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Old March 4th, 2011, 01:56 AM   #1
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Recording an opera singer

I have a single Oktava 012 Hypercardiod and will be filming and micing an opera singer. I can't find any hard fast rule about mic position. Above? Below? Level? the only thing consistent is that the tip of the mic should be slightly off axis. O
/

So what are some thoughts here about placement? Hardwood floor, decent accoustics, but not a studio.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 10:21 AM   #2
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Re: Recording an opera singer

About 12-24" away. Depending on the singer. Use a good shock-mount & windscreen. The 012 is very sensitive to vibration and even the slightest air moment. Use a preamp with true 48v phantom power, lesser voltages will compromise high SPL handling... some opera singers have a wide dynamic range and can get Pretty f__king Loud, aka, PFL. (not to be confused w/ Pre Fader Listen)
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Old March 4th, 2011, 11:03 AM   #3
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Can you get a pair of mics? I would assume that this opera singer will not be going solo- rather there will be a piano or something like that accompanying.

I would start at a pair of mic (choose your pattern, can be Mid Side, X-Y, ORTF, etc...) and place it about 6-8 feet out at probably 6-8 feet high. Use the position to compensate for balance between solo and accompaniment and presence.

If there is one thng I wouldn't do, it is place a mic anywhere near that close to an opera singer. The sound they create up close is not the sound in the room. A mic that is too close will not give you a good representation of what the singer is capable of doing. Even when I'm spotting singers as classical soloists, I won't go closer than about 3 feet and I position it at about chest high aiming towards the mouth. The purpose of those mics, however, are a touch up. The main sound is coming from the main stereo pair, not that spot mic.

Oh, and regarding placement, they'll want to stand wherever the accompanying instrument is. Most singers stand in the curve of a grand piano. Don't ask them to stand elsewhere as they won't be used to it and they'll give a performance of lesser quality.

--Ben
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Old March 4th, 2011, 02:36 PM   #4
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Re: Recording an opera singer

The audio is going to be the key to the success of this job. Find out what the opera singer is going to sing and search out a recording of the same piece hopefully by a reknown performer .. of course it won't be the same but at least it's a starting off point. Note the accoustics of the hall.

Also, is this your clients first recording, is it for a demo for them, will they be nervous .. all this comes into it.

It might be a good idea to film in a hall of their choice, maybe where they perform. Get a dual sound system with a good condenser mic. Rent one or is there a sound guy you could prevail on, because if it's a demo, they maybe a huge dynamic range in the piece and your mic might not cope with it.

One thing I've found, opera singers can't do repeat takes, they see a recording as a concert performance where they pump themselves up and do everything once .. so you might need 2 sessions. HTH.

Cheers.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 05:16 PM   #5
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Positioning the microphone

I have worked for some time in a classical recording studio that did a lot of vocal recordings (voice + piano, voice + chamber orchestra, voice + large orchestra). Several different audio engineers worked in the studio, and they all placed the microphone around the same place. It was about 1-1.5m (3-5ft) away from the singer, around 30cm (1ft) higher than the top of their head. None of them ever used pop filters. They always used U-87 (Neumann).
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Old March 4th, 2011, 08:07 PM   #6
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Two mics in the same location (to avoid phase issues) but at different gain levels will provide you with choices... mic A at optimal settings, and mic B set lower in case the singer starts overloading mic A.

I would also agree with not getting too close, and personally I would be thinking Omni directional condenser.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 09:06 PM   #7
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Ben you have what, a couple decades experience recording live sound ?

With all due respect to the other posters here, Ben's the guy who knows what he's talking about.

I'll take the liberty of posting the short bio from his site.

"Benjamin A. Maas, head engineer, has many years of experience in the recording industry. His start was at the Eastman School of Music, where he recorded numerous performances of students and school ensembles including the famed Eastman Wind Ensemble. Early on, he also rose to the position of Head Engineer for the Eastern Music Festival where he produced tapes for national broadcast on National Public Radio. Recently he has acted as the Head Engineer for the Henry Mancini Institute and as an engineer for numerous performances by local professional groups. Here in Los Angeles, he has regular broadcast credits several radio stations, including KMZT (formerly KKGO), KUSC, KLON, KPFK, and NPR. He has also done work on projects that have been released on labels such as Albany, Klavier, and RCM"
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Old March 4th, 2011, 10:31 PM   #8
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Of course, he could just ask the artist concerned what they want, 'cos they've probably got it pretty well sussed themselves.

From hearsay, they tend to be pretty picky with their performances and the layout and micing of same.

Just a thought.


CS
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Old March 4th, 2011, 10:39 PM   #9
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Re: Recording an opera singer

The only other decent mic I own is a Senn K6/ME66. Dunno how well that'd work with an Oktava.
I'll be recording to a Tascam DR100.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 10:57 PM   #10
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
Of course, he could just ask the artist concerned what they want, 'cos they've probably got it pretty well sussed themselves.

From hearsay, they tend to be pretty picky with their performances and the layout and micing of same.

Just a thought.


CS
Actually not so much. These are 17 and 18 yearolds trying to get into Julliard and Curtis and they don't want the DVD to seem "Over produced". And they aren't thinking about cameras or mics, they're listening to the voice coach standing on the sidelines.

I've taped them before, I have found what Rick says to be true, that opera singers can get LOUD, fast, you think your levels are cool then BANG! They shift in to overdrive and peel the wallpaper off the wall. Epic clipping.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 12:27 PM   #11
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Kirk- thanks for the props... I've got probably between 15 and 20 years of recording classical music. Of those years, more than 10 working at the highest level.

Anyways, I do probably 50+ college audtion tapes per year, of them 20-30 probably involve video. I can tell you exactly what the colleges will expect.

High quality stereo audio recording. To do this, follow the guidelines that I suggested earlier. The exact format you use is pretty open, but it really does need to be a stereo pickup of the performance out in the hall. Do not place any microphones too close to the performers. This is the exact opposite of the sound the colleges will be looking for.

The framing of the shot is of limited importance- rather what is important is that the shot is static. It must not move at all. This is a non-negotiable fact that can disqualify the applicant from their admission- just like using more than one camera will disqualify the student. The whole purpose of the audition DVD or downloadable file is to deal with the huge amount of editing that tends to happen in audition CDs these days. The expectation of the CDs I produce is usually that they will get the same production treatment as a commercial CD. It isn't just the students that expect this, but many of their teachers as well. The limited ability of editing a single camera shot is what they are looking for. You may want to check the guidelines as well. Some of the schools out there are also requiring an analog clock with a sweepable second hand to be in the frame as well.

When I'm framing my shots, I go for a good shot of the student- center frame, nothing artistic. If the pianist cannot be seen, it isn't a big deal as this is not about the pianist. I usually make sure that from knees or so to just over the performers head is easily seen so that the teacher that is going to judge can see any bad habbits or good practices the potential student shows.

Likewise, whether you can see a microphone stand in the shot is completely secondary as well. Sound quality is of top importance, a static single camera shot is of very close or equal importance, and being able to see the applicant well is the next most important thing. All else is secondary.

--Ben
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Old March 6th, 2011, 09:29 PM   #12
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Re: Recording an opera singer

you know mic rentals are dirt cheap... you can get a matched pair of whatever you need like a couple CMC64's
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Old March 12th, 2011, 02:28 AM   #13
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Maas View Post
Can you get a pair of mics? I would assume that this opera singer will not be going solo- rather there will be a piano or something like that accompanying.

I would start at a pair of mic (choose your pattern, can be Mid Side, X-Y, ORTF, etc...) and place it about 6-8 feet out at probably 6-8 feet high. Use the position to compensate for balance between solo and accompaniment and presence.
Instead of relying on my single Oktava 012, I think I'm going to have to pull the trigger on a mic pair. These audition dvd's are by no means cash cows and I can't justify a gold standard rig. Nor a silver standard, I'm thinking bronze standard, with a few rust spots.
I'm considering some of these mics:
-Rode NT5 $400
-Samson O2 $150
-another Oktava (my current one came from soundroom and has the hyper and cardiod caps; presumably a second Oktava wouldn't match, would this be a critical issue?; or could I get away with merely buying a second Oktava preamp body only and mix the hyper and cardiod capsules together)
-CAD CM17 somehow these have good reviews, but how good can a $25 mic be?
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Old March 12th, 2011, 11:03 PM   #14
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Re: Recording an opera singer

Personally I wouldn't mix different patterns - unless one were a figure 8 for a mid/side setup. I rather like M/S for most things and having one mic body with a figure 8 and another body with a few different capsules gives you a lot of flexibility.

It also means you don't have to worry about how well matched two cardioid or whatever are, but not sure how much of an issue it would really be to not use a "matched" pair. I guess it depends on the maker - if they have good manufacturing practices, I think you'd be happy with any two capsules, but if they are a bit sloppy, then it might be another story. I have no experience with the Oktavas, but have heard that they are not the most consistent manufacturer around.
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