted to talk to the manufacturer first. Thankfully, we were in Orlando for InfoComm, and we had an appointment with Bose the next day. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “No highs, no lows, must be Bose.” And that was true, 10 years ago. But when they released their RoomMatch product line that all changed. With 42 coverage patterns in the lineup, it’s possible to almost exactly tailor the coverage of the arrays to the seating area—something that would be critical when we’re trying to avoid energizing all the hard surfaces surrounding the seats. A Plan Comes Together I showed some pictures and floor plans to Rick Boring, my technical sales rep at Bose the next day. I simply asked, “What would you do in this room?” His response was almost exactly what I was thinking. The rest of the crew at Bose told us they could make the deadline work, so we left Orlando with a reasonably well thought out plan.
Getting back to the office the next week, I did some modeling, sent it to Rick for validation, and worked up a budget. By the end of the week, we had a contract signed and a check in hand. Orders were placed, riggers and structural engineers were engaged and we reached out to our friends at Wired Electric to provide the additional AV power and sequencing and low voltage wiring.
The Speakers After a few back and forth trips with structural, we came up with a plan to fly the speakers. The design was fairly simple; a four-box array with a two dual 15” subs for the main floor, and a two-box array with a dual 15” sub for the balcony. The reason I went with RoomMatch becomes clear when you look at the coverage patterns of the boxes. For the main array we had: 55 x 10 55 x 10 70 x 20 90 x 20 The delay hang was a 55 x40 over a 70 x 20. Those coverage patterns allowed us to walk the edge of the pattern right down the outside aisles, minimizing the interaction with the walls. One of the biggest problems I see in many PA designs—especially ones that won’t be regularly run at ear-bleeding levels—is the walls getting too much energy. This creates all kinds of nasty reflections when there is no treatment, and those reflections cause phase cancellation in the seating areas. If you run it loud enough, you can overcome some of this, but they weren’t going to be rocking at 104 dB SPLA all day long. Or ever.
Getting the system installed was a bit of a challenge as the building was about a week behind getting finished up (shock of shocks!). But, we were able to get our team in there to get the rig in the air, wiring run and the equipment rack re-built. Our rigger, Mike Linn, does amazing work and I’m pretty sure the building could collapse, and the PA would still be suspended in the air. Dialing It In When it came time to tune the PA, Rick came out and spent an evening with me getting it all dialed in. Our biggest challenge was that we had to tune without the carpet or chairs being in the room. We went back and forth for a while trying to decide how much extra HF to leave in the system, knowing it would get knocked down a bit once the room was finished. Overall, it sounded pretty dang good when we left and the trace from FOH stacked neatly on top of the trace from the middle of the seating area.
I had to fly home for my daughter’s birthday, so I couldn’t be there for opening weekend. Our friend Joe was able to help out, and we heard it all went well. After a few weeks, I went back out to adjust the tuning once the room was complete.
We had guessed about 2 dB too low on the HF, and after putting just a little back in the system, coverage matched the prediction almost exactly. We’re pretty much +/- 2dB SPLA from 1-4 KHz over the entire seating area, including the balcony. The coverage drops off right at the edge of the seating area, which keeps wall reflections to a minimum.
It took a little bit to get the sub timing worked out, but once we did, the low end coverage is very even throughout the room as well. They didn’t need giant thump, or mule kicks to the chest every time the kick hits, so we didn’t go crazy with subs. All they needed was some ewey-chewy goodness on the low end, which this system does in spades.
Amps and DSP As you might expect, we used the PowerMatch 8500 amps for this project. In a rare error in judgement, I accidentally spec’d the non-networked amps for this project, which made system optimization harder than it needed to be. In the future, I’ll be doing all networked amps. We also used the new EX-1280 DSP with the also new Amp Link interface. Amp Link is a simple 8-channel digital transport over Cat cables. It makes wiring the amps and DSP dead simple; just cascade short Cat 5 or 6 jumpers from DSP to amps, and you’ve got your audio flowing.
For this project, I V-Bridged two amp channels for the LF and used a single channel for HF. Because the RoomMatch boxes will go down to 60 Hz on their own, the extra power makes for really nice low end. Each of the sub is driven by four channels of the amp, providing 2000W to each sub. While the dual 15” won’t likely shake anyone’s fillings loose, they do provide ample bass.
As part of this upgrade, we also supplied and installed a Digital Audio Labs Live Mix system for in-ear monitoring. I’ve lost track of how many of these systems I’ve installed, and they always deliver great results.
Final Thoughts The grand opening of the room ended up being six weeks from our initial phone call, but I like to point out that we were ready in five. We talk a lot on the podcast about the importance of great relationships, and this project proved why it’s so important. I’ve been working with Bose for over six years, and have built up high levels of trust with them. Our rigger and installers are guys we’ve known for years as well, and when we called with challenging timelines, they made room in their schedules to get it done.
The church is thrilled with the system and we’re already planning the next upgrade to be installed this year—a new video system. This system looks and sounds great and will provide them with rich, clear audio for years to come. And that makes for great stewardship.
A few weeks back in my post, From Chaos to Organization, I mentioned that I would write a post about setting up your audio console for success. Having been in a lot of churches over the past 5 years, I’ve found few things that annoy me more than the completely random console layouts I see.
Channel one might be the pastor, which is cool. But two is a drum mic, three is a vocal, four is a guitar, five is another drum mic, six and seven are empty and then we have more guitars. Do you even mix, bro?
Based on some of the consoles I’ve seen, console layout is something that doesn’t seem get a lot of thought. However, a properly laid out console not only makes mixing more fun, it can keep us from making big mistakes during a service.
In the Olden Days… Legend has it that in the early days of mixing, as analog consoles got larger, engineers noticed that channels farther from the master had more noise in them. So it made sense to put the money channels—the vocals—nearest to the master. As the master was typically on the right, that meant the left-most channels became home of the drums—who would notice noise in the drum channels?
Somewhere along the line, a generally common layout emerged: drums, bass, guitars, keys, vocals. As consoles and input count continued to grow, we started seeing the master section land in the middle of the console instead of on the right. In that case, usually the band fell to the left while vocals and effects fell to the right.
Back then, where a source showed up on the console was completely dependent on what input it was plugged into. Today, with digital consoles, it’s easy put any channel on any fader or any fader anywhere. But before we do any patching—digitally or analog—it’s important to spend some time thinking about why channels go where they do.
Why You Do Is More Important Than What You Do I’ve seen all sorts of…shall we say, interesting channel layouts on consoles. Drums spread all over the place, the lead guitar next to the pastor’s mic, vocal effects in the middle of the keyboards. It’s as if someone just patched inputs into the first open channel or floor pocket without any thought at all.
And while there are all sorts of ways you can lay out your console, the first consideration is to make sure you do it on purpose. Don’t just shove inputs into any old channel. Take some time to think about it and patch it in a way that makes sense. Keep all the drum channels together, and then keep the band together. Having all the vocals next to each other makes it a lot easier to find them. Put the channels you adjust regularly closest to you, so you’re not reaching all the way to the end all service. Think about how you mix, then organize the channels in a way that supports what you do.
For Example… There is no “right” way to organize a console. But here are some ideas of how to do it. Personally, I like to start with drums (kick, snare, hat, toms, overheads), then bass, guitars, keys, vocals and finally effects. Other channels like speaking mics, music playback, video and other utility channels are either to the right or left of effects depending on the console.
Some years ago, I had my DiGiCo SD8 console set up with my VCAs on the right, which put my vocals right in front of me. My preference is to mix more on channel faders than VCAs, but I know others who prefer the opposite.
I also know guys who put the bass right next to the kick because they like to work those two together. I keep my bass in my guitars VCA; others put in with the drums or dedicate a VCA to just kick and bass. Do what makes sense for your situation. But…
Stay Consistent When I mix on analog consoles, I still follow the same basic layout. The advantage of a consistent layout is that I can mix almost any band on any console and without looking. I know where the faders are. In contrast, I’ve watched other guys mix and spend half their time searching the board for the guitar fader, only to miss the solo.
Regardless of how you choose to layout the console, once you come up with a plan, stick with it. Adapt and change as needed, but maintain as much consistency as you can.
Small Digital Consoles are Tricky The current trend toward smaller mixers (i.e. fewer faders) with higher channel counts makes smart layout absolutely critical. If you only have 16 handles to deal with, you simply must be intentional about what you put where. In that case, I would most likely not use up the first 8 faders on the top layer for the drums.
In that case, it might be more prudent to put a drums VCA on channel one and treat it as one instrument (which, arguably, you should do anyway). As you fill up your fader bank and channels spill into another layer, it is often a smart idea to duplicate a few channels on every layer. For example, you might want to have the worship leader’s mic on the same fader of every layer so you can get to it quickly regardless of the layer you’re on.
The fewer faders you have, the more strategic you need to be with grouping channels into VCAs. How you group the channels will be dependent on your band and your workflow.
I once mixed a 28-input CD release party on 12 faders. I built multiple layers that were very similar, but expanded various sections. For example, layer one had the drums as a single VCA. But layer two gave me all 8 drum channels. Layer three split out all my effects, which were a single VCA on layer one. Things that didn’t get used often were down on layers four and five, but the lead singer’s vocal and guitar were always in the same place on every layer.
I spent about 30 minutes initially setting up the board, then tweaked my layout during rehearsal based on how the set unfolded. Of course, this is easier with a digital board than analog, but the principles remain. Think about your layout and adjust it until it makes sense and works for you.
It’s a new year and we’re back with new episodes. This week, Mike talks about his experience designing and installing the Wavefront Precision Mini from Martin Audio. It’s a small speaker system that sounds much bigger than it has a right to.
Taft Avenue Community Church in Orange, CA is like a lot of churches; they’ve been around for decades, and their current building is 50-ish years old. Most of their AV technology is pushing 20 years old and much of it was installed by well-meaning but under-informed volunteers.
Case in point; their speaker system was actually designed by a professional, but when it came time to install it, the church (back then) balked at the price and they decided to do it themselves. Instead of following the design, they spread the speakers out throughout the room. Unfortunately, they didn’t know about delay and thus the resultant coverage was less than optimal (I’m being generous…).
When their current pastor came on board just over a year ago, he recognized the church needed some updates. We were engaged and took them through our 4Site Design Workshop. During that workshop, it became clear that while pretty much all their technology needed to be replaced, the biggest pain points were house lighting and the audio system.
We did a master plan design, which provides the framework for upgrading all their technology as time allows. They gave us a budget number they could work with now, and we came up with a plan to replace their house lighting, DMX distribution, architectural and theatrical control, speakers, audio console, wireless mics and give them a new personal mixing system. At the last minute, an anonymous donor supplied funds to replace and move their theatrical lighting. Let’s go through it system by system.
House Lighting We originally designed the system with Aquarii Acceleron fixtures, which are very nice white-only units. However, when it came time to kick off the project, those fixtures were back-ordered by several months. I re-worked the design with Chroma-Q Inspires and found I could make it work for roughly the same budget. As a bonus, they got color.
That was actually a fun story; we ended up surprising them with that feature. While the project was being installed, the pastor had said, “Man, I wish we could have gone with the color-changing house lights, but we just couldn’t afford it.” My installer, knowing what we were doing, smiled and said, “Yeah, that would have been cool, huh?” When I was training them on the use of the lighting console, it was really great to see everyone’s face light up when I said, “And if you want to make the house another color, do this…”
Because the ceiling was so high in the room—some 38’ to the peak—we used Inspire XTs for the main floor lighting. The original Inspire was used for the over-balcony areas, and Inspire Minis with recessed kits were placed under balcony. This was the only area that didn’t work out quite as well as if we had gone Aquarii. The Acceleron fixtures are available with up to 110° lenses, which would have evened out the coverage under the balcony a bit. With 65° lenses, the Inspire Minis pool light a little more than I would have liked. Everyone is fine with it, but even another 15° would have helped us out. We could have added fixtures, but that would have exceeded the budget.
Coverage on the main floor and in the balcony is excellent, however. We actually gave them roughly double the number of foot-candles in the seating area they used to have. We used this as another fun reveal on opening weekend. The leadership team decided to set walk-in and worship levels at roughly what their old system would do. I watched more than one person walk in, look up and say to someone near them, “I though it was supposed to be brighter?”
When we go to the scripture reading portion of the service, Pastor Craig stood up and said, “Let’s stand for the reading of the Scripture, and let’s turn the lights up so you can read your bibles.” When the lights went to full, there were gasps and cheers throughout the congregation. That was extremely gratifying.
I lost a lot of sleep on that house light design; what we installed was actually the fifth iteration of the design. Because the room has a crazy multi-layer vaulted ceiling, angled walls, a wrap-around balcony with stairs on one side and nary a right angle in sight, finding a way to let the installers know where to locate the fixtures was a challenge. Thankfully, our guys are pros and we got on the phone and came up with a plan. I located all the fixtures on beams, and was then able to provide them measurements from junctions with other beams. Setting heights was still a bit of a trick, but a laser level on a C-stand made it work. As a side benefit, because all the fixtures landed on beams, the conduit runs were extremely clean.
Theatrical Lights and Control For theatrical lights, we used the venerable Chauvet E-160 WW light engines. We re-used their existing Source 4 lens tubes and suspended the fixtures from schedule 80 aluminum battens from The Light Source. A Chamsys QuickQ10 provides theatrical control, which is a huge improvement over the three analog dimming controllers and a wall of rotary dimmers they used to have. A Pathway Octo 8 gave us sACN and DMX distribution, giving them the ability to expand to as many universes as they’ll ever need in the space.
For architectural control, I used my favorite controller, the Cue Server—in this case a Cue Server Mini. Interactive Technology keeps improving the software and interface of that system and it’s become incredibly powerful while remaining easy to program. We installed three 6-button wall stations to give them control. Through a little programming magic, I created multiple looks for each set of fixtures, and make them available through multiple button presses. For example, the house lights can be set at full, 75%, 50% 25% or off by pressing the top button multiple times. The second button provides four different stage lighting looks. In this way, we can make the room easy to use for people who don’t want to learn to use the lighting board.
Speaker System When I first saw pictures of the room, my first thought was Martin Audio CDD. Going through the design process, I tried multiple options from various manufacturers, and sure enough CDD proved to be the best choice. Not only is it budget-friendly, they sound amazing and gave us ±2 dB coverage over the whole listening area…almost. We do lose the very far out seats of the balcony in the top rows. It’s still very listenable, but it is down about 4 dB. Otherwise, the coverage is incredibly even.
One thing I really strive to achieve is the same response at FOH as in the seating areas. This is especially important in rooms like this where FOH is upstairs at the top of the balcony in a room that juts out into the space. As you can see from the trace below, we pretty much nailed it. No more does the engineer need to wander the space to see what’s going on in the rest of the room. What he hears is what the congregation hears.
We originally planned on the un-powered CDD line for this project, but when it came time to order, CDDs were several more weeks out. Martin did what Martin does and took care of us. They got us CDD Live! instead, which didn’t hurt my feelings at all. I love the CDD line, but I really love the CDD Live! line. The built-in amps and DSP make great sounding speakers even greater. When all was said and tuned, I had 4 filters in the system with a max change of 4 dB. They don’t take much to get them sounding awesome once the timing is all set.
Timing was a bit of a challenge as I had multiple dimensions to deal with. We had three heights for the mains and the outer ones were further back than the center. I actually did three complete timing revolutions before I landed on one that worked. In the end, it’s all about being patient and thinking through the situation. Low end is provided by three SX118 subs flown in the center, powered by a Via 5002 amp. I’m a big fan of center flown subs because the coverage is so even. Yes, you lose a little kicked in the chest by a mule feeling, but this church isn’t about that anyway. What we gain instead is incredibly even low end. And for fun, I did turn it up on the Cirkut Remix of Blow and it did indeed rock.
Audio Mixing To replace their aging Allen & Heath 3300, we went with a Yamaha TF-3. While I’d personally prefer an A&H SQ (or a DiGiCo…) for mixing, the TF line has very useful features for less skilled volunteer mixers. They made one-knob control work like no one else has, and the library of starting points for various mics and compression profiles is actually very good. I like the fact—for them anyway—that patching is always 1:1. While I like to be able to double-patch channels, it’s confusing for people coming to digital for the first time. I’ve spend more than few phone calls trying to troubleshoot stuff like that. We gave them two TIO-1608 stage racks which will keep them in inputs for a long time.
For wireless mics, we turned to Shure’s QLX-D line. These are my go-to mics when budgets are a little tight for ULX-D. Paired with an RF Venue Distro4 and DFin antenna, dropouts become a thing of the past.
Digital Audio Labs LiveMix rounds out the system for personal mixing. We went with the Dante input module, which makes it easy to do some limited amounts of foldbacks from FOH without making it too complicated.
Finally, I put in a Symetrix Prism 4×4 for distribution to the subs and assisted listening system (from Listen Technologies), and for EZ control. We mounted an ARC-3 on the wall at FOH, and if they need to run a simple event with a few wireless mics, they can engage EZ mode which bypasses the console and takes the wireless mics into an auto-mixer with the proper levels pre-set. Between this control and the lighting button stations, nearly anyone can use the room with lighting and basic audio with just a few button presses.
Results At the end of the day, it’s not about how cool we think the system is, but how the church likes it. And they are thrilled. Everyone was blown away with the house lighting, and music and teaching has never sounded better. No more do people have to sit in a “magic” seat to actually hear the message. Any seat will do. The system is designed to give them plenty of room for growth in the future as the church grows.
There’s a really good reason I’ve used all these pieces of gear on many, many projects over the years—it just plain works. And, it’s predictable. EASE showed that we would be down 4 dB on the far outside seats of the balcony, and we are. It also showed we were in great shape everywhere else. The lighting is just as even as predicted, if not more so. All this highlights why it’s imperative to do proper design on a system before spending money on equipment.
So, that’s it. Another successful project is in the books. I can’t thank our manufacturing partners enough for making great gear that does what it’s supposed to do every time. My installers Jake & Bob went way above and beyond on what turned out to be a much more challenging installation process than we all thought. Great gear installed by great people really makes my job a lot easier.
This wee we talk personal mixing. Specifically, how to address the concerns of musicians who are resistant to moving to a personal mixing solution. We also discuss some best practices to make the transition smooth.
For the big 300, Mike is back in the car. Alone. Talking about effects. It’s a near-perfect day. Effects, compression, delay and gating are all on the table today as Mike shares his advice for appropriate use.
Now that we have an extensive collection of digital tools at our fingertips on our fancy digital consoles, does that make us better engineers? Maybe, maybe not. In today’s rant, Mike talks about his approach to training, plugins and how to mix.
Pardon the road noise; the d:fine picked up more ambient sound than I had hoped. Next episode will be a different mic.