Broadcast Mixing Explained: Computer Audio In Worship
We’ve assembled a complete and thorough guide, explaining all details related to incorporating computer audio in your worship broadcast mixing. Feel free to read in order or skip to the parts you need the most help with. We hope this resource clears up the mystery behind using digital audio workstations in church audio.
1. Digital Mixer
Many of you probably already have a digital mixer. If you don’t, implementing computer audio is ultimately less cost-effective than upgrading. The great part about digital mixers is that they enable you to “piggyback” or tie-in other mixers or devices and share channels by simply connecting a USB or network cable. This makes computer audio mixing extremely simple.
Inputs & Routing
the concept of an “input” is fairly simple – it refers to what you are plugging into each channel of your board.
Inputs are categorized numerically, as is pretty much everything in audio.
i.e., if you’re using a digital snake as opposed to the “local” inputs on the back of your board, and your kick drum mic is plugged into input 1 of the digital snake, in order to get the kick channel on channel 1, you assign input 1 from the digital snake to channel 1.
“Channel” essentially refers to a collection of processing such as EQ, compression, or INDIVIDUAL effects that apply to, well, the channel.
To put it simply, INPUT is your signal coming into the board, the CHANNEL is where you manipulate your signal or sound.
Routing simply refers to how you manipulate all inputs and outputs related to your digital mixer.
There’s plenty rabbit holes we could dive into here, but the reason we are establishing a baseline here is actually very simple – we must know what signal is what so that we may determine how to route it properly in the computer environment.
We must correctly route the same input going to your kick channel on your FOH board to the kick channel in your computer audio broadcast mixing system.
Popular mixers that support computer audio:
Needless to say, your computer is sort of the most important part of a computer audio mixing setup! This is probably the most critical piece to get right and it contains the most variables that one needs to keep in mind to successfully integrate computer audio mixing in your church. Let’s get started!
No real deep mystery to ponder here. You’re either running Mac or PC. Despite what some folks may try to tell you, this is ultimately your choice based on your budget and options available.
With very, VERY few exception, most all audio and video software is cross-platform and will run on either OS. Don’t waste too many brain cells worrying about whether you use a Mac or PC.
It’s not a huge secret that the arts world has always leaned very heavily toward Mac, but again, you can get great results with Windows machines as well. Don’t sweat it.
Pro Tip: you can get some pretty stellar deals on Apple’s certified refurb page. I’ve been buying machines from there for years – you can warranty them just like a new machine and you probably won’t be able to tell they aren’t a completely new machine.
When it comes to computer specs, while there are some generally accepted numbers, this is another element that doesn’t need too much concern.
Most computers released within the past three years or so will get the job done when it comes to broadcast mixing.
What computers can do has advanced so much in the past ten years, computer processing nowadays is mostly a nonissue. However, we can highlight some specs to look for.
Processor: go for 4 or more cores with a speed of 2.0 or faster.
RAM: 8GB is recommended, but mixing audio is not a super heavy memory-intensive task. Most machines probably come with at least 8GB anyway, and there’s really no major performance return by getting more than that.
HD: You definitely want to go for speed here, both with your internal drive and external storage. Speed is everything. Never get anything but an SSD.
I took a minute to talk about external storage for computer audio. Hopefully it helps!
Digital Audio Workstations
A digital audio workstation historically has been used for recording and producing music, but they also contain a mixing environment just like a hardware mixer. This is the capacity that we use it for broadcast mixing.
You may be familiar with some of these, maybe not. No matter. Ultimately, what you need to learn about digital audio workstations for broadcast mixing for your church isn’t much different than what you’ve already had to learn operating your hardware board or video streaming equipment. For real. Don’t worry about it.
We always like to celebrate good resources, no matter who the content creator is. This video summarizes the basic gist of what it looks like to implementing computer audio with broadcast mixing. We thought you’d enjoy it.
How you connect your board to your computer and getting that right is probably the most critical component of this entire setup, and quite possibly provide the most variables you have to through in your setup.
There’s essentially two components to the connection situation with this solution
– getting the multi-channel signal from your board INTO your computer, and routing the FINAL MIX from your computer to your streaming platform.
And there’s really only 2-3 common ways to do this.
USB is the most popular (and affordable) way to get your RAW, isolated channels into a computer.
All of the boards we listed support USB. All you gotta do is plug a “printer cable” into the back of the board and then into your computer.
And that’s pretty much it.
Here’s a couple examples from popular boards.
This connection sends the “direct out” signal from each input signal on your board into the computer, allowing you to mix the signal in a more appropriate way for broadcast, completely separate from your house or monitor mix.
Easy enough, right? Right.
One particular limitation of USB that we need to cover is that it only sends signal between two points, or what you might call an “A to B” connection. In this case, data goes from your board to your computer, or back to your board from the computer, but that’s it. There’s no incorporating a third device within one USB connection.
For this application, this means you must send your stereo mix from the DAW back to your board, or you have to utilize a DIFFERENT audio interface or device to get audio from DAW to livestream, which can prove to be unstable and not sound too great.
Which now brings us to Dante.
To put it as simply as possible, Dante is a network that allows you to connect basically any piece of equipment or computer together and route signal virtually limitlessly.
I could continue to go on with my version of Dante, but I’d rather just let them tell you. Lol.