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Old March 9th, 2012, 07:00 PM   #1
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Soundboard Pre Mix

So, i filmed a performance recently and couldn't hear how poor the mix was coming off of the soundboard during the recording.
I'm having a hard time mixing in the room mic in post to get a good sound, like i normally do.

My questions are:
Do most boards have a pre mix out? Is that a better/preferred option in smaller rooms that have a lopsided mix?
I understand that some boards can have a second mix . . . is that a major problem for the operator and is that a better option than a premix out? (understanding that it is too much to ask the operator to monitor a second mix during the performance).
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Old March 9th, 2012, 10:01 PM   #2
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

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Originally Posted by Mark Ahrens View Post
So, i filmed a performance recently and couldn't hear how poor the mix was coming off of the soundboard during the recording.
I'm having a hard time mixing in the room mic in post to get a good sound, like i normally do.

My questions are:
Do most boards have a pre mix out? Is that a better/preferred option in smaller rooms that have a lopsided mix?
I understand that some boards can have a second mix . . . is that a major problem for the operator and is that a better option than a premix out? (understanding that it is too much to ask the operator to monitor a second mix during the performance).
I have assumed that the mix that was being done was to achieve the best for for the audience, often people take a mix of the console and expect a "perfect" broadcast mix. Most front of house mixes are exactly that... "for front of house" and are there for "sound reinforcement" of the things occurring on the stage, if that's the case it will NOT be a full and complete mix.
Most desks can / could be able to deliver other variations of a mix if the operator is aware of what you want and they are capable of doing it, If that is what you want talk to them, days in advance so they can configure the desk to your needs, don't just turn up with 1/2 hour before the performance and expect them to reconfigure the console. Be aware you have just doubled the operators work and doubled to room for errors .... and you want them to do it for free and out of the goodness of their hearts.....right? And you wonder why they might not be happy with your request.
To do it properly mic everything, split every mic one feed going to the FOH mixer and the other feed going to the audio mixer (for video shoot), bigger events will also have an additional split for artist fold-back.

Last edited by Brian P. Reynolds; March 10th, 2012 at 03:09 AM.
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Old March 10th, 2012, 08:53 AM   #3
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

It really is a big burden on the FOH sound man, and is often something he can't realistically provide.

I've been in situations where I was running FOH in a 2000+ seat auditorium. Obviously I'm listening with my ears live to the room sound. I can't keep putting on headphones and listening to a recording feed at the same time... that would divert from my main (paid) job of providing a good mix for the house. I'm not going to compromise the job I'm supposed to be doing, because of a job someone else hopes I can do to help him out.

You might get away with it in a very simplistic situation (e.g. a very small number of performers, not moving around on the stage, and hopefully not playing at ear-splitting levels). Otherwise, as Brian points out, you really need two (or three) mixing boards and two (or three) operators, each dedicated to one specific task.
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Old March 10th, 2012, 10:13 AM   #4
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Except for trivial situations, it is for all practical purposes IMPOSSIBLE for a single person (no matter how skilled) to do a good FOH mix AND CONCURRENTLY a good recording mix. The requirements are substantially different, and monitoring the results properly are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

That is why we typically use a duplicate mixing console with all the same input sources available to create a "recording mix". Furthermore, almost always we need ADDITIONAL sources (microphones, etc.) to create a reasonable mix suitable for an audience that isn't sitting in the venue for the live event.

Unless it is something simple like a lecture, etc. it is unreasonable to expect the FOH person to provide you a decent recording mix.
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Old March 10th, 2012, 10:39 AM   #5
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

If you have time for trial and error sound checks and playbacks, sometimes a 'usable' mix may be had using the board's pre-fader (or post-fader) Aux. sends. Of course there's many variables and caveats. Live mics should be available as well on separate tracks.
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Old March 11th, 2012, 01:26 PM   #6
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

In smaller/simpler shows, it's been my experience that it's possible for a single person to create two mixes. However, many live sound engineers just aren't that familiar with what's needed for a recording mix. Those who've had some formal education are familiar, but, especially in smaller venues, you run into a lot of soundies who can't easily set up gain structures for a recording mix, much less manage two simultaneous mixes.

In a loud venue, like a club, you can't really do a separate mix on headphones because there's a lot of leakage of the direct sound into your cans.

Recommendations above for a split and dedicated 2nd mixer and recording engineer are good, but often not possible for reasons of money, time, and the scale of the project. But, they are often the best way!

OTOH, in Portland, I can rent a 24 track recorder for $75/day. With some prearrangement with the FOH engineer, I can get an unmixed feed for each board channel. Take his FOH mix too, and add a preamp and an audience mic. This has worked well for me - I'm something of a soundie myself, and have worked out post syncing & etc.

The cheep and fast method is to get a stereo mic in just the right spot to hear a good mix off the stage and PA. Of course, that frequently is impossible with a mic stand, because it might be right in the middle of audience or dancers. Even then, it can be worth the time for a ceiling rig.

In making choices about approaches, much depends on who is sponsoring the recording and how important it is to them. Will they block off seats for you? Allow budget for dedicated mixer, engineer and split? Access for rigging? Call (and pay) the FOH engineer a couple hours early to help?
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Old March 11th, 2012, 03:46 PM   #7
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Seth, those all sound like good suggestions. Absolutely the best option is to rent (or own) the multi-track and record every channel separately, then do a mix at your leisure in post.

I have tried finding the "right spot" for a stereo mic. In theory that should work. In practice, I've run into two issues.

First, people often expect to hear vocals sounding as if they were close-miced. I have never successfully found a spot anywhere in the house, where room sound has a close-miced sound to it. So, try as I may, I always end up with a recording that sounds as if it was "recorded in the room" (however accurate it may be) and not "studio-like" or "broadcast-like" close micing.

Second, our brains do a lot of processing to what our ears pick up. You can demonstrate this by having someone stand 30 feet away from you in a fairly live room, and speaking. When you listen with both ears, your brain does some amazing time/phase processing, and the speaker will be quite intelligible. If you plug one ear (with your thumb, an earplug, etc.) then you will suddenly hear a lot more of the room reverberation and echo, and the speech will sound much more distant and the intelligibility will suffer.

The relevance of the second point is that, when you walk around the room and try to find the "perfect spot" for your mic, your brain is doing a lot of processing to the signal from your ears. If you put your mic there, and later play back the recording on speakers, you will hear a lot more "room" and the recording will sound muddy and reverberant, compared to what you expected. (Indeed, if place a binaural pair of mics in that "perfect spot" and then playback over headphones, it will sound exceedingly realistic. But that recording won't do you much good in a conventional mix intended for loudspeaker playback.)

So, in fact, when looking for the "perfect spot" I often walk around with my thumb in my ear. I end up closer to the sound source (stage or speakers as the case may be) but the recording tends to be better. Still, the first point (above) applies, and vocals still sound distant, and lack clarity and presence, compared to that close-miced "broadcast" or "studio" sound that people want.

Yeah, I'll second the suggestion for a multi-track recorder and mixdown in post.
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Old March 11th, 2012, 04:42 PM   #8
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Best method - mic splits, dedicated desk with each source recorded separately. Standard practice for broadcast of a live event. Downside - expense and needs multiple staff, and somewhere to be able to hear what you are recording. Almost impossible if the event is loud.

Anything else is compromise, and unless you can hear what you are recording, it's fingers crossed until you get to the edit.

I have to stand with everyone who says the board op is there for room sound. No way do they have the time, or the isolation to be able to make recording decisions in a live environment. They also are getting paid to provide the service. If people want a dedicated mix, which most mixers could physically do - are they getting extra? It is possible to create a separate mix for video - but it means an extra person - and space is obviously tricky if two people are trying to use one space for two jobs.

It is possible to run a multi-track from the desk = something we do reasonably often, but it means some compromises. The sharing of the pre-amp means that the live sound op cannot change the pre-amp gain during the show as this impacts on the recording. A proper split at the stage end and two mixers solves this one, of course.
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Old March 11th, 2012, 04:43 PM   #9
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
...people often expect to hear vocals sounding as if they were close-miced. I have never successfully found a spot anywhere in the house, where room sound has a close-miced sound to it. So, try as I may, I always end up with a recording that sounds as if it was "recorded in the room" (however accurate it may be) and not "studio-like" or "broadcast-like" close micing...
I agree 100% with Greg's observation here, I meant to include something like "this method will usually produce a recording that has more indirect sound than we might want."

So much depends on the room! A club doesn't *have* to be a reverberant echo chamber, but frequently is just that.

I started to get into what a producer's role might include in making these decisions. Greg's observation points out that usually we're trying to balance three factors:
1. Cheap
2. Fast
3. Good

Most often we only get to have two of them. That's an oversimplification, perhaps, but there's more than a little truth to it.

I'd reframe Paul's comment: "Anything else is compromise...", to, "It's all a compromise!" Even with a split before the FOH preamps, we're adding more pieces, more labor, more time, more potential points of failure. But, yes, I agree that when we can support that approach, it's best. Better include a backup recorder, too, because they can be flakey!
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Old March 11th, 2012, 09:04 PM   #10
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Remember also, whether doing the "recording" mix live, or multi-tracking and mixing down in post-production, except in rare circumstances, you will need additional ambient microphones to pick up things that aren't comprehended in the FOH mix. At minimum, an audience/ambience mic/track (or two). And maybe several others depending on the source(s) of the sounds of interest.
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Old March 16th, 2012, 10:54 PM   #11
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

I am taking a class in Live Sound right now and we're taught that a separate recording mixer is always needed, as everyone has said in this thread.

But one solution that I think is a good compromise is to close-mic a speaker cabinet on or near the stage. I learned this from the wedding pros. Only requires a single dynamic mic, or two for stereo. You can even use a video mic like the RE50 or 635 if you already have one.

That way you get the close-miced sound of the vocals from the speakers, plus the drums and other less-amplified instruments get captured in roughly the same ratios as the audience would hear.

It's not perfect in that you do get some room reflections and the degradation of an "unnecessary" roundtrip from electrical to acoustic energy, but it's quick to set up. Because it requires little to no attention it's much more reliable than depending on the FOH mix.

I'm still working out how to place such a mic unobtrusively but stably. I've heard of wedding guys using drum mic clamps to clamp a mic onto the speaker, but modern speakers often don't have lips to clamp onto. Obviously one could use a low boom mic stand like musicians typically use for micing bass cabinets, but that seems visually distracting and unstable if there are standing audience members nearby.

What I'm now thinking is to try a heavy desk stand for floor speakers. Atlas makes one designed for micing kick drums. For stand-mounted speakers some kind of huge rubber band or velcro strap (with padding to prevent the mic from rattling against the speaker) seems like it might be the least obtrusive solution.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 12:40 AM   #12
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Putting a mic infront of a PA speaker box should be regarded as desperation audio...
It's like using a piece of string to hold your trousers up, yes it works but it's not the best way to go about it.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 01:18 AM   #13
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

Desperation audio is a pretty strong term for something that's more reliable than the alternatives, but I would agree this is more for documentary type work than music quality.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 04:51 AM   #14
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

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Originally Posted by Tom Morrow View Post
But one solution that I think is a good compromise is to close-mic a speaker cabinet on or near the stage. (snip) That way you get the close-miced sound of the vocals from the speakers
Actually, what you get is the close-miced sound of PA speakers, which are reproducing everything in the mix; not a close-miced sound of the vocals. And if they're typical PA speakers, this will sound significantly different from the actual close-miced sound of the performers.

It's much more difficult to make accurate transducers than to make accurate electronics. Of all the transducers, high-level loudspeakers are perhaps the most difficult to make accurate. And PA people (with the exception of the Grateful Dead's "wall of speakers") are always making some sort of compromise. Consider, too, that speakers have multiple drivers, covering different parts of the frequency range, with varying phase and timing errors related to crossover design and cabinet construction; that makes it almost impossible to find the exact location where the sound reaching the mic will have good frequency and phase response.

Now add into the equation the fact that a lot of PA operators use really bad EQ, or over-drive the power amps and add an audible amount of distortion to the signal. Take the sum of all these unknowns, and muddy it up by running it through a set of (often marginal) PA speakers.

Nope, IMHO that will sound like a recording of PA speakers. (There's a good example of this, in another thread in this forum... someone claiming to have close-miced wedding participants, while playback of his demo video reveals that he actually has a recording of PA speakers... some of it apparently made with an on-camera mic. It is not pretty.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Morrow
For stand-mounted speakers some kind of huge rubber band or velcro strap (with padding to prevent the mic from rattling against the speaker) seems like it might be the least obtrusive solution.
And which one of the drivers did you want to record? The woofer? The midrange horn? The tweeter? The drivers can be several inches to several feet apart; in some big touring rigs they can even be in separate (stacked) cabinets. This idea will only make a marginal sound into a truly terrible sound.
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Old March 17th, 2012, 07:20 PM   #15
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Re: Soundboard Pre Mix

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Originally Posted by Tom Morrow View Post
Desperation audio is a pretty strong term for something that's more reliable than the alternatives, but I would agree this is more for documentary type work than music quality.
Not at all... Desperation Audio is absolutely what I mean, I don't want people to read this forum and think putting a mic in front of a speaker is even remotely an acceptable practice.
Many people have gone down the DSLR path for the quality pictures it can deliver, yet good audio practices are seeming to be ignored.
There are so many times recently have I seen interviews at events being done with a DSLR with just a mic on top of the camera about a metre away from the person being interviewed (and often in a noisy environment), the physics of sound just don't change, the results will be just awful.

I am self employed as a freelance sound engineer doing most of my work for Broadcasting Networks its interesting to see the number of new people coming into the industry that have done their education at institutions that accept poor audio as normal on video shoots, it then becomes a very steep learning curve to get the material they shoot up to acceptable broadcast standards.

I thought the role of a forum like this is to educate, inform, inspire and improve those interested in the subject.

Last edited by Brian P. Reynolds; March 17th, 2012 at 07:59 PM.
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