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Old March 3rd, 2010, 01:21 PM   #1
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Recording in an adverse environment

I have set myself a little conundrum.


The Fremantle Symphony has generously given me two nights of their time and effort to shop, rehearse and record some sample concept underscore varations on Fra Diavolo for an expanded trailer of "I Belong To The Shadows" plus "The Overture From Fra Diavolo".

Very, very generous I think.

I don't have the ready cash for any sound studio let alone big enough for a 90 piece symphony orchestra or any sort of mix desk, so it will have to be their practice studio which is a repurposed community hall/gym and my limited audio resources.

The walls are very live, painted brick and one side is all windows and timber frames. One compensation is that the floor is timber over joists, not concrete.

The workspace mitigates against traditional mike placements if I had enough of them in the first place. I did a few tests tonight with C74 directionals right up close to the glass windows and brickwork as PZMs and get an acceptable sound. The instruments which dominate don't come over the strings too much if I put them distant.

However the sound I get by the "PZM" method is fairly dry, - the Sony directional mikes which were never intended for this sort of abuse.

My kit is nearly all Sony directionals, two C74s, two C76s, two ECM-674s. I may be able to get hold of a studio dynamic mike.

I have an old Fostex DMT8 mixer HDD recorder modded for 42 minutes per track pair but it is 44.1 Khz. and phono inputs, not XLR, which the mikes are.

Recorder-wise, I have a Sony TCD10 Pro2 DAT and Zoom H4n.

Any suggestions on how best to use this kit to record a 90-piece symphony would be appreciated.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 01:59 PM   #2
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Can you beg, borrow, or hire a couple of small diaphram cardioid mics such as the Audio Technica AT3031? A coincident X/Y pair on a stand 8 feet or so above the floor and 6 feet or so behind the conductor's podium might be a place to start experimenting. Your various shotgun's directivity are working against you here as they're just too narrow for one to effectively and smoothly cover even half of a 90 member orchestra.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 02:38 PM   #3
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Or even further along Steve's line of thinking to beg, borrow, rent a pair of very-small-diaphragm mics like the Earthworks SR-71. The AT-3031 will have lower self-noise and be more commonly found, but the Earthworks can give good results in very lively, problematic venues. If you can't find the Earthworks, then the AT-3031 or AT-4021 or Shure SM-81 would also work. Some Rode mics like the NT4, NT5, NT55, and NT6 would also work. Maybe a local Rode dealer has some demo models.
You're going to need a reasonably good stereo preamp or mixer that provides full phantom power (unless you use the NT4).
I don't think your DAT has phantom, I believe it's the same model I used to have. Your H4n has phantom but generally I prefer to use an external preamp. With the volume of an orchestra though you might be able to get away with it unless this piece has many quiet passages.
I assume you did your testing using batteries in your Sony shotguns or did you use the H4n?
You could try to use some real boundary-layer mics if again you can beg, borrow or rent them.
I've also used regular mics in the pseudo-PZM placement and that can work surprisingly well, but I've never tried it with shotguns. I think you will need to find something less directional to get really good results unless you just have no other available option.
Let us know what other mics you might be able to search out.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 03:28 PM   #4
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Steve and Jay are giving you the equipment starting points.

Without getting too personal, what are you thinking!?! 90 musicians donating their time, and you have a "what equipment can I repurpose" approach? To me this seems very disrespectful of the substantial contribution others are making.

Find the gear. Spend some money. Do it right or defer to a time that you can do it right!

I could go on... but won't. Again, nothing personal, but do think about this!

********************************
Your mics might be useful as spot/soloist mics.

A cardoid pair for some stereo technique does seem like the minimum starting point.

You most definitly want to be recording in 48KHz. Any device that only has phono inputs should be out.

I'd want to add some sort of multitrack and 6 channels of preamps.

Then, you need good monitoring & evaluation to help you with the mic placements.

All this needn't cost too much to hire. One more consideration - local churches frequently have the best acoustics around, and may not cost much either.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 09:18 PM   #5
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Seth.


Thank you for your response. I hear you entirely and wholeheartedly agree as a muso myself. This has moved on a bit faster than I anticipated from what was an initial ambit enquiry. I explained from the outset this was for an underfunded pre-prod trailer and they have still embraced it.


Steve and Jay. Thank you for for your responses.


Anything that stops me from going down a dead-end is much appreciated.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 10:21 PM   #6
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Okay gentlemen.


I can get my greasy hands on the following hardware :-


Mikes.

Between 8 and 12 Sennheiser ME35 on goosenecks.

8 AKG CK31 on goosnecks if all are operational.


Mixer.

2 Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro mixers.


I may be able to get a man with a computer running up to 24 individual tracks.


As for the hostile recording environment, it is one where the least inconvenience is incurred, parking being the biggest one for the orchestra anywhere else.

There is not a lot I can do about the reverb except put some furniture blankets up.

It did not sound all that bad in my PZM tests.


Any furthur advice is much appreciated.

Last edited by Bob Hart; March 3rd, 2010 at 10:21 PM. Reason: error
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Old March 4th, 2010, 04:10 AM   #7
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For a large orchestra, often micing the whole ensemble with a single stereo pair or Decca Tree will give better results than trying to close-mic individual sections or performers. One of the most stunning recordings I ever heard was the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera chorus mic'ed with a single Blumlein array stereo pair.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 04:29 AM   #8
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Simplicity Gets Results

Quote:
For a large orchestra, often micing the whole ensemble with a single stereo pair or Decca Tree will give better results than trying to close-mic individual sections or performers. One of the most stunning recordings I ever heard was the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera chorus mic'ed with a single Blumlein array stereo pair.
Agree with Steve on this one. Best approach here is to keep it simple. You do NOT need to multimic this when a simple Blumlein crossed-pair (or slightly spaced apart for a little more out-of-phase component - more stereo effect - but watch out for slightly poorer mono compatibility) in the right location will do the job.

The key to this is going to be the location for such a large size orchestra. Simple micing techniques work great in the right location utilising good (natural sounding) acoustics. A poor location using multimics will often (in my experience) produce poor results.

My mic choice and starting point for this would be Schoeps slung about 10-20 feet above the orchestra about 30-50 feet back from the conductor.

In a previous post: The mention of Mackie and Pro in the same sentence... Aaagh!

:)
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Last edited by Claire Buckley; March 4th, 2010 at 05:02 AM. Reason: typo
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Old March 4th, 2010, 05:25 AM   #9
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I'd find a church with good acoustics, keep it simple and get a good sound guy who really knows their stuff.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 10:58 AM   #10
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Claire.


Mackie and Pro?? Sounds like like you have very exacting standards or had a bad experience. I could have asked for a Gentner but they are software driven things and my life is hard enough already with the limited time I now have for this gig.

You will probably cringe at me saying this, but except for poor reproduction from older 78 records, I find the "reality" otherwise of big bands and orchestras surprisingly good in some instances, the verification of simpler is best philosophy.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 12:37 PM   #11
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If you have to use the list of mics you've provided - the the AKG CK31 is the most suitable one you have available - the co-incident pair (x/y) will probably do the best job in a room that sounds good - does it?

You've got some recording kit that with the mixer getting the levels up to line, will work. You need a VERY good set of headphones so during rehearsal you can experiment with the mic position - or a room where you can set up the kit and use real monitors - which would by far be the best bet.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 02:20 PM   #12
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Another vote for a simple stere pair in a good spot - although I usually set the mics pretty much above the director's head when possible since directors usually contrive to get things to sound in best balance where they're standing. All depends on the venue - I've had very good luck back about 20 - 30 feet in the audience in a nice hall where it wasn't practical to get anything above the orchestra.

I think the only need to use spot mics would be so you could add a slight bit of boost to a section when camera zooming in on them. I sometimes use a PZM mic on the underside of the lid of a grand piano and add a very small amount into the mix when zooming in on the pianist, for example. I think it complements the visual feeling quite nicely, but if I'm just doing a CD I would not want to boost it.

I don't think of myself as the audio equivalent of a plastic surgeon - balance, proportion, and beauty is up to the orchestra, my job is to do as good a job as I can of being faithful to what they've done. I really don't think a lot of multi-track manipulation is appropriate for classical music.

Having said that, though, I have to admit that I'm being pressured by the pianist to do post magic to fix a "mis-touch" in a Beethoven violin sonata, and since she's my wife I may have no choice but to have a shot at it!!!
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Old March 4th, 2010, 03:49 PM   #13
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Bob, I agree with Jim, a co-incident stereo pair, no multi tracking especially if the recording is to be made in the Leckie Hall .. 3 pix.

Photo gallery Fremantle Symphony Orchestra

Looks like there's been some attempt to damp the hall, but it's a small venue for a classical orch sound and I'd spend much time positioning the mics. Monitoring to balance the sections by moving the mics will be tough, long balanced mic cables out into another room with a small speaker set up might be the go.

But then again this may not be the venue :)

Cheers.
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Old March 5th, 2010, 02:06 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bob Hart View Post
Claire.


Mackie and Pro?? Sounds like like you have very exacting standards or had a bad experience. I could have asked for a Gentner but they are software driven things and my life is hard enough already with the limited time I now have for this gig.

You will probably cringe at me saying this, but except for poor reproduction from older 78 records, I find the "reality" otherwise of big bands and orchestras surprisingly good in some instances, the verification of simpler is best philosophy.
Sorry about that Bob, just my knee-jerk. I withdraw that statement... But yes, exacting is probably right!

Having said previous, MTV's Remote Audio 8, Nashville has/had a small Mackie (think it was an 8 or 16) for ancilliary stuff on piggy-back to a Lawo MC66.

Good luck with your project - sounds awesome.

:)
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Last edited by Claire Buckley; March 5th, 2010 at 02:09 PM. Reason: typo
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Old March 5th, 2010, 02:10 PM   #15
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Thank you all for your continuing advice.


Allan.

Yes it is the Leckie Hall and thanks indeed for publishing the website and the image. The conductor's podium is uncomfortably close to the glass doors and confines the workspace.

My resources don't amount to a large studio. I did enquire to see if Studio 620 was still extant and that I might be able to borrow that but it is no longer an option. It has apparently been heritage listed though.

I had heard it had been torn down but since told it is still there. Whether it will ever again be a working sound studio is another matter.

ABC's new East Perth studio is booked during the window of opportunity but also would not be affordable for me right now. Parking for 90 pieces down that end of town or bussing them from a carpark would be an unaffordable nightmare.


My initial faux PZM best test results happened to left and rear of David's podium for best "apparent" balance of the strings and the stronger portions of the orchestra. As soon as I turned my test mike around, the strings became very strident. Using the floor for PZM effect at the same position was almost as good but bumps. shuffles and clicks seemed to come through a lot more. With all the feet and instruments in the way I would have thought there would be less incidental noise.

When strong music is being played, the acoustics are not so cruel. Quiet phrases with flutes
are very echoey. We will work out on Monday just what parts will be played so after then, can make my decisions for any closer mikes for the quiet instruments.

My test rig was Sony C74 directional mike > Sound Devices MixPre > Zoom H4n recorder at 96K stereo.

My deal for the Mackie and AKG mikes fell through. It was apparently misunderstood that I was to use them for an in-house project.

The little canteen down the far end of Leckie Hall might be an option for a monitoring booth with the hatch door down.


I just learned today that there is also a Western Australian Philharmonic Orchestra now. I have not kept myself up-to-date on these things.


Thanks again all.

Last edited by Bob Hart; March 5th, 2010 at 02:17 PM. Reason: error
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