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Old December 30th, 2007, 12:15 AM   #1
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Giant Squid Lav vs Drum Mic for PA Speakers

I have a Zoom H2 with a Giant Squid Lav. I want to dangle the squid in front of PA speakers at wedding receptions, but I've heard that it would be too much for the squid, and that I should use a drum mic.

Thoughts/recommendations? Should I dangle the squid?
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Old December 30th, 2007, 11:15 AM   #2
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Squid (or other lav) dangling is a perilous activity. Most wedding PA systems are crap.

The combination of the two are fraught with uncertainty, which explains the checkered results we hear about.

You don't mention how many people are on your team or what exactly you're trying to record, but getting the audio from the mixer before it gets to the speakers will sound better. Using a simple cable from a mixer with a mic level output to a plug on wireless transmitter can work. Have enough cable to raise the transmitter so it has a chance of getting signal to your receiver.

How many wedding goers have their BlueTooth, Blackberries and cell phones on can thwart even the best wireless systems. For rock solid results, you should consider a separate recorder and hope the person mixing the PA understands you're attached to their mixer (If they let you connect) and won't vary levels wildly so that you actually get the audio you want.

Oh, yeah, when you go wireless, SOMEONE has to listen to the audio AT ALL TIMES. Doing anything else is tempting disaster.

Hanging a lav on a speaker is no guarantee you'll avoid the level and distortion problems. Going direct will make your audio sound better. The sound of a typical recorded PA speaker at a wedding reception (or anywhere) is pretty unpleasant.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 30th, 2007, 12:15 PM   #3
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"fraught with uncertainty" -- very expressive.

I think you're right, and the H2 is a recorder. I also would rather have it under the watchful eye of a DJ than attached to a lone, dangling squid writhing in twisted fright. I'll just get the adapter. My only concern is that I'll lose audience applause, etc.
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Old December 30th, 2007, 12:48 PM   #4
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when I could not get a direct board feed, I've mic'd PA systems plenty of times shooting news / public events / low budget corp shoots. People always think I'm going to get bad sound but guess what ? unless it has a bad hum or hiss, and you'll only hear it when its quiet with nothing coming out, it won't be a problem. forget the lav as you'll almost for sure overload it. instead get something like a SM57 or a basic condenser mic and use that on the wireless. it can handle the high SPL's. you must trim out the transmitter though. as for holding the mic use a mic stand, or even more light weight ? get a small light stand with a 3/8 male thread on the top ( bogen ) and use a 3/8->5/8 adapter to your mike clip. with folding legs and no heavy base it will travel much nicer then a regular mic stand. as long as the mic is within a couple feet of the speaker, you are good. you don't have to get it 6" away.

no one will be at the mixer so forget anyone riding levels. you'll do better with just setting auto levels. I know the pro audio folks will have their knickers in a knot about this, but reality is the levels will be all over the place and this is the simplest and most reliable way of getting levels that aren't clipped out or so low as to be useless. if you have the transmitter trimmed out correctly so it won't clip, the auto levels will make it ok. if you are worried it will be a bit of a flat compressed sound, put a 10db pad on the mic which will reduce the level from running at peak so much.

You won't get a lot of crowd sound with this setup simply because the crowd is far away, and the mic is close to the PA speaker. a on camera mic will do this. the big benifit of micing the PA is even levels, especially when you go from music to some one speaking, you'll get something decent with auto levels. I know, there are people who will tell you you MUST use manual levels for this type of work, and unless your camera has really bad auto levels, it will work just fine.
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Old December 30th, 2007, 01:01 PM   #5
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My knickers aren't in a twist, Steve, but micing any speaker is a crap shoot.

Respectfully,

Ty Ford
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Old December 30th, 2007, 04:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dana Salsbury View Post
"fraught with uncertainty" -- very expressive.

I think you're right, and the H2 is a recorder. I also would rather have it under the watchful eye of a DJ than attached to a lone, dangling squid writhing in twisted fright. I'll just get the adapter. My only concern is that I'll lose audience applause, etc.
Your camera mic will be on. You won't lose a thing.
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Old December 31st, 2007, 12:15 AM   #7
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I used to dangle an sm57 over my guitar amp back in my hard-rockin, power-shag hair days. I didn't need a stand, but wrapped the cord around the handle.

Steve, are you saying that the levels will vary on the line out from the mixer, but will be consistent from the speaker? That's pry the most important question, though I agree about the crap tweeters. I do want some of the boom from the room ambience...
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Old December 31st, 2007, 06:26 AM   #8
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for the last few years I've been using a Sennheiser E604 drum mic (on a liteweight stand) about 6 inches in front of the DJs speaker with a plugin xmitter back to my camera mounted receiver. On the camera (regardless of which camera) I use an AKG300SE/CK93 Hypercaroid capsule. The hyper goes to 1 channel ther wireless to another and it ends up being a very nice mix of music and room ambience, lows and highs. Of course I monitor the audio wit hheadphones (they also help to protect what little hearing I have left) and since I've been using this system at weddings and other events of this type my audio is way better than it ever was except for the times I could and did plug into a soundboard with a PROFESSIONAL DJ. Too many especially over the last few years are parttimers that really don't know the right way to run a board and figure louder is better. While this is a problem no matter what at least with the mic by the speaker I can if I have too move the mic, adjust the output of the transmitter whatever without having to battle with a "DJ".
Don't get me wrong, I've met and worked with some really good and professional DJs but I have found that this system works best for me. Little if any problems on the job and the same in post.
Remember this works for ME, it may not work for you. YMMV!
OO
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Old December 31st, 2007, 09:43 AM   #9
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Thanks Don...another great approach. I'm still trying to figure out how the DJ could mess up the signal between the line out and what comes out of the speakers. I would think it would be identical, no matter how much he tweaked the board. Unless I could identify what could go wrong if I plugged into the line out and monitored the sound, I don't see a reason not to just plug in.
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Old December 31st, 2007, 10:38 AM   #10
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Well, the thing for me is when you get a DJ who doesn't really know what they're doing and they crank the levels (WOW this thing will go like a 747 taking off...;-) on their board...in the past I had a problem or 2. This way the audio is on ME and if it gets messed up it's my fault. I prefer to be in as much control as possible and like I said, it works for me. i know where to place the mic and what to set the levels at on the camera and the receiver so it's all on me.
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Old December 31st, 2007, 01:36 PM   #11
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forget a board feed from a DJ. most are just bodies who go out with the gear and play music and talk into the mic. they know nothing about the gear. I've had them show up at political / community events where they provided the PA for the speeches and I'd either mic the podium directly, and / or mic their speaker. they are notorious for having junk gear. most won't even consider your request for a feed because they won't know how to hook it up. if you try to volunteer to hook it up, once you touch it (their stuff), you become libel for being blamed for anything that goes wrong, so just don't go there. put the mic up in front of the speaker and be done with it. simpler, faster, easier, less liability. don't count on any sort of even levels from the speakers or board.

I just went thru a big mess with a AV company providing sound and they messed up the board feed every time.... and this was a big AV company should of known and done much better. they made a big stink about the video crew using their own wireless running with their own and insisted that only they could provide wireless. Why ? well there were 10-12 mics running at once and they did not want to consider any sort of frequency co-ordination with another company. in the end, it was also because they literally threw all the gear into their truck last minute and had no idea what gear they would be providing. the two "techs" they sent admitted they really knew nothing about audio, just how to hook it up ( red wire to red terminal, power on, fader #1 to 5 ). amongst the many problems from them included a wireless system that crashed and had to be rebooted to operate (shure) in the middle of a presentation. a nightmare to say the least.

so like I said, micing the speaker is the easiest and most reliable way to do it.
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Old December 31st, 2007, 01:43 PM   #12
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lol. Man you and I must have worked with the same 'crew'.

I didn't want to condemn DJs as a whole because I have worked with some really good ines and I also do AV work both video and audio but I can't believe some of the 'techs' I've had to work with. Some seem to know less than my 9 year old grandson. Maybe I should hire hime ;-)

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Old December 31st, 2007, 02:37 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dana Salsbury View Post
Thanks Don...another great approach. I'm still trying to figure out how the DJ could mess up the signal between the line out and what comes out of the speakers. I would think it would be identical, no matter how much he tweaked the board. Unless I could identify what could go wrong if I plugged into the line out and monitored the sound, I don't see a reason not to just plug in.
Try thinking about it this way. Do you want to get a hard wire feed from the house switcher to your video record deck, or use your camera to shoot a nearby video monitor?

Speakers are THE most inefficient of audio reproductive devices, varying the most in tone. Are you hanging the mic in front of the tweeter? The woofer? Somewhere else? Which is best? All of that makes a big difference.

Hanging an SM57 over a guitar amp looks cool and is simple to do, but there are several weird things that can happen. First, the person hanging the mic usually has a sense of where the cone of the speaker (or speakers) are. Although most guitar amps don't have woofers and tweeters, per the above, if you hang the mic in the wrong place it'll sound like crap. Guitar amps usually have one, two or four speakers. That means, if you hang the mic through the amp handle, it'll drop down over the center of the amp face. Is there a speaker there? Probably not if there are two or four speakers in the amp. Does that sound OK or would it sound better if the mic were moved to the center or side of one of the speakers? Recording engineers (like me) can spend minutes in the studio figuring out where to put the mic on an amp. It's a matter of inches, sometimes less.

Also, in this way of working, the sound is coming from the amp into the side of the mic diaphragm, not directly to it. Mic diaphragms like to go in and out, not back and forth. When you force them to go back and forth, they distort. On a guitar amp, that distortion might be part of your personal "cool tone." Does it work, sure. Can you do it so it sounds better? You bet.

Finally, feeding direct audio from a mixer or a miced speaker to one track of a camera and using your camera mic for the other track also has a caveat. Sound travels at 1130 feet per second most of the time. The farther you get the camera mic away from the direct signal from the mic or speaker, the longer it takes for the sound to get to the camera mic.

In big concert venues, the PA speakers that jut out into the audience are time aligned to match the arrival of direct sound from the stage. The signal that feeds those speakers is delayed a numnner of millideconds to match the arrival time of sound from the amps on stage and other speaker towers. These can be BIG delays, because of the big distances.

Even a difference of twenty feet can make a difference. The delay causes cancellation (loss of high frequency) and smearing of the sound.

You can fix this in post by time aligning the two audio tracks, but that gets tricky if you move around a lot (varying the distance between the camera mic and the speakers) and most people don't bother which is why the audio sounds pretty ugly. Sometimes going for one source and dipping the other in post helps. For example, if you're doing table-hopping chats with members of the group. In post, listen for which source sounds best and dip the one that doesn't unless you time align the clips.

Ooops! I'm out of coffee.

Regards and HNY,

Ty Ford
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Old December 31st, 2007, 02:55 PM   #14
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so like I said, micing the speaker is the easiest and most reliable way to do it.
Part of figuring out the best solution is trying to determine the best compromises. Easy and reliable are important, but quality of sound is also important. If you can live with that quality of sound, fine. If not, you need alternative plans.

NOTE: Easy and reliable solutions are frequently used by shooters without someone on crew to pay attention to the audio. Audio can be fussy. You need someone who understands enough about it to come up with solutions, sometimes fairly quickly.

Working with other crews is as important a skill as choosing the right piece of gear. I have had good times and bad times while trying to capture good audio at a live event. Sometimes people have helped me solve those problems, making my life a lot easier. Sometimes I have had to solve the problems in spite of the people.

The point being, you always need a backup plan.....or two.

Note to self: Wow! That's 1400 posts for me on the last day of 2007.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 31st, 2007, 09:39 PM   #15
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Why not do both?

Record it all properly and also stick a H2 or other by the speaker Cab as a back up.

The sound co. might be ok and if you have a positive attitude to them it will help no end.

I guess there wont be a great engineer doing that sort of work but if you get a desk feed and set your levels as the show begins you should find they stay within a certain ball park.

It can feel a bit like a compromise when you are not fully in charge of proceedings but balancing communication with technical ability should enable you to get the best results and if you have a backup plan you should enjoy the gig.
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