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Old August 26th, 2012, 07:43 PM   #1
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How much applause to retain in recording?

Just recently I made a video of a girls choir performance (read: lots of high note voices) and tried to do it somewhat incognito. I set up to the side of the building with a tripod, camera, and a ME-66 short shotgun mic.

This was a large room, say 30 to 40 feet wide, high ceilings, and perhaps 70 to 80 feet long. My location was next to the first row of seats about 3 or 4 feet away, and say, 25 feet from the middle of the Choir. It would have been nice to have a mic much closer to the Choir but this was not possible.

The audio results were probably predictable - a fair amount of low db volume accented with some high spikes depending on the song, and then really spiked with the applause because of everybody sitting close to me. The applause definitely went up over 0db but I didn't want to adjust the gain (used a JuicedLink pre) based on the applause level.

In post (using Final Cut Pro X) I easily adjusted the applause levels downward to be under 0db and frankly, in this situation, it was the Choir music I wanted to capture whereas the applause is basically just a lot of loud noise and not significantly important when compared to the Choir.

In hindsight I guess I could have adjusted the preamp down in anticipation of the beginning and the ending of the applause

Question: How important is the applause audio in the case of a musical event? My thinking, as you can probably tell, is it's pretty much just a lot of noise so it isn't all that critical.
Are there any views to the contrary?
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Old August 26th, 2012, 08:21 PM   #2
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Re: Help with audio decision

If the applause sounds really bad, it does become important. If it worries you find the best sounding applause and replace the bad ones.

You know what I'd do? Get in touch with the choir master and offer to shoot a rehearsal and provide them with some DVDs at minimum cost so they can sell them to cover some costs.

But go and see where and what the hall or room sounds like first, that way you can position the camera and get a better sound recorder
and mic in front of the girls and get a decent recording.

Cheers.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 12:38 PM   #3
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Hi John,

IMO the applause for live performances is pretty important. It helps to capture the energy of the live performance that you would otherwise not get.

A couple of things from your post. The ME66 is probably one of the less desirable mics to use in this situation. It is thinner than other mics and doesn't do well indoors, especially in the situation you were in where reflective noise will be a problem. It sounds like the applause peaked over 0dB so along with the characteristics of the mic it probably sounds very muddy and it may additionally be distorting. The ME66 also probably didn't help the higher pitched voices of the girls either.

For live events, if I have very limited space for setting up mics, I will use two small diaphragm cardiod mics (something like the Rode NT5's) mounted on stands above and next to my camera. I get them high enough so that I don't get too much of the audience noise closest to me but not too high. I'll set those mic levels for the peaks in the signing. Then I'll stick one small hand held recorder (Sony PCM-D50) low in front of the stage. I point this so the mics are pointing straight up or slightly toward the audience and set the levels so that they don't go over 0dB for the loudest applause. It also helps that the D50 has some of the best limiters around. Then, in post I mix the D50 applause in and drop out the applause from the NT5's. If I have the ability to do a full setup I'd hang mics down in front of the choir to pick them up but usually this isn't an option.

I want to pick up and mix in as appropriate, audience reactions and noises as this just makes the video feel more authentic.

As with everything there are several ways to do it and a million opinions. This is just mine.
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Last edited by Garrett Low; August 27th, 2012 at 06:56 PM.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 04:46 PM   #4
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

This doesn't seem to be a question about applause as much as it is about the selection and location of the recording microphone(s).

The microphone(s) were clearly both too far away from the source, AND poorly positioned (off-center for stereo). Recording from inside the audience is guaranteed to produce a poor ratio of performance to applause. This is an excellent illustration of what not to do.

As for including applause, that depends on a great many factors not in evidence here. And sometimes you don't get the choice when the applause starts before the last chord is complete.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 06:30 PM   #5
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Adding to Richard's comment, IMHO a single shotgun like the ME66 is a poor choice for recording a choral group, even when positioned front and centre. The pattern is far too narrow to properly cover a spread-out source such as a choir on stage. If recording mono a cardioid positioned in the centre so as to cover the group evenly would be a good starting point.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 07:18 PM   #6
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

If there's no music then I agree, overdub some good applause and compress the bits you don't have time to deal with. I've seen live performances where the applause was totally cut out because I could see people clapping but didn't hear a thing. Let the video and mood dictate how you manage the audio. GL
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Old August 28th, 2012, 01:37 AM   #7
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

After reading the replies an old saying comes to mind that I came across written in stained glass on the front door of a Hofbrau in San Jose, California. Translated it goes something like this: "To soon we get old and To late we get smart." Then there is the learning via the road of hard knocks. Both of these seem to fit here.

Okay. Looking back there are probably some things that I should have mentioned in my original post that would have added:
1. a couple other mics I had available but didn't use are the Sennheiser ME-64 cardioid and a Rode stereo VideoMic. I chose the ME-66 because of my distance from the choir and because the room was quite large although the surfaces were, what, live?

2. There were a couple videos I'd posted to get information for editing purposes and I had forgotten about them but here are the URLs:
Harmony
Bells 1

3. Disclaimer: This was a non-commercial venture and I was just recording them for family. As it turned out there was only one other person making a video and she was a senior high school student with an interesting setup cobbled together.

For what it's worth, the videos were recorded in 1440CBR

There are a lot of other issues that a professional could bring up: I don't have a white-balance card being one so color is "what you see is what you get" at this point. A white-balance card is on my to-buy list. Ditto a light meter. I've do have an old Weston Master V if anyone knows what that is.

Speaking of mics and a to-buy list, I'm discovering that mics are somewhat analogues to wrenches in a mechanics tool box and one size does not fit all. I've got some other video projects I want to work on and they include videos of someone playing a piano (upright and a grand) and playing an accordion. Another is some sailing videos. I'll be looking for input suggestions in these areas but that's a subject for two more posts.

Moving along.

Alan Black: The idea about talking to the choir master is excellent. After I get this all edited I'll give him a DVD or BD and that should give me an opportunity to talk about following performances. This particular one was just a Summer Camp so it wasn't one of their concert hall presentations. I'm mot sure how to handle getting a mic in front of the group because of the floor traffic and the different group layouts.

As for the sound recorder, I don't have one. I do have an early M-Audio Pre that the former owner used with a recorder then mixed the audio to the video. I've never done that and it sounds daunting but if that's what it takes I'm willing to put that on my growing list of things to learn.

Garrett Low: "The applause is pretty important": I think I'm beginning to get the message now! and the reasoning was good. The mic choice was because I was so far back and trying to stay incognito as I was a guest. I thought (hoping) the size of the room would help to bail me out of the reflection part.
"It sounds like the applause peaked over 0dB ": That's an understatement. It was more or less red-lined. I don't remember if the videos I posted were original file 'footate' or post where I lowered the sound level, but the original file material was definitely up there.

Perhaps another point I'd like to make is that although I've had the camera for over a year now I'm more or less just getting started with video. The file type is *.tod and just this spring I bought an application to convert it. The next step was getting Final Cut Pro X a few months ago so I'm still trying to get everything together. This is the very first video I took using a tripod if that says anything.

It'll take a bit to digest the section you wrote about how you would handle the setup but my cardioid mic would help there. Public Radio always makes extensive use of background noise in their programming and you're correct, it does add.
"As with everything there are several ways to do it and a million opinions." I'm with you on that but sometimes on these forums there are little wars created. Disagreements are okay if they are toned down.

Richard Crowley: Yes, I'm getting the message. The position or location is something I really didn't have a choice on and this was about as good as it got. I arrived early to get the best seat I could without blocking the view of others in the audience. Next time, though, I'll try to get an okay for a better location or even running cables. Here, though, I doubt they would okay the cables.
"This is an excellent illustration of what not to do." Ouch! And I understand.
" And sometimes you don't get the choice when the applause starts before the last chord is complete.": Yes, and sometimes the applause happens DURING the performance. I have a good example of that one.

Steve House: "If recording mono a cardioid positioned in the centre so as to cover the group evenly would be a good starting point." And I was recording monoral. I'd like to progress to stereo. Maybe the Rode Stereo VideoMic be a better choice then?

Kawika Ohumukini: Yes, seeing clapping in the video but not hearing it doesn't sound like a good idea.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 05:04 AM   #8
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Nantz View Post
Question: How important is the applause audio in the case of a musical event? My thinking, as you can probably tell, is it's pretty much just a lot of noise so it isn't all that critical.
Are there any views to the contrary?
Applause is very important, if not vital, in a live recording as it captures the energy of the event.

How much you leave in depends in what the your customer asks for.

I normally like to trim the length of the applause so that is won't become tedious if you listen to the recording again and again.

I normally do a long cross-fade in the middle of the applause so it sounds natural, just fading out the applause early does not sound so good.

Sometimes I remove some applause completely - what I want to do is to let the recording flow as if it is a live event, but without letting the applause dominate too much.

Though I did have one performer who insisted I left in every single clap of his applause....
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Old August 28th, 2012, 06:38 AM   #9
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Nantz View Post
...

There are a lot of other issues that a professional could bring up: I don't have a white-balance card being one so color is "what you see is what you get" at this point. A white-balance card is on my to-buy list. Ditto a light meter. I've do have an old Weston Master V if anyone knows what that is.
First meter I ever owned was a Weston V, way back in the late 60's. Wish I still had it! And you can white balance on any neutral light to middle grey, you don't need to buy a special card
Quote:
... I arrived early to get the best seat I could without blocking the view of others in the audience. Next time, though, I'll try to get an okay for a better location or even running cables. Here, though, I doubt they would okay the cables.
Wide gaffer's tape is your best friend in such a situation - tape the cable down to the floor for its run. Be sure to use real gaffer's tape, NOT duct tape - they look alike but the glues are different.
Quote:
...
Steve House: "If recording mono a cardioid positioned in the centre so as to cover the group evenly would be a good starting point." And I was recording monoral. I'd like to progress to stereo. Maybe the Rode Stereo VideoMic be a better choice then?
...
Given your options I probably would have gone with the Rode to better cover the group evenly. I would have used a pair of cardioids in an X/Y stereo arrangement positioned 'front-row-center' Actually, looking at your first 'Harmony" video, a stereo pair placed right about where the conductor's music stand is positioned would be a good starting point. LOL
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Old August 28th, 2012, 09:44 AM   #10
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Nantz View Post
There are a lot of other issues that a professional could bring up: I don't have a white-balance card being one so color is "what you see is what you get" at this point. A white-balance card is on my to-buy list. Ditto a light meter. I've do have an old Weston Master V if anyone knows what that is.
I've never owned a white balance card in 14 years as a pro. A GOOD white piece of paper is enough for anything but the most critical of situations. Placement OF said white reference is FAR more important.

Light meters are only of use for scouting locations and for actively lighting a location. Use the tools your camera gives you (zebra, histogram, scopes(!!!)) for exposure.

An OLD light meter loses its accuracy due to the nature of the sensitivity of the light sensor over time. As much as this pains me to say, I use my ten year old Sekonic 100% of the time versus my LunaSix which is at least 2 decades older. For comparing lighting RATIOS, I'm sure the older meter would be fine but to find out what ambient light is during scouts, I'll take the Sekonic EVERY time.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 10:03 AM   #11
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Nantz View Post
The position or location is something I really didn't have a choice on and this was about as good as it got. I arrived early to get the best seat I could without blocking the view of others in the audience. Next time, though, I'll try to get an okay for a better location or even running cables. Here, though, I doubt they would okay the cables.
It is virtually NEVER the case that you can get an even half-way decent recording from the audience. If you can't get the right mics into the right location, I seriously question whether it is even worth doing at all.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 10:41 AM   #12
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

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Originally Posted by Richard Crowley View Post
If you can't get the right mics into the right location, I seriously question whether it is even worth doing at all.
I consider that a LITTLE harsh. I think a more accurate statement of how I see this no-win situation is: "If I don't/can't control the things I need to in order to provide PROFESSIONAL results, I may pass as my reputation is on the line"

I'm sure the parents that didn't bring camcorders will be happy that they have SOMETHING available. The question is whether the organizers "sold" the idea as "we are having a professional video crew come in to record this at a level higher than you ever could so sit back and enjoy the show and buy our Paramount Pictures quality DVD instead!"

(Hyperbole, of course, but I have seen performing arts groups use SIMILAR ridiculous promises in order to try and drive video sales)
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Old August 28th, 2012, 11:34 AM   #13
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Perhaps my POV has changed over the years. I grew weary of fighting "artistes" and other assorted fools who knew nothing about audio trying to dictate microphone positions to me. If I don't have buy-in and cooperation from all involved, I just wish them good luck and move on. I just don't have the time or patience for that kind of foolishness any more.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 11:54 AM   #14
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Re: How much applause to retain in recording?

Don't get me wrong, Richard. I feel your pain. I was just suggesting that some family and friends may in fact benefit regardless of the overall quality BUT that our reputations are ALWAYS on the line. A difficult situation to be sure.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 01:59 PM   #15
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Re (Allan Black): Sound Recorder

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Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post

But go and see where and what the hall or room sounds like first, that way you can position the camera and get a better sound recorder and mic in front of the girls and get a decent recording.
Earlier I mentioned that the person I bought the ME-66 from had this M-Audio Pre in the package. This was about two years ago and I've yet to use it. It's an older model but looks like a decent component module to add a recorder to.

The next step, recording audio to a separate file, will take a lot of research and learning though. Here is either a link or a picture of it (depending on what DVinfo gives):

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/members/...me-point.html?

I'd be curious what kind of recorder to use with it though. This seems like it would be a lot of work to match the audio with the video. I've seen some pretty interesting digital clap boards.
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