Today we continue on in our series on creating a great broadcast mix. We’ve already looked at a few ways to get there, and considered my current group-based mixing approach. Today, we’ll get into the little things that move the needle from good to great.
As mentioned in earlier posts, one thing that is missing from a lot of broadest mixes is the sense of ambience of the room. Being able to hear the congregation singing goes a long way toward helping a viewer feel like they are part of the experience.
We’ve had a pair of DPA 4098HB’s hanging in our room for a few years, and we’ve used them as audience mic's for the IEMs. I now mix them in with the rest of the groups to give that room sound. One of the tricky things about audience mic’s is that you can get too much room sound, especially if your room is live (and most of your speakers are pointed at walls…sigh…). When I have the mic’s set right for a congregational sing moment, they feel too loud and washy for a big song. So, I fixed it.
I put a side-chained compressor on the audience mic’s, and use the LR mix to key it. So when the band is rocking, the comp drops the level of the mic's by 3-4 dB. When the band settles down and the congregation sings out, the comp releases and you can hear them. I’m still working on the settings for this, but we’re getting close. I may also experiment with the ducker we have on board as well. The ducker gives me a few more options and may sound better. Time will tell.
Get Things In Time
This is a trick I learned from Andrew Stone at Church on the Move. He has timed all his mix groups (though he takes a different approach than I do) back to the audience mic’s. The sound cleaned up considerably when I did that. I popped some balloons on stage in front of a mic while recording the groups and audience mic’s. A little math showed me how much I needed to delay the groups, and then I tweaked it from there by ear.
It’s an important point that the “correct” delay might not sound “right.” When I lined things up so that it was all “correct” the audience mic’s sounded unnatural. So I adjusted the delay until it sounded right. Now it’s a bit like natural reverb, and it sounds pretty good. Again, we’re still working on this, and I will likely be making some significant changes when the new PA goes in after Easter.
Mild Compression is Better Than Heavy Compression
One of the things I like about this approach is that I’m able to do small bits of compression along the way. This brings the dynamics down a little bit at a time. I picked this up from Dave Stagl a few years ago. He found, and I agree, that taking 1-2 dB off three times sounds a lot more natural than taking 3-6 dB off all at once.
So I have a comp on my speaking mic's group that shaves off just a few dB. The speaker mic’s are already compressed in the main mix, so there is no need to get crazy. This just cleans it up for smaller speakers a little bit more.
I also use multi-band compression on the final matrix mix output. I tend to hit the low end a little harder so the bass doesn’t overwhelm smaller speakers, and I shave a bit off the high end so it doesn’t get harsh. Your mileage may vary, but that’s our current approach.
Once we get through these steps, I send the mix out to a KT 9648 processor for routing. I was doing some limiting in the DSP, but I’ve turned it all off now that I have my mix sounding good. When we upgrade the tech booth this spring, the DSP will go away and I’ll be doing some different routing. Stay tuned for how that changes.
Again, I find the need to remind you that this is descriptive of what I’m doing, not prescriptive. The settings I use, the process I’ve developed and the way we route signal is all very specific to our situation. I think there are a lot of transferrable principles, but don’t get locked in trying to exactly duplicate what I (or anyone else) does. Especially since I’ll probably change it in a few months.
Speaking of which, next time we’ll wrap this series up with some thoughts on what is next for the broadcast mix. It’s not done yet, and I have some ideas of where I want to go.