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Old March 6th, 2008, 03:48 PM   #1
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Recording presenters at small conference

I'm trying to raise my game when it comes to audio.

Recently I've had the good fortune to work with an experienced professional sound recordist on higher profile (ie higher budget) projects, but there are occasions when I am asked to shoot conferences, where a sound recordist might not be within budget.

On such occasions I have typically taken a feed from the desk operated by the a/v guy(s) and this has always worked well.

Yesterday, though, the conference was very intimate - around 50 people in a small auditorium. The worst part - no lectern! That meant the speakers were free to wander. Because of the size of the event, there was no A/V guy and no other amplification.

I have a single wireless lav but there were four speakers and I didn't want to interrupt the flow by having to change the lav from speaker to speaker. I opted to use a shotgun (an old AT835B), mounted on a C-stand, with clear instructions to the speakers as to where they should and shouldn't go. Only one of them adhered to the instructions! The result is great audio from one presenter (thankfully the only one they actually wanted to be recorded!) and patchy audio from the other three.

My question: how would you have rigged this scenario to get even sound. What mic type(s) would you have used. This is a new client for me and they have asked me to shoot a bunch more conferences at the same venue. I'd like to do so without that trickle of cold sweat running down my back and if it means investing in new/better kit, then that's what I must do.

As it happens, for this event I was lucky. But I'm not happy to rely on luck when I only get one stab at each conference.

Oh, and any tips for minimising aircon noise?!?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Ian . . .
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Old March 6th, 2008, 04:10 PM   #2
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Hi Ian,

You can't ever depend on folks to follow your instructions, so don't. You have to assume other's are dumb as rocks, and act/plan accordingly.

Either get them to set up a lectern, where you can place a Mic, or have a hand held Mic that the speakers' use, and then hand off to the next speaker.

Otherwise, you'll have to have Lapel Mic's for all, and switch between them as the speakers change. IE - A multiple channel receiver.

The shotgun may work if the situation is correct, but it would have to be on the Cam so it gets aimed with the Cam if you've got folks roaming about.

I'm guessing using your shotgun is where you got the AC noise. Probably, having it rigged for outside (with a wind screen) may have helped.

I've used each of these methods at one time or another, in addition to coming off a sound board.

My 2 cents.

Harold
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Old March 6th, 2008, 04:28 PM   #3
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Thanks Harold. I'm beginning to think the time has come to invest in multichannel wireless.

Annoyingly, this was one of those situations where I was being cocky and thought I could handle any situation on arrival. Had I made the time to do a location recce beforehand I would have known about the lectern issue and could have brought one with me!

Moral - always carry a lectern (or at least check the location out before the shoot!).

Thanks for the suggestions.

Best,

Ian . . .
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Old March 6th, 2008, 04:34 PM   #4
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Harold nailed it: put the shotgun mic on the camera so it's pointing where you're shooting, or have a sound guy work the mic aiming.

I've got a pair of large-diaphram cardioid mikes and stands I set upon either side of the stage area. Hopefully a "wanderer" will stay within the coverage area of one or the other.

One way to take charge in such a situation (no lectern or established speakers' area) is to create one by plopping a mic stand down in the front. You've just established a clear anchor point for the speakers to work around.

Oh yeah: stay wired as much as you can. It's cheaper and the quality is better. Plus the guest speakers are less likely to walk off with your very expensive transmitter. It's bad enough trying to keep track of one radio mic. Now imagine trying to keep track of four, while shooting as well.

Martin
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Old March 6th, 2008, 05:04 PM   #5
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More good advice, thanks.

Not so sure about the shotgun on top of the camera, though. The camera was set up at the back of the auditorium and I would be concerned about picking up every cough, sniffle and page turn in the audience! Having said that, you're both suggesting it so maybe I need to experiment.

Cheers,

Ian . . .
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Old March 6th, 2008, 05:15 PM   #6
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Or use more than one sound system. Put the shotgun on the camera. Run the two wired mics either to your second audio channel or to an audio recorder. The more mics you have, the better chance at least ONE of them will have something useful. Think redundant systems.

I've made do with just the stock XL2 mic in noisy bar situations. I just moved up close and off to one side so I wouldn't block the audience's view, and used the 3x wide-angle zoom lens.

Martin
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Old March 6th, 2008, 05:21 PM   #7
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Yes. Agreed. I have a reasonable quality small footprint mixer that would work well in that situation. Thanks for the additional thoughts.

Ian . . .
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Old March 6th, 2008, 05:41 PM   #8
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time for a cardoid mic and loose the shotgun. when they move around last thing you want it a narrow pickup pattern.
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Old March 7th, 2008, 01:20 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Martin Catt View Post
Or use more than one sound system. Put the shotgun on the camera. Run the two wired mics either to your second audio channel or to an audio recorder. The more mics you have, the better chance at least ONE of them will have something useful. Think redundant systems.

I've made do with just the stock XL2 mic in noisy bar situations. I just moved up close and off to one side so I wouldn't block the audience's view, and used the 3x wide-angle zoom lens.

Martin
Redundency is good but I have to object strongly to your suggestion of a shotgun mic on the camera as the primary recording mic, especially when the camera is at the back of the room. Fine for general ambience but for speech when the speaker's delivery is the entire reason for the exercise in the first place, fugeddaboutit! Even a shotgun has to be within around 3 feet or less from the speaker to get the crystal clear dialog that I'm sure the client here is expecting.
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Old March 7th, 2008, 03:15 PM   #10
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Redundency is good but I have to object strongly to your suggestion of a shotgun mic on the camera as the primary recording mic, especially when the camera is at the back of the room. Fine for general ambience but for speech when the speaker's delivery is the entire reason for the exercise in the first place, fugeddaboutit! Even a shotgun has to be within around 3 feet or less from the speaker to get the crystal clear dialog that I'm sure the client here is expecting.
You use what you got, and under whatever circumstances prevail. I agree a shotgun from the back of the room is marginal at best. I was referring to using it up close with a WA lens.

Martin
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Old March 7th, 2008, 05:08 PM   #11
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You use what you got, and under whatever circumstances prevail. I agree a shotgun from the back of the room is marginal at best. I was referring to using it up close with a WA lens.

Martin
Sort of. You make sure that what you got is whatever is required to do the job. You don't make do with whatever you happen to have, you make sure that what you have the right tool to do the job properly and if you don't presently have it in your kit, you obtain it somehow. You shouldn't try to use a screwdriver to drive nails if you don't have a hammer - if the job is driving nails you make sure you bring a hammer to the job site.

Using it "up close with a WA lens" isn't a solution. To get close enough to be within the working distance of most short 'gun mics, you'll have the camera no more than 3 feet from the subject and under those circumstances a WA lens will produce the typical "balloon nose" distortion, not something that will endear you to the talent. Will a mic pickup sound from farther away than that? OF course it will. Could you record speech that was understandable with a gun from the back of the hall? Very likely. But will it sound like a professional recording, crystal clear and personal like you were sitting in the audience front row centre and the speaker was talking directly to you? Not at all likely. Instead it's going to sound distant and echo'y, full of room slap and audience noise, sounding hollow like the speaker was mumbling at you from the bottom of a well. As a culture, for better or worse, we've internalized the sound quality of the dialog in a Hollywood feature or the subject's answers in a Barbara Walters broadcast interview as defining the minimum acceptable quality standard for serious work and we fail to come up to that standard at our professional peril. As a boss I once had put it, the minimum standard of acceptable performance is perfection. We might not always have the equipment and/or the talent and experience or just plain good luck to be able to achieve it - I certainly don't - but we should never settle for allowing ourselves to strive for less.
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Last edited by Steve House; March 7th, 2008 at 06:01 PM.
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Old March 7th, 2008, 05:43 PM   #12
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I do seminars all the time. Some have a full blown sound system with a qualified soundman and others, not so much. I have 3 wireless systems and a small mixer. If needed I will run the wireless back to MY mixer and then run to the camera or other recording device and the other out goes to the house PA system since more often than not that's what they're using. IF they are using a full blown system with a qualifed soundman I will either get a feed from the board OR in some cases the sounsdman is recording to a seperate standalone recorder. The key though is I NEVER use a shotgun, caroid or any other type of on camera mic to get the presenters. They are set up with wireless unless the yare standing at a podium and I have a wireless (or wired) mic on the podium.
At least 2 wireless lavs (3 is better 4 even more so, more than that and they probably need a soundman and full setup) and a small mixer will solve the problem.
Just my $.03 worth (adjusted for recessionary economy)
Don
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Old March 7th, 2008, 09:59 PM   #13
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Do you have access to any other mics/equipment?

With more similar jobs coming up, seems like it's time to invest in more wireless.

You say you have a single wireless lav, and you obviously have a shotgun. Are they the only 2 mics you have? Do you have, or have access to, any other mics/mixers?

Can the 'gun be used wireless?

For those more knowledgeable, might another type of mic be useful in Ian's situation? Might a low-profile boundary mic be of any help? I have an A-T 849 stereo condenser boundary mic that I've considered using in similar situations, but have never tried it, always sticking with lavs or shotguns. My initial thought is that it might pick up too much noise.
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Old March 7th, 2008, 11:55 PM   #14
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As someone who has had to watch these kinds of videos, the most annoying thing is bad sound. I don't care what the picture looks like if the speakers are clear sounding without nosie, background, echo, etc., etc.

That means you have to have a microphone within range of the speakers mouth, be it on a podium, a lavalier, a handheld mic, mics on stands that can go from stand to handheld, a sound person handheld documentary shotgun, or whatever. It also helps if the mics are decent and not cheap portable sound system types.

You say they have a lot of these types of presentations. Any chance they are the same presenters? If they were, you could involve them in getting the best setup, at the same time giving them an inside look at what they need to do while speaking -- whatever the solution -- to make sure the sound is good.

And don't forget that motivational presenters love the headworn mics, so they can fly about and be inspiring, plus the headworn gadgets are kind of a badge of superiority.

Any solution that tries to "capture" the sound from a distance is not a solution.
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