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Old July 27th, 2010, 03:26 PM   #1
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Shure SM81's for Stage?

I'm both a videographer and musician, among other things. Anyhow, up until now I've used a Rode NTG-2 shotgun for music recital recordings into my Canon XHA1. I have a couple of Shure SM81's I use to mic my drum kit. I was wondering how well those would work for recording theater and other stage performances. If not, what is a good boundary mic(s) for this application, given that I'm not plugging into the venue's board? Thanks.
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Old July 27th, 2010, 05:34 PM   #2
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If you could position your 2 Shure cardioid SM81s in the *right place*, in a stereo XY config in front of the performers, that would be much better than your mono NTG-2 shotgun sited on your A1.

But in practical terms .. you'd need 2 very long mic cable runs, 2 large mic stands and they'd be in shot. Then you need time to get a sound balance via your A1 and monitor the performance on headphones.

Boundary layer mics sited on the front of the stage would have similar setup requirements but wouldn't
cope with the long cable runs. Try and get a feed from the board .. would be your best bet here.
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Old July 27th, 2010, 07:00 PM   #3
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The SM81 is a great mic, but not very sensitive for picking up dialog.
FWIW, I always liked the Crown PCC-160 boundary mic.
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Old July 28th, 2010, 08:19 AM   #4
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pick up a pair of ksm44's and throw them in omni - they will kill your 81's. If you want to hear 'em in action, check out this recent production: @ 7:37, you can see (and hear - panned hard right) that they picked up the tamborine 30' away IN CARDIOD! (reflected off the back wall) - these are amazing mic's and rugged to boot. Nothing's even close in their price range.

and for those of you interested in hearing the fruits of the new DR-680, I tracked this production entirely on the DR-680 (front ending it with a couple of 01V's during the worship service).
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Old July 28th, 2010, 04:08 PM   #5
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I've used the Shure SM81 for recording a play, and they worked great. I, however use 4 mics for stage productions. I had the SM81 off the the sides, but still in front of the stage, and pointing inward, and I used a Rode NT4 right in the front/center. I used small mic stands (like for a kick drum) and had the mics just a few inches above the stage, pointing up to the mouthes of the performers.

Keep in mind that no matter what mics you use, having only 2 for a full stage will leave you with areas that won't get picked up too well. And keep in mind that the further back you go the more room sound you get. A boundary mic may be troublesome because every step an actor takes will be felt by a mic planted on the stage. So my vote is yes on the Shure SM81s, but a stereo mic in the center will give you the best pickup. Short of that, even a mono mic in the center would be better coverage.

Talk to the director. Go to a practice, and see where people are standing. You only get one take when recording a play. Be prepared.


Aron I liked the sound on your video (save for the Vimeo compression artifacts). Where were the KSM44s in relation to the stage? They sound great, but at 1,500.00 a piece, it may be beyond the budget of Patrick. And according to Sweetwater they are "no longer available". I think with the strength of a choir of voices singing loudly, your setup is perfect, but for a play with single people talking, an array of mics would do better because one person can get pretty quiet, and close(er) proximity is important for that.

I think anyone who records live shows would benefit from a good stereo mic. They are easy to set up and you have a perfect X/Y pattern, at least in the case of the Rode NT4.
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Sony FS5 :: Panasonic GH4 :: Sony PMW-EX1 :: FCPx :: AT4053b :: Rode NTG-3,
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Old July 28th, 2010, 09:35 PM   #6
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Chad, I used 3 KSM's - one each for sopranos, altos and tenors.and there were only 2-3 vocalists per mic (so they mixed very well). With respect to the original question, I guess I read "recital" above "play" or "theatrical performance." I think you may need to take a different approach for each one of these instances. With a "recital" a spaced omni pair can yield amazingly accurate and truly breathtaking (in the right venue) sound reproduction. But for a play, they could be completely unusable. I would rather wirelessly lav up each actor and track individually. So be prepared to employ different plans of attack for different productions.
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Old July 31st, 2010, 11:55 AM   #7
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SM81 mics are fine- they are the first pair of mics I ever owned... The off axis response isn't great and they aren't very sensitive, but you can get usable results if you know how to use them.

If you're looking to upgrade, there is lots of great stuff depending on how much you're willing to spend. A couple thousand bucks can get you into Sennheiser 8000 series mics and you'll find that you'll get a lot more use out of them. An ORTF pair of 8040's is great for music and a single works very well as boom mic for indoor work.

The KSM44 mentioned earlier is also a fine mic and the multiple patterns really can be a nice feature for a limited rig. The downside is that they are large and for a live performance, you may get complaints.

Benjamin Maas Fifth Circle Audio Signal Hill, CA
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