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Old February 17th, 2010, 08:16 PM   #1
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Recital Recording

I've been tapped by my son's music school to create DVDs of the school's recitals. I basically doing this for the cost of media plus a few extra $$ along with trade for the cost of my son's lessons so there is no real room for a dedicated AO tech. I'm doing this on my own.

Over the past year or so, I've beefed up my audio gear adding Shure SM71's (guitars and winds) and SM81's for the piano. Voice has been a problem, not only in the mix but the proper mic. Most of these kids don't know how to sing into a mic and they are not coached. The problem is twofold: Keeping the vocals from distorting when they 'scream' and getting the proper mix between the piano accompanying the vocalist and vocalist.

What is the best mic or type of mic for the vocals? How should I mix this? I am running all the mics into a PSC DV Promix 6 and recording to a Sony Z5u or Z1u. Again, no $ available for a sound mixer and a big board. Nor is there time for setup!

Thanks

Reed
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Old February 17th, 2010, 09:01 PM   #2
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I'm not a dedicated audio guy, but I have a feeling that (a) there is a limit as to how good it's going to be for little budget, and (b) some microphone coaching is going to be required.

On the other hand, you can only record how good or bad they really are. It can be another learning experience for them that can become a starting point for their continuing education the following year.

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Old February 18th, 2010, 10:13 AM   #3
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I'm not familiar with an SM71, I'll assume you mean 57 which is adequate for the instruments.
A logical choice for vocals would be an SM58'. Some vocal coaching may help: "Listen kids, stay within 20" in front of this here mic, or your gonna get the hook... and be ridiculed by your classmates and family for years to come".
As far as dynamics go: About the only thing you can do is 'ride gain' and/or give yourself plenty of headroom on both the channel and master, run through a compressor/limiter if at all possible. A console type mixer would probably be a better choice, having linear faders, EQ and channel inserts to patch in a compressor on the vocal channel. If you must use the Promix, make sure all limiters are engaged... and adjusted accordingly. You could try using AGC on the cameras if it doesn't pump too bad.
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Old February 18th, 2010, 11:03 AM   #4
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The Shure SM81 is a pleasant, but not that popular condenser cardioid, but no idea what a 71 is? Never heard of that one.

What exactly are these recitals? Here in the UK, recitals tend to be live, ambient events with mainly acoustic instruments. Often solo singer and piano. No amplification used at all. From time to time, they can be a focus instrument rather than a vocalist - so could be obe and piano, clarinet and piano, 6 string nylon strung guitar and piano, or the same guitar and a solo voice - that kind of thing. NO electric instruments.

These have a natural balance of their own - and are mainly performed in a room with good acoustics. The kind of microphone techniques used are very different from sticking a mic in front of the singer and another on the piano.

The difference is the perspective. Ambient live events and I include choirs and orchestras here, sound very different from a close miked more modern recording - or at least should. Mic technique usually revolves around a stereo recording technique with two identical microphones, or more sophisticated one with 3 or more microphones. Mics are put at the point where the balance between sources is best - so this may well be 6 feet up in the air, in front or to one side of the vocalist, so the listener can hear the room and the participants, and with their eyes closed know where they were. It sounds live, not manipulated. Listen to a classical CD of say a solo piano, or a small ensemble. They sound real - not processed. Most common mic technique is called X/Y or coincident pair - Google for X/Y, A/B, ORTF, Decca Tree and see what comes back. It's a set of techniques that recreates realism, and everyone has their own favourite way of doing it. It rarely involves many microphones - but it does require good ears. Moving a mic 6" can make huge differences to the result. It also needs a bit of practice - but minimum kit can provide stunning results when done correctly!
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Old February 18th, 2010, 04:28 PM   #5
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OOoops Not SM71!

Not sure where THAT model came from .... The mics are SM57s. My apologies for the confusion!
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Old February 18th, 2010, 04:41 PM   #6
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EXACTLY what I was looking for....

Andrew, Rick, and Paul...

Thank you all for your insight. Sometimes it is right under your nose all the while. These recitals are held in a church hall that as very odd acoustics due to too many hard surfaces and angles and the limited placement possibilities for the piano and other performers. During this last set, there were a couple of vocalists (all under 17) who had somewhat pleasant voices but swallowed the mic. I will give a listen to the audio from my "B" camera and pay attention to the ambience - something that is missing with the closer mic'd performances.

The Guitars and winds sound pretty natural, given the circumstances, and the piano is good as well. It is the darn vocals! One of the singers is a very good 16 yo gal and she knows enough to back off on the mic. Not so with the others. The school has a mic for the singers feeding a pair of Yamaha speakers. Nobody riding the levels so I have to work around that. Limiters are engaged on the promix but not on the camera as I didn't want the camera looking for something that wasn't there in the quiet passages and adding noise.

I may have to abandon the vocal iso in favor of a mic giving a more ambient/live sound. The next 8 sessions are booked for May so I have a little time to prep for them.

Thanks for the "sound" advice (sorry, couldn't resist!)

Reed
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Old February 18th, 2010, 06:00 PM   #7
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The bad news is really the PA. You can't record this kind of un controlled thing with anything other than close miking, and to be honest, without somebody good at the desk, it's going to be a mess. Bad vocal technique isn't an absolute killer if it's for multi-track and then post. You just need to manage the gain structure so that the person who swallows the mic can't drive the preamp into distortion. You're going to need some extra kit to make this recordable. If the PA is not too bad, it will have direct outs from each channel - independent of what the idiot working it mixes - as long as you stick some tape over the gain pots at the top of the channel strip. You can then maybe borrow a multitrack, or an interface or two and record on a laptop or similar. A controlled recording is difficult to manage, but does need kit and experience. I'm not sure what the school's like - but many schools have a decent music technology department who will almost certainly have the equipment to record this properly. Maybe even some of their students could be involved?

With out the kit - I suspect I'd not get involved because it does sound like a disater waiting to happen - not the kind of event that a few mics and limited kit can do justice to
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Old February 18th, 2010, 06:44 PM   #8
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Recital School

Paul

This is the type of school that parents enroll their primary school kids in and the recitals are meant more to show parents what the kids can do. There are a few standouts in some of the disciplines but none of the kids are experienced in any way to help out with the recordings. I just have to make the best of a mediocre situation. Some of the guitar and wind teachers have helped out in mic placement when their students step up and have shown interest in helping their students shine. Others don't care or have no clue. All of the teachers are from good schools in NYC (Julliard and Mannes) and know their stuff musically. Some have some recording experience but cannot help out with the mix.

I may ask the vocal coach to talk to her students for the next recital and give them some tips on proper technique. Plus I'll look for a better vocal mic, maybe one that handles the load better in exchange for a little loss on the response.

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Old February 18th, 2010, 07:33 PM   #9
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What kind of music is this? What kind of acoustics in this room? Do the vocals really NEED so much reinforcement? Sounds like it is way overdone.

If I couldn't do anything else, I would start by turning the PA system down by 50%. From your descriptions, you don't want anything to do with that reinforcement system. If somebody accidentally unplugged the sound system, I wouldn't go rushing over to re-connect it (if you get my drift).
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Old February 18th, 2010, 11:26 PM   #10
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I guess there are only a few real options - close mic everyone and everything or go for an ambient recording (ie stereo pair in A/B, X/Y, M/S configuration.). Or maybe get a feed from the board, but - hmmm.

Without a ton of equipment (mics, cables, stands, mixer, multitrack recorder, etc) and lots of help to place it and keep it from walking off or getting trampled, and lots of time and effort in post, close micing everything isn 't going to happen, so I think you can rule that one out.

If the idea is for parents etc to hear what their kids really sounded like, considering that the parents are sitting in the audience and hearing the potentially bad acoustics and potentialy disastrous amplification and happily lapping it up, I think it all points strongly toward a simple stereo pair. Hold the mics on a pole or stand or something and wander around listening and grab the spot that sounds "best" (all things are relative!) and claim it.

Just the way I'd spproach it.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 10:33 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reed Gidez View Post
I've been tapped by my son's music school to create DVDs of the school's recitals. I basically doing this for the cost of media plus a few extra $$ along with trade for the cost of my son's lessons so there is no real room for a dedicated AO tech. I'm doing this on my own.
Don't forget copyright - you will need to declare the tracklist to your Copyright Protection Society (MCPS in the UK) and pay a copyright fee for every CD sold.

In the UK it's 6.25% of the retail price.

And you even have to do this if you give the CDs away *free* !
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Old February 19th, 2010, 11:54 AM   #12
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Good point, John
In the US it's quite a bit trickier, ie there is a set rate per track or minute per CD regardless of the sales price.

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USA: Copyright Royalty Board finalizes new mechanical license fees
Date: February 28, 2009
Mechanical license fees are paid by choirs and other recording artists in order to make CDs and other recordings of copyrighted works. Unlike other copyright agreements, permission to make a recording cannot usually be refused by the copyright holder, so the royalty for such permission is set by law. The Copyright Royalty Board has set a new rate of 9.1 cents per composition or 1.75 cents per minute, whichever is greater, per recording copy made, effective March 1, 2009.

The RIAA is appealing other parts of the decision, including the rate for ringtones and the late fees, but that does not affect the general rate.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 02:47 PM   #13
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Jim, are you sure that Copyright Royalty Board ruling you quote applies in this case? It talks about mechanical licensing, which is the compulsary license for use in a phono-recording, ie release as an AUDIO ONLY recording such as a CD. A classic example of where mechanicals come into play is when a band includes a cover of a song on a CD. But a DVD of a performance is NOT a phono-recording but instead is the use of the music in a video soundtrack, music sync'ed to images. This usage isn't covered by a mechanical license at all but rather requires a sync license, a totally different critter entirely. AFAIK, there is no such thing as a fixed-rate, compulsary sync license.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 04:32 PM   #14
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I do mine here in the UK using the Limited Manufacture License Scheme MCPS run - this is quite simple and cheap - it's similar to the system John mentions, but as long as the product is for certain uses (and this one is fine) then they don't need the track listing - which saves a lot of work - just a nice vague genre. There is an upper ceiling on total copies, but you can opt for a lower number first, then do a re-press. It is available for CD and DVD

It won't cover you for certain works that have specific copyright restrictions to do with performance - so you can't do your own version of the Lion King or something like that - but singing popular songs and similar is fine.

Is anything similar to this available in the US?
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Old February 19th, 2010, 04:44 PM   #15
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Hi Steve!

Actually I was commenting on John Willett's comment re licensing s CD in the UK. You're correct that the OP will need a sync license if he sells (or distributes) DVD's

Sounds like the UK is the place to be if things are as simple as it sounds!!!!!

Of course, I'll take the weather here in Tucson at this time of year - bit warm for short sleeves outside today! Maybe the UK in June!
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