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Old March 27th, 2013, 07:52 PM   #1
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Best way to record dance recital audio

I have a Sony PMW EX1R camera and a Rode NT4 stereo mic which I have mounted on the camera and connected via XLR inputs. Last year I recorded a dance recital. I was at the back of the auditorium with the camera on a tripod which I had extended pretty high and I stood on a platform. The sound recorded from the mic was very good and I am happy with it. The problem is that since I am at the back of the auditorium, during quiet times (the beginning of a low song or someone just talking on stage) sometimes the mic would pick up people talking in the audience that were near me. Overall, this did not cause much problem and it was not very noticable.

But for this year I wanted to see if I could imporve this problem. I though about getting long XLR cables and mounted the mic high above me (there is a lighting booth above me) or having the camera on a stand right in front of the stage with the XLR cables extending back to the camera. Or, I thought about getting a separate recorder like the Zoom H4n and keeping that near the stage. Except then I wouldn't be able to monitor the sound levels or sync it with the camera.

Since I am a one man show here and have to handle everything myself, I was wondering if anyone had any other suggestions.

Thank you.
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Old March 27th, 2013, 09:14 PM   #2
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Can you please describe exactly what audio you want to capture?
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Old March 27th, 2013, 09:24 PM   #3
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

It's a dance show so most of it is music playing while they dance. A few numbers are tap dance numbers and they have microphones on stage to help make the taps louder. And at a few points in the show someone does a little talking.

So mostly, I am just capturing the music they are playing over the speakers. And at a few points, the person talking on stage (in a microphone which is broadcast over the same speakers).

They have 2 speakers (one on each side of the stage) that face out into the audience and broadcast the music/talking.

Thank you.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 12:02 AM   #4
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

I have been recording dance recital audio the same as you with good results, except as you say too many folks cough, clear throats and talk between acts. I got a feed from the sound board once which sounded ok but it was a pain to use the room sound for applause which still had coughing and talking. Also as you pointed out the stage is miced for the tap. I have one recital that does not have the stage miced and they mentioned not hearing the tap so last year I placed an Iriver recorder on the stage and one in front of the stage for audience response and used a CD they had of the entire show for the main audio, worked real well just a lot of extra time to align and fade the audio tracks in and out.
I am always looking for a better way to record recital audio also.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 01:38 AM   #5
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

I don't mean to come off as snarky, but the "best" way would be to have all the equipment and personnel necessary to do the job well, i.e. hire a "sound guy". Your question might be better put: "best way ...with [these] resources...". (I know you get to that in your post, but there are so many ?'s posted here that start out "best way to...???" that some folks won't even read them because the answer is either buried somewhere in this forum or may simply be "there IS no 'best way' to do anything"). If it happens to be a real seasoned veteran who ignores your post, then you've lost input from someone who may have an easy solution.

Is your equipment limited to the "...Sony PMW EX1R camera and a Rode NT4 stereo mic..."? (Perhaps along with a few long XLR cables). If that's all that's available to you, I'd try hard to get an audio feed from the house and buy/beg/borrow whatever extra XLR cables/adapters you need to get it. (I once bought 4 XLR cables at 50' each for one job, and have barely needed/used them since. I also bought a 50' snake in anticipation of a job that changed near the last minute and ended up never using it. Those experiences taught me to think hard about alternative approaches).

One of the Zoom products or James' suggestions could work, but then there's all that extra work of syncing later on. (And that's presuming you can get a CD to work with).

On rare occasions I've found myself with neither house feed, nor means or opportunity to use either a wireless or even wired mics close enough to the stage/on the talent. What I've done (and have heard that others do when pressed for audio), is position a shotgun near - and pointed at - one of the house speakers located near the camera.(I'm pretty sure I found that advice in an old thread in this forum). I even had to do that once with one of those built-in, ceiling-mounted speakers. As I recall, I used it on a stand with a gooseneck or boom and placed it about 1.5-2 ft from the speaker, and it was only about 8 feet from the camera/tripod, (though I was lucky that it was all speech and no music), and the customer thought the audio was fine. (And frankly, it turned out better than I expected). It doesn't have to be a shotgun, either. I believe I've found posts here that tell stories of some folks even using lavs. I used the shotgun for it's rejection, and made sure it was pointed away from the audience. I just didn't want an omni pattern.

Sometimes you can get away with doing that, particularly if the house sound levels aren't changing throughout the night. It might work with the Rode, but you'd lose any stereo effect.

An alternative would be to place a Zoom/Iriver or similar near a speaker, instead of the Rode, but, again, as you say, it could be difficult to monitor, and because neither of those have time-code, you may still have some syncing to do later on, if only due to drift over an hours-long production.

The only other thing that comes to mind would be to use some old piece of equipment like the last "handycam" you bought.(I still have a JVC "palmcorder-like" cam that records to mini-DV that I haven't used in years, and I suspect many others keep lower-end equipment instead of selling/junking it). Instead of buying a Zoom, could something like that be placed near a speaker (even with the lens cap on) to record only the audio? You'd still have to worry about changing tapes/recording medium, though.

That's the best I can offer. Hope it helps.

Good luck.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 02:46 AM   #6
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it. Yes I meant, best with the resources I have or wihtout having to spend alot more money. The sound levels do change a little since it is mostly music and some songs are louder than others, and there are a few instances with only speaking. This isn't a professional gig. I basically do it because I enjoy it and to help out a friend and he gives me a few bucks for recording and editing. So I'm just trying to do the best job I can because I'm a perfectionist and also to learn in case I decide to do more of these, perhaps for more money.

Right now I only have the one camera and one mic. I do have an old mini dv cam but that would be tough due to changing tapes, etc. I think I will try and raise the mic higher to be furrther away from the audience. And if I decide to get something like a zoom h4n (as I have been thinking about getting a second recording device at some point anyway) then I can position it closer to the stage as a second source and see how it comes out.

But I'm welcome to other suggestions or methods that other people use.

Thank you.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 10:06 AM   #7
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

A quick search of the forum turned up the thread below. While it's old, it describes what others do/have done. For capturing audio, there are only so many ways to do it, and, like everything else we do, it's more difficult on a limited budget.

Help with audio at Dance/School Play

Maybe it will help, or spark a new idea. Best of luck with the shoot.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 01:26 PM   #8
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Botta View Post
...
Right now I only have the one camera and one mic. I do have an old mini dv cam but that would be tough due to changing tapes, etc. I think I will try and raise the mic higher to be furrther away from the audience. And if I decide to get something like a zoom h4n (as I have been thinking about getting a second recording device at some point anyway) then I can position it closer to the stage as a second source and see how it comes out.

...
Thank you.
The problem you're having with your existing setup is caused in large part by the simple fact that when the mic is at the back of the audience, even if it IS raised over their heads, the volume of the sounds hitting the mic from noise in the audience is as loud (or louder) than that of the desired sounds arriving from the stage. The only way around it is to position the mic between the audience and the stage and to use directional mics that are positioned so as to put the audience in their nulls. Your Rode NT4 is a stereo mic made up of a pair of directional cardioid mics but where you've located it BOTH the stage and the audience are in its zone of maximum sensitivity. You've got to move it to where the stage is in front while the audience is behind it.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 03:00 PM   #9
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Thank you for the responses.

I am thinking of getting a Zoom H4N and placing this on a mic stand a little in front of the stage. This way the stereo mics of the H4N will be in front of the stage facing the speakers on each side of the stage, and the audience will be in the back.

I think if I do a sound check with loud music and set the H4N to that, I will hopefully be ok with no peaking, and at the lower volumes, if needed, I can raise the volume in post. Worst case I will have the audio form my Rode NT4, as I did last year, which worked out pretty well.

The audience is fairly quiet, most of the show is loud music, and I cut out the down times in between numbers, so audence noise is a minimum and during the lower sections I just raised the volume in post. But I think the H4N will hopefully work out a lot better, and I wanted an excuse to buy one anyway..lol.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 10:50 PM   #10
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Well, you did answer my question. The music is not live, it's playback through speakers.

IMHO if you try to record playback through speakers, and then ultimately play back THAT recording through speakers, you will end up being disappointed.

Get a feed from the house board, at line level. Feed that to some recorder that has line level inputs; or else worst case use a pad and lower the feed to mic level if that's the only thing your recorder will accept.

Then you can use your camera mic (or some other mic in the house) to record applause, and carefully mix that track up when needed, then mix it back down during the actual dance numbers.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 11:03 PM   #11
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Actually they have always used the camera mic (usually cheap minidv cameras in the past) to just record everything and then put that on vhs tape or burned to dvd and it was fine for their needs. This past year was the first year someone (me) had a professional camera and mic. And although I was in the back of the auditorium just recording everything live with my mic, the sound was vastly better and clearer than what they were used to. I just played with the levels to adjust during quieter times and louder times and it worked out pretty well. Audience was mostly quiet during the performances and the loud music drowned out any possible talking. I cut out all down time between dance numbers, etc.

But, I do agree it would probably be better to get a line feed from the mixer so if I get the H4N I am going to see if I can use the H4N mics to record sound right in front of the stage, use the other 2 inputs to see if I can get a line out of the mixer into it, and use my camera mic in the back as a backup and possibly for audience applause.

My only concern is I won't be up front to monitor the levels on the H4N, and it is not a pro working the mixer, so things may not work out well. But I think that is what I will try, and worst case, I will just have all the audio from my Rode NT4 on the camera.

Thank you for all the replies.
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Old March 29th, 2013, 06:43 AM   #12
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Have you investigated the built-in audio connections the theater may have between the stage and the booth above you. You may be able to use this to more easily route your mic feed from the stage to your camera position. That's what I do in the theater I use monthly.
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Old March 29th, 2013, 10:12 AM   #13
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

Unfortunately there are no connections to the booth above me. The booth above me at the back of the stage only has lighting. All audio is up front. They just have a mixing board backstage and 4 speakers (portable speakers that they bring with them), 2 large speakers facing out at the audience and 2 small speakers facing the stage as monitors. They hook a laptop to the board for the music, and 5 xlr mics (4 on the stage at floor leverl for tap dancing and one on a stand at the side of the stage for announcements)
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Old March 29th, 2013, 10:19 AM   #14
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

So a feed from their mixer would give you:
1) DIRECT access to the music tracks. (NOT through their speakers, through the air, past the audience and into your microphones)
2) DIRECT access to the announce microphone.
3) DIRECT access to the sound effects (tap dancing) microphones.

Why would you NOT want to get access to this source of almost everything you need just handed to you?
The only other thing you need is some ambiance, mostly for audience reaction such as applause, etc.

A common method of doing this is to use one channel of your camcorder to record the direct feed from the venue mixer, and the other channel for the ambiance microphone.

If you want to do a "professional"-like job with your professional camera, a minimal audio kit is required. That includes 100-200 feet of XLR mic cable, perhaps in 30-50 foot lengths that can be joined together for long runs. It also includes a few adapters, isolation transformer, etc. to allow you to get a feed from whatever house system you encounter.

And OF COURSE you are always wearing good isolating headphones to monitor the audio AT ALL TIMES. Recording audio without metering and monitoring is exactly like framing and focusing without using the viewfinder.
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Old March 29th, 2013, 10:22 AM   #15
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Re: Best way to record dance recital audio

The elephant in the room that no one has addressed yet is that the musical material you seek to record is likely copyrighted material and in most jurisdictions, what you are doing is infringing upon those copyright holders.

I got out of recital recording almost 10 years ago for that reason alone.
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