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Church Audio Overview with Dr. Barry Hill


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Worship Summit Live 2020 had a wide selection of offerings about church video. However, one session on sound really stood out. Even the greatest video production will fall flat if the sound quality is low or detracting. Excellent audio is critical both in the worship space and on the live stream. Dr. Barry Hill is the author of "Mixing for God," and the director of the Audio and Music Program at Lebanon Valley College of Pennsylvania. He spent an hour during the summit showing how anyone can improve the sound quality at their church and on their live stream. Dr. Hill shared a list of things we can keep in mind whether we are a brand new volunteer or even an experienced audio professional helping others to learn best practices for audio. Here are some of the points he shared.

Barry's presentation starts off by challenging you to improve your church's audio system. In this video, you will learn about connecting microphones, stage boxes, using power amps and optimizing your main and stage speakers. If you are a volunteer or expert in audio production for your church you will learn about working an audio mixer and learning about mic preamps, aux sends and master aux outputs. The video outlines how microphones can be connected with stage boxes using a digital audio mixer or an analog XLR snake. After overhauling his own church's audio system Dr. Hill has also visited many churches who seek help in making the audio produced in their churches better. At his own church, Barry uses a digital audio mixer and he explains why he chose a Yamaha TF.

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Church Audio Overview with Dr. Barry Hill

  1. 1. Just OK is not good enough Top ten issues we can fix Barry R. Hill
  2. 2. 1. Playing chess on a console Mental models Driving the car vs knowing the engine Don’t assume your team understands They DON’T “see” things like you do Signal flow & operations
  3. 3. 2. Know the system Set things up properly Solve problems Adapt to changes in a service What components and how are they connected?
  4. 4. 2. Know the system Modern systems complicated to understand Digital consoles with layers, menus, soft buttons Why’d I choose a Yamaha TF? Dante routing in software
  5. 5. 2. Know the system My church setup Dante console Two Dante-mic preamps, Aviom distributor All these have to be mapped to the console Stage connections have both XLR and CAT5 Patchbays in amp closet to route these
  6. 6. 2. Know the system Back to mental models The failed Waves Soundgrid experiment It can get complicated, which leads us to…
  7. 7. 3. Document everything Required for daily operation Required for troubleshooting Big picture: system design…
  8. 8. PC Kramer Switcher Camera controller Camera ZV280 Projector Band TV Pulpit Singers To coax building HD channel DM 8x8 I/O Audio audio to console No audio from camera Long run from ceiling to console CAT6 Audio/Video Cat6 to stage Audio from console (separate aux mix) New Covenant Fellowship Video cabling layout v4 Switch selects either PC audio/video or camera video (with console audio) to feed the building TV channel. Switch is located at the console. SPARE Video ZV280 located at console until we move to the new closet. Pulpit laptop Video Send CAT6 2nd video card output DM Trans 201 DM Trans 201 DVD Pulpit laptop Video Send
  9. 9. 3. Document everything Console I/O, patchbays, aux mixes, stage connections Computer setups, software config, routing Buy a professional label maker Dymo Rhino 5200 $126
  10. 10. 4. Know your tools: EQ Don’t do this…
  11. 11. 4. Know your tools: EQ Learn the controls and practice Boost/cut amplitude User-selectable center frequencies Bandwidth control (Q)
  12. 12. 4. Know your tools: EQ
  13. 13. 4. Know your tools: EQ
  14. 14. 4. Know your tools: EQ
  15. 15. 4. Know your tools: Compression Least-understood processor Cruise control for volume Aim for just a few dB gain reduction (GR) Balance of threshold vs ratio
  16. 16. 4. Know your tools: Compression
  17. 17. 4. Know your tools: Compression Original signal dynamic range Threshold Compression Output gain Output signal dynamic range Compressor
  18. 18. 4. Know your tools: Reverb Simple, right? Just turn it up! What’s a patch? Settings? What settings? Type RT60 Routing setup Input Reverb Time 0 -60 +10 200 ms.1 ms Digital Reverb Unit Predelay 6 s.1 s Reverberator XL LARGE HALL 01
  19. 19. 5. Levels matter Mic preamp > channel fader > mix bus > amps Aux mixes: nursery, foyer, recording Gain staging Does turning down the mic preamp affect the monitor mix on stage? How about turning down the channel fader? Affect the monitor mix? Dante/inserts: Post-preamp but before everything else Aux sends: pre or post
  20. 20. 5. Levels matter
  21. 21. 6. Low stage volume = happy mix engineer Get it as quiet as possible Much easier these days Replace stage monitors with personal mixers, headphones/in-ears Doesn’t have to be expensive Doesn’t have to be wireless
  22. 22. 6. Low stage volume = happy mix engineer Keep stage monitors close to their target Point them up toward their target Befriend or bribe guitar dudes to turn their amps down Replace amps with modeling units No one’s going to hear the difference in the room
  23. 23. 6. Low stage volume = happy mix engineer Grade A cage-free drummers No cage is always preferred: mic reflections, aesthetics, etc But can do it decently Sound panels inside Back wall reflections Over the top Auralex HoverMat $340 Varies with drummer: whimps, homerun champs, professionals
  24. 24. 7. Pay attention! Late mic cues are distracting and drive me crazy ‘Nuf said
  25. 25. 8. Details matter: quality & consistency Professional mindset Tune in and pay attention to details Stage clutter, crooked lights, hallway tvs off, poor overhead formatting God called the best artisans to build the temple, so do it right Quality matters: don't become an AT&T commercial
  26. 26. 9. Be willing to learn Volunteers must be open and eager to learn Invest in your volunteers They’re not stupid, just expert in other stuff
  27. 27. 10. Listen! Please. Probably the biggest issue when I visit churches Can’t just turn it on and push up the fader I’ve had volunteers sing along standing at the console (really) Have to LEARN how to hear parts, balance Faders are designed to move, so listen and adjust
  28. 28. That’s it. Barry R. Hill