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Old September 3rd, 2008, 03:36 AM   #1
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Questions from an audience

Here's a problem I've never really found the answer to - any ideas?

An audience of about 100-200 at a corporate meeting where the management harangue the uninterested, cod-eyed audience for an hour or so and then invite questions. The parameters are:
1, I'm the only sound guy on the video crew, so no assistants to swing poles.
2, The organisers don't want to have a mic on a stand for questioners to come up to: "It interrupts the flow."
3, Although there is usually a sound reinforcement crew, from whom I try to take my feed for the on-stage stuff as they've radio-mic'ed everyone up, they aren't too interested in the questions as they are just about audible on-stage. Sometimes some wretched junior is given a radio hand-mic to pass to the questioner, but 9 times out of 10 it arrives too late.
4, er, that's it.

The sad fact would seem to be that even with someone shouting a question, you need to get some sort of mic within 10 -15 feet and short of rigging lots of mics overhead (usually no time or budget for that) there is no way that's going to happen. I always try to discipline the organisers by telling them that the questioners have to wait until a mic comes to them, but that's water off a duck's back.

All I can do is point a 416 in the direction of the question, wind up the pot and cringe at the quality. An 816 doesn't really make much difference.

Is there an answer that I've missed?

Last edited by Nick Flowers; September 3rd, 2008 at 04:15 AM.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 04:25 AM   #2
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Doesn't help the audience quesion problem but the fact that the presenters are all radio miced could prove a blessing. Taking a feed from the PA can be a problem because the sound reinforcment people aren't going to bother setting up for a good recording mix. But radio transmitters don't care how many receivers are listening. If you can find out in time the model and frequency settings that will be used, bring your own receivers and easvesdrop directly on the wireless for your own feed.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 04:31 AM   #3
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How about two mics either side of the audience pointing at them as you would to record applause etc. Or two PZM's

Ok not the best option but at least you will get to hear the question, unlike most BBC ints with government spokes people these days.

If you can put the audience on a split track so at least the questions can be edited into the timeline in post prod.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 05:50 AM   #4
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One of the reasons this forum is so good is that I get help, exactly as Steve and Gary have supplied. Thanks, guys.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 08:44 AM   #5
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In addition, I would ask the presenters to always repeat each question before answering it, even if they are sure everybody in the room heard it the first time. That way, your ambience mics pick up the original question for the record, and the presenter's mic will repeat it for clarity.

- Martin
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 08:59 AM   #6
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Martin has exactly the right idea: have the presenter restate the question simply.

Gary brings up a good point: In my former life as an inhouse A/V guy in addition to video producer, we used to put a high quality PZM mic on a mic stand in a location toward the front of the room where it wouldn't be AS noticeable but far enough away from projectors and PA speakers so as not to ADVERSELY pick up noise.

It won't sound perfect but if there is a requirement to hear the dissertation from the floor, it will work. Just make sure to record the PZM on a separate channel and either fade up when needed or do this in post, whatever is more appropriate for your configuration.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 09:05 AM   #7
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And further to Steve's comment: there is a mistaken belief that when sound guys show up with a PA for an event like this that they have extra busses all over the place and adaptors and cables galore to accommodate ANY request, either from the client, or from the video guy they weren't told about.

I carry a bag FULL of adaptors with me when shooting these sorts of gigs including xlr and 1/4" TRS Y-cables and 1/4"TRS to XLR adaptors so that I MAY be able to talk the engineer into allowing me to split his signal, if I have no other choice. If you can "steal" the signal(s) out of thin air, bully for you. The caveat here is even within the same manufacturer's wireless family, some transmitters from one series won't talk to the receivers of another series, even if tuned to the same frequency. The Sennheiser Evolution series is an example: the G1 transmitters can't be heard on the G2 receivers. BOO!
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 10:29 AM   #8
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Adaptors

Good point, Shaun.
I too carry adaptors to cater for most 'outs' of a PA mixer, 1/4" (stereo, mono and PO jack), bantam, XLRs, even 3.5mm and phono. Also a DI box to cope with awkward levels and an adaptor to plug into a wireless transmitter if the cable run is too long and no time to tape it down.

These are really useful tips, chaps. Many thanks.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 10:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Flowers View Post
...2, The organisers don't want to have a mic on a stand for questioners to come up to: "It interrupts the flow."
3, Although there is usually a sound reinforcement crew, from whom I try to take my feed for the on-stage stuff as they've radio-mic'ed everyone up, they aren't too interested in the questions as they are just about audible on-stage. Sometimes some wretched junior is given a radio hand-mic to pass to the questioner, but 9 times out of 10 it arrives too late.
4, er, that's it.

... I always try to discipline the organisers by telling them that the questioners have to wait until a mic comes to them, but that's water off a duck's back...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Pauly View Post
In addition, I would ask the presenters to always repeat each question before answering it, even if they are sure everybody in the room heard it the first time...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
...we used to put a high quality PZM mic on a mic stand in a location toward the front of the room where it wouldn't be AS noticeable but far enough away from projectors and PA speakers so as not to ADVERSELY pick up noise.

It won't sound perfect but if there is a requirement to hear the dissertation from the floor, it will work. Just make sure to record the PZM on a separate channel and either fade up when needed or do this in post, whatever is more appropriate for your configuration.
This is a client management problem moreso than a recording problem. Somewhere there is a disconnect between the people who want the recording done and the people who have responsibility for overseeing sound reinforcement and the people responsible for overseeing the video recording. If it were me, I'd be asking everybody up the chain "Why is getting the questions unimportant to you? Do you want me recording that part of the meeting at all?"

Having said that, the suggestions above are excellent and will help. But they don't really substitute for everybody being on the same page about how important (or unimportant!) the q & a session is.

I work these kinds of meetings every couple months (it's good to have recurring projects!!!), and I'm always reminding the presenters, who are the CEO & GM, that it's important to remind the audience to wait for the mic, or, that they repeat the question. The reason it works out (mostly) is that they do care about the wider audience via video recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
And further to Steve's comment: there is a mistaken belief that when sound guys show up with a PA for an event like this that they have extra busses all over the place and adaptors and cables galore to accommodate ANY request, either from the client, or from the video guy they weren't told about.

I carry a bag FULL of adaptors with me...
Again, a management problem. A good client will tell the sound co. that there will need to be a video feed, and insist that it is done. It is up to us to create good clients by educating them about the needs and reminding them that the video matters to the end client.

This stuff is easy if the sound co. is halfway prepared - a little pre-show communication goes a long way. Make a telephone call, it's important.

But then, bring the bag of adaptors, too :-)
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 11:41 AM   #10
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Seth: I certainly don't disagree with your points. In my case, the videotaping of the event was almost ALWAYS a complete afterthought by the client, who in many MANY instances only BECAME a client the day before or the day OF the presentation. In fact, my preference is to act as a liaison between client and technical services providers wherever possible.

Agreed, where POSSIBLE these discussions should be made well in advance and if the parties decide that the intelligibility of the questions is unimportant, send an e-mail summarizing the conversation so that at a later date it can be established who made the decision that the audience questions were unimportant. By the way, do this as a "confirmation" of required services, not an obvious "you'll be sorry..." <sheepish grin>

I should add, I do a couple of annual conventions every year multicamera live switched to tape and large screens with 2000 people in attendance. It is a requirement that ALL questions be posed from a floor mic, both for the archival video as well as for the full participation of all persons in the room. It really doesn't hinder the flow if the mics (plural) are located in reasonably accessible points in the room and the seating arrangement is conducive to being able to leave one's seat.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 01:00 PM   #11
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For Q&A I use shotguns, hypercards or PZM's depending on the room. Sometimes one can pick up a audience question good, sometimes you just get HVAC with unintelligible background speech. Lots of variables. I usually print out a notice to place on the Pod. and panel table, to remind them to: "PLEASE REPEAT QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE" and other info like "This seminar is being recorded, stay close the the mic" and "speak up". I find the printed document works a MUCH better than verbal instruction.... in-one ear-and-out-the-other.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 01:00 PM   #12
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As a last resort, inserting the questions as sub-titles or lower thirds works well. Of course it's preferable to get the audio, but sometimes it's just not possible given real world constraints.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 08:46 PM   #13
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Use a steerable mike

I would solve this by using a SoundField ST250 on a stand between the dais and the crowd. The ST250 has a control box you can hold in your lap (along with, say, an Edirol R-4), and with the knobs on the ST-250 control box you can steer its pattern all over the map, as well as varying it from omnidirectional to figure-eight or supercardioid in whatever direction you choose for the moment.

When the guys on the dais are yammering, you point the pattern at them. When a rapt member of the audience asks a fascinating question, you can push a single button and reverse the pattern to point it at the audience, or use the knobs to vary the pattern in other ways. Very nice. Pushing the button doesn't even cause a click.

Another nice thing is that you can run both or either of these on batteries, and the R-4 will record more than a day of 48KHz 24-bit audio, or about half a day if you need four channels instead of two.

Of course, it helps that a friend gave me an ST-250 and an R-4 a couple months ago ...
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Old September 30th, 2008, 08:07 AM   #14
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Thats an interesting ideal Carl, I used to work at AMS Neve so know the st250 very well, I used top have one but got rid of it as in location practical terms it was really just a glorified M/S mic.

The big problem though is that the mic will still be some distance from the subject and the law of physics will still some into play.
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Old September 30th, 2008, 09:44 AM   #15
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Or you can ask the videographer if he minds you hanging a dozen large diaphram mics from the ceiling, directly in front of his cameras. He will, of course say "no!".
On the final dvd, when the video sound is awful you can just shrug your shoulders and say "Yeah I know but the videographer got a bit funny about my choice of mic placement and I had to go for a second-best solution."

Worth a try anyway!
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