Don’t ever underestimate the power of audio for video. Audio is not there just to support the video; it can be as critical as the video, or more so. New media opportunities provide a great medium to reach those outside of the walls of the HOW, but doing it with a poor audio feed is not sound advice.
The Ear Does Not Discriminate
Worship-oriented videos are popping up everywhere; from Cross.tv, YouTube, and Facebook to self-hosted videos (on a HOW’s own website), availability of such media is now routine. Probably the most common error made when recording audio for a live video shoot starts by listening without an “open ear.”
It is really amazing how our minds work in tuning out unnecessary sounds in our living environments: air conditioning, motors, etc. Yet, unfortunately, inanimate tools such as microphones do not. Listening with a critical ear and taking the time to pause our naturally designed filter is a must when recording audio for video. To begin, I will usually take an aural snapshot of the area in which we are shooting. If there is a possibly problematic noise present, the next step is to find another angle where maybe the noise is blocked or less audible. The goal is to capture an organic sound, with equalization tweaks as a last resort to cut extraneous noise.
One trick I use is to always get 10-15 seconds of environment audio — meaning, start recording on the tape, but only to record the sound of the surrounding environment. This audio will come in very handy if you have to replace any dialog later; you’ll have it to combine with the VO, allowing it to sound like same environment as the rest of the shoot.
New Media Broadcast
The days of having to rent space on TV as the sole way to get the word out are long gone. Video podcasting and web streaming are quickly becoming a popular delivery medium for a HOW to costeffectively deliver its message. Such lowcost media reaches shut-ins, parents with sick kids at home, members who are out of town, and even those who would like to check out your HOW before they allow their shadow to grace its doorway. With a camcorder or two combined with good bandwidth and a video streaming account (via service providers such as Ustream.tv), a HOW can be set up with a live web stream for very little cost.
However, if you can’t do the service justice (sharing it in a most complimentary light), it is best not to go live. One of the lessons I have learned (and have the e-mails in my inbox to prove it) is to get the audio mix correct. People on the other end of the webcast do not have the luxury of being in the room where they can hear the people around them singing to sense the mood of the room. All they may have are some sub-par home computer speakers or worse — laptop speakers — so just sending them any ol’ audio feed will reflect badly on your HOW.
This can be a “chicken or egg” scenario when convincing HOW decision makers that investing money into the audio side of your web stream will be fruitful. It may take the reallocation of some equipment from other rooms, closets, etc., to get the stream off of the ground. The optimal audio setup requires a split from the stage with separate mixer dedicated to the broadcast mix. If this is not an option on the front end, a mix dialed in from a matrix output or console aux sends may do the trick, too.
In this case, you should have a 1/3-octave graphic EQ and compressor in line as well as a pair of computer monitors to represent what the average user is hearing. The average HOW worship service usually covers a broad dynamic range — from full music to one person speaking on a microphone — so your broadcast audience will quickly become frustrated if it has to constantly adjust the volume.
Quality Control Through Education
With smart-phone capabilities growing in popularity as well as increased userfriendliness, anyone in your HOW can make a video and have it posted within minutes. In my role, this makes me nervous, as there is no quality control. Education is the key for staff and pastors who want to use this medium. While smart-phone audio/video capture can be a legit message delivery source, do take the time to communicate with those sharing content to listen carefully to their environment, and do so in such a way that it doesn’t sound like the token audiophile sweating minute details that most people will never notice.
Whether the medium is a live stream or pre-recorded video, if they are accompanied with a lousy audio track, it will quickly serve as a detriment and paint your HOW in an unfavorable light. Sure, get the word out and use all tools possible, but allow your new media audience to enjoy listening to what your HOW is saying.
Dan Wothke is the media director for Nashville’s Belmont Church and a regular PAR contributor. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.