I recently received an email asking how we recorded sermons at Toongabbie Anglican Church. This article provides the details of the setup we use.
As yet, we are not publishing audio files on our web-site, so I can’t link to the results of this setup – this will hopefully change when the site is re-designed.
At the source, we have a wooden lecturn. I mention the lecturn because it is at a good height, allowing the lecturn microphone to be left in place for any preacher, leader or speaker. The lecturn microphone we use is an EV(Electro-Voice) PolarChoice. The “choice” is the ability to switch between pick-up patterns. We use the standard directional setting. The microphone requires Phantom Power, which is provided through the mixer – if your mixer doesn’t provide phantom power, you can get a little black box that connects in-line to provide the power.
The signal travels through the multi-core to the Yamaha MX20/6 mixer. The MX20/6 is a simple, relatively inexpensive mixer, that provides a good set of features. Apart from sending the audio from the lecturn to the main stereo output, we also send it to Group 4. The Group 4 master level remains up all the time. The Group 4 output on the mixer is cabled to the input of the soundcard on a Windows PC that sits next to the mixer at the back of the church.
The Windows PC is a basic desktop machine, the only special feature being a dual-head video card to allow the use of Presenter view in PowerPoint. Presenter view allows the operator to have a control panel for the presentation being displayed. The second video output is sent (via a VGA extender) from the back of the church to the front to feed the video projector.
To record the audio, we use HarddiskOgg. This program is exceptional for this application for a number of reasons:
- Automatic file numbering – the operator does not need to worry about setting a filename.
- Normalization amplifies the input signal to a constant volume. This is handy for a lecturn situation where the preacher may move around.
- Command Line Mode. In our church there are a number of technicians and engineers (best generalised as nerds) – the guy who recommended this program quickly sold it’s virtues when he put together two little scripts to take advantage of the command line mode. We happened to have a Microsoft multimedia keyboard connected to this computer. This keyboard has a number of additional keys for Internet related activities. However, in our case two of the keys have been associated to the recording activity. The “Forward” key sets the program to record, using parameters set through the command line. To start recording the operator simply presses the Forward key. The program begins recording and automatically minimises to the system tray – this is particularly nice because it does not take away focus from the PowerPoint presentation running at the same time. This is important because the operator is not necessarily controlling the PowerPoint presentation, often the preacher or leader will be controlling remotely. For the remote to operate, the PowerPoint presentation must retain focus. The “Stop” key is obviously set to stop the recording.
We have three meetings on a Sunday, two are usually recorded. With this setup, one person has a small task on Sunday night of copying the two audio files for that day from the directory where the recording program dumps them to a directory for the relevant meeting. At the same time he renames the files to make them a little more readable (e.g. including the sermon title and preacher’s initials).
So there you have it, source to end product. Members wanting a recording of a sermon can simply ask one of the sound/PowerPoint operators, who can make a copy to CD-ROM on the same machine.
This machine has access to the internet through a broadband connection shared between the minister’s residences and the church building. In the future, the operator will simply upload the file to our web-site, and check a box on the web-site admin pages to indicate that an audio version is available (in addition to the normal text versions). What format we use for the web-site will still need to be considered. Will we stream the audio, make it downloadable or both?