In this article, you’ll get a behind the scenes look at the broadcast studio at Red Rocks Church. You’ll learn the nitty-gritty about the gear and software they use to achieve a high-quality mix. You’ll also pick up some tips to improve the sound of the mix at your church.
First, a brief caveat. You may look at this pricey studio setup and think, “my church could never do this.” You’re probably right. Red Rocks is blessed with a lot of resources and the manpower to produce the best quality mixes of their worship gatherings. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the systems and setup they use, all of which can be scaled down to more budget-friendly gear.
I do not think it’s 100% necessary for every church to stream their complete worship service. You do not need a multi-million dollar production system to create compelling content for online platforms. Start a podcast, write blogs, upload videos to your Youtube channel. You’ll be blown away by how many people you can reach with the tiniest budget and resources for online content creation.
Caveat’s aside, here is why I wanted to create this behind the scene look at Red Rocks Church’s broadcast studio.
Reason #1: It’s cool. If you are a tech nerd like me, you are going to love learning about the gear and systems they have set up to record their services.
Reason #2: You are going to learn practical mixing tips along the way that will help you improve the sound at your church.
Reason #3: If your church has the resources to spend some serious cash on a studio like this one, then you should check out how Red Rocks is doing this. In my opinion, their online mix sounds better than even larger churches like Hillsong.
Does your church record your worship service to broadcast online? Is this something you are considering doing? Let me know in the comments below!
Here’s a behind the scenes look at the Red Rocks Church recording studio.
About Red Rocks Church
Red Rocks was founded in 2005 in a dingy theme park in Golden, Colorado. Fast forward 13 years later and it’s one of the fastest growing churches in the country with a weekly attendance of approximately 15,000. It’s my church home when I’m not leading worship elsewhere. If you’re in the Denver area on the weekend, visit redrockschurch.com to find a service time and location to attend. If you’re not in the Denver area, you can watch the latest worship services on their website.
On a Saturday afternoon in January 2018, I had the opportunity to hang out Jesse O’Brien, the sound engineer you’ll find in the recording studio at the Red Rocks Church Littleton Campus. I’m super grateful he allowed me to stop by the studio to ask him a TON of questions and capture it all for you, the Chruchfront.com reader. While the most entertaining way to consume this content is by watching the video above, for the remainder of this post I will walk you through the following:
- Why would a church need a high-end recording studio to capture your worship service?
- The big picture overview of their signal flow
- The gear in the recording studio
- Jesse's role at the studio engineer
- Tips for recording mixes at your church
Why Red Rocks Church has a professional recording studio to capture worship service audio
The easiest way to record your worship service is by capturing the main mix your FOH audio console sends to the PA system. But the problem is there is a high chance this mix will not sound good on online platforms. Your audio engineer is mixing for a specific environment, your church’s worship venue. Having a standalone studio gives Jesse the ability to create an entirely independent mix for online broadcast. That ensures it will sound great on the listener/watchers computer speakers or consumer headphones. Being a professional studio sound engineer, Jesse knows the tricks of the trade to mix for that context.
It’s also important to know that Jesse’s mix is truly “live.” He and the rest of the team at Red Rocks get two chances to record the 4 pm and 6 pm services on Saturday evening. Jesse does not go back into his DAW to tweak the multitrack recording. He has a master output from his console that he immediately gives to the video team after the service.
The big-picture overview of signal flow
Like every other church, the Red Rocks Littleton Campus has their production team in the worship space. They have a tech booth with a sound engineer, service producer, and lighting designer. The ProPresenter and video team are in the back of the auditorium in a small concealed room.
From the stage, the signals from the band and anything else that goes into the mix are routed via Dante to the FOH console and Jesse’s console up in the studio. It’s important to note that both consoles are receiving their own separate raw audio signals, so whatever Jesse and the FOH audio engineer do are entirely independent of one another. They also send a video feed up to Jesse so he can see what’s happening on all the cameras and the final program output video.
The gear in the recording studio
The bulk of the mixing Jesse does happen on the Yamaha CL5. This is a high-end digital mixing console. Red Rocks uses a CL5 at all of their campuses.
iMac running plugins and pads
On Jesse’s left, there is an iMac he uses to run Wave’s plugins. He uses these plugins for the “VIP” tracks in his mix and for mastering the final output. The computer itself is not processing the audio. It is merely a controller for a separate rack unit that handles the Digital Signal Processing (DSP).
The iMac also runs Ableton Live for auto-tune. Jesse creates markers for the proper key of each song to avoid an autotune disaster!
The final purpose of the iMac is to play back pads throughout the service. This helps cover up inevitable but unwanted sounds as well as smooth out transitions.
MacPro for multitrack recording
The computer on his right is a MacPro running Nuendo Live for multitrack recording. I was surprised he was not using ProTools, but he said in this context Nuendo plays well with the CL5 and saves him time syncing the software and the console.
Analog is not dead! Jesse has four rack-mounted Distressor compression units for vocals and the snare drum. These compressors sound amazing because they apply a generous amount of compression without getting that annoying pumping sound.
Obviously, monitoring is super crucial, so they have some high-end Genelec speakers.
It’s vital that Jesse can communicate with the production team and worship band, so they have comm system for just that purpose.
The room was intentionally constructed to have no parallel walls to prevent bounce back. They also treated the room with acoustic panels on the walls and the ceiling.
As the studio engineer, Jesse’s role is multifaceted. His obvious role is to make sure he captures an amazing mix of the worship service to broadcast online. But Jesse is also a music director. Throughout rehearsal, he gives the band members tips on how to improve their sound and the overall mix. When I was with him, he gave suggestions to the drummer, electric guitarists, and one of the worship leaders. The band members cannot hear the mix nearly as well as Jesse can. Imagine having a professional studio engineer giving you tips on band practice!
Another responsibility Jesse has is to rate all of the songs from the two services with his high-tech pen and pad of paper. If the songs are keepers, he puts smiley faces next to them. Then at the end of the services, he meets with Tyler the worship leader and they choose which service was the best take.
Finally, Jesse shares horrible jokes with the band. Here’s one of them.
"Did you hear about the prisoner when he was told he had to be executed? He was shocked."
Like I said, pretty horrible.
Tips for capturing the worship service at your church
The first way to capture your mix is to record the master output from your FOH board. Every sound console has a master output you can easily pipe into a computer and record in free software like Garageband. But this mix will most likely not sound right.
The next cost-effective step would be to capture a multitrack recording of your worship service and then edit that down into a mix later on. That’s exactly what Red Rocks used to do before they built their recording studio. While you can achieve a professional sound, the downside is the turnaround time to do post-production work.
To build a setup like Red Rock’s studio, purchase another audio console, send it a raw feed of all the audio signals, place it in another room with decent speakers, and some acoustic treatment and you’ll be set to go. You’ll need to recruit, train, or hire an audio engineer who has the expertise to produce a professional mix.
In the end, there are a lot of ways to go about doing this. I hope this behind the scenes look at the Red Rocks Church recording studio gives you inspiration and ideas for how to not only build your studio but also some ideas for improving the mix of your worship services.
If you’re a worship leader who is a tech nerd like me, you’re going to want to check out my worship toolkit. It’s a document containing all of my favorite gear I use in my worship ministry at a church plant.
You can download the toolkit by clicking the button, completing the form, and I’ll send you instant access.
Does your church record its worship services for online broadcast? What questions do you have about the Red Rocks Church studio? Let me know in the comments!