In an earlier post, I said we used Skype for a hospitalized father to listen to his daughter’s wedding. We did it quickly for his benefit. But, it occurred to me that I didn’t say anything about how we did it.
Doing a quality Skype call live from a church soundbooth is slightly more involved than just a regular call. It’s an excellent free way to do a “remote” style interview like you see in news shows every day! There are 4 steps to our Skype setup, and they should be followed for any live event type call.
STEP 1 WEBCAM. Many companies have capitalized on these little gadgets, and this situation is perfect for an external webcam. The camera should fit these characteristics: USB 2.0 or IEEE 1394/FireWire based; it should have a 6ft. or longer cable if necessary; and be facing the speaker or have the ability to move in order to do so. HD is ok, but unnecessary, unless your caller can use one. If you have a FireWire converter or a DV camera, it can also act as your webcam. We have a Logitech QuickCam Fusion that sits atop a back wall TV monitor on the edge of our balcony.
Be sure you download the newest version of Skype and always test your equipment and know your limitations. Read the specs of the webcam and know the specs of your computer. Be sure they match or the CPU is fast enough to handle it.
STEP 2 CALLER’S AUDIO. Typically the audio comes from your speakers plugged in the back of your computer. Find that jack, and plug it into your FOH, or main sound, mixer. The most ordinary plug is the 3.5mm TRS “headphone” plug. You could use a 3.5mm-to-1/4in. plug directly into your board, or use an LTI Blox from Horizon Music which will go from 3.5mm-to-XLR and plug in the board that way. Neither is better than the other. Check your Skype settings that the correct sound card is selected and sound from the caller is going through. Use the Skype test call to try it first.
STEP 3 YOUR AUDIO. You could do this several ways depending on your setup, but the general idea will be explained in our design. Our main FOH mixer has eight groups. Four go to the powered amps and four go to our “secondary” mixer. The “secondary” records and redistributes the audio from there. The group of importance for the Skype call is our “A/V” group which has the Computer coming through it (in our case, this Computer is the same one from which the Skype call is made). Group 1 “A/V” comes into the “secondary” mixer input 1. An AUX feed from the “secondary” mixer goes back into this Computer for the caller to hear. In order for the caller to hear the speaker, we turn up group 2, “Voice,” which has all of our vocalists and preachers go through it. Group 2 “Voice” comes into the “secondary” mixer input 2.
If that were the end, you would create a loop of audio from your caller, through the Internet, through your equipment, and back to your caller causing awful feedback. The loop happens because your caller is using his mic and is being sent back his own audio because of group 1 “A/V” which is picked up by his mic and gets re-amplified by his speakers every time it travels the loop. (I will have a more in-depth look at feedback in another post).
IMPORTANT. To avoid this enemy of Sound Teams everywhere, be sure you are using an AUX output. AUXs allow you to choose which inputs you want sent through that output. For our AUX 2 output, input 1 (group 1 “A/V”) is turned all the way down. This silences the caller’s audio going through the AUX and does not affect what goes to recording.
STEP 4 PROJECTION. If you want your congregation to see the caller, you’ll definitely want to do this somehow. I won’t get into lumens or projector models here, but be sure the projectors provide a large and bright enough for everyone to see comfortably. Have your caller sit close to his own webcam and mic, and of course, don’t forget to click full-screen.
We have done this twice so far with some missionaries from the Dominican Republic. The first time, I remember hearing some “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from the church family. Prior to Skype, they had used a cell phone on the pulpit with a goose-neck mic sticking right up next to the speaker.
*Please note: Group 1 “A/V” and group 2 “Voice” are group outputs from our main mixer. They go into the “secondary” mixer’s input 1 and 2. The “secondary’s” input 1 is subtracted from AUX 2 which runs back into the Skype Computer to eliminate feedback.
I hope this isn’t too confusing. The visual references in this post will be a good help to follow.