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Old January 22nd, 2014, 08:27 PM   #1
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Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

I'm recording a comedy show and need help in how to set up the audio that is to record the audience laughter and applause.

I'm on a budget and this is what I have to work with.

The stage microphone is a Shure sm58 and I plug that into a lightsnake usb cable and record that on my computer using Windows 7.

The lightsnake is this:

SoundTech Professional Audio Systems - Products > Home Recording > Microphone to USB Cable (STUSBXLR10)

I am very happy with the sound quality from this.

That records the performers on stage. I've tested this and it picks up very little from the audience.

The audience will be sitting down about five feet in front of the performer and there will be about 15 - 30 people. I want to record the audience laughter and applause and mix that. I use Sony Vegas. I will be recording it all with a Canon Vixia HF R40 which has a 1/8th audio input and headphone jack so I can check the sound. I'm thinking I should buy a cardioid condenser microphone and hang that over the audience and plug that into the 1/8th audio input on the Canon Vixia. If so, which one should I buy? (on a budget here).

Or should I get a another XLR microphone and get a y cable that combines the two signals and run them both through the lightsnake? Or is that bad to do or not doable?

I can't afford to buy a mixer or anything else. I can barely afford the external mic I will need for the Vixia. Any tips would be helpful. Or ideas.
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Old January 22nd, 2014, 09:03 PM   #2
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

Whatever you do, don't mix two mics together into a single channel during the recording. That will sound terrible and can't be separated later.

Where will your camera be placed? Which external mic are you considering for your camera?
How are you going to video audience reactions and cutaways?

Can you borrow a second camera with similar image quality?

If it was me, I would try to borrow a similar camera and place it on a low tripod in front of the performer and facing the audience. At that range, the internal camera mics will likely be just fine for audience laughter and applause and you get a full time cutaway camera view of the audience.

If you can only use your one camera, you'll need the correct cable to connect to an external mic positioned in front of the audience, as well as a small stand for the mic.

You'll have to decide if you want a mic that can also be used directly with your camera's mic jack and shoe, like a Rode VideoMic (which will require limited length unbalanced cables to put in position for this audience recording). Or whether you want an XLR battery-powered cardioid like an AT8031 and the correct adapter and cable to go from balanced XLR into the unbalanced stereo mic jack of your camera.
When using a mini camera and XLR mics, I've many times used an inexpensive flat camera flash bracket to attach the mic above and an extra handle below.

You could also consider a small recorder such as a Tascam DR-05 or Zoom H1 to record audio of the laughter and applause using their own internal stereo mics.

Last edited by Jay Massengill; January 23rd, 2014 at 09:58 AM.
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Old January 23rd, 2014, 11:22 AM   #3
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

I concur with Jay.
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Old January 23rd, 2014, 06:20 PM   #4
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

Solution found.

I'm getting a Behringer XM8500 microphone and XLR to 1/8th cable and using the external mic input to the Canon Vexia camera to record the audience. Mic will be suspended above them, in the middle.

I'll use the Shure mic and lightsnake to the USB in my computer to record the on stage talent.

Guys, pointing one of the cameras at the audience and using the onboard mic is not a solution. The sound quality would be horrendous. For $40, I bought the mic and the cable and sound quality is vastly improved, that's what I was looking for.
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Old January 24th, 2014, 01:59 PM   #5
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

Horrendous? why?

I shoot theatre shows and the camera audio is a very usable sound source. The Behringer mic is a very cheap, disposable budget microphone that is styled after the SM58. Schools and colleges love them because they don't sound bad, and if they get broken or lost, it doesn't matter. Most camera mics are condensers and have extended HF response.
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Old January 27th, 2014, 10:14 PM   #6
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

Horrendous how? Here's a sample I just made:

Canon Vixia HF R40 Internal Microphone vs. External Test - YouTube

The internal mic is totally unacceptable to record an audience. And for fifty bucks, I improved it tremendously as you can hear from the test audio.

With all due respect to the above posters, it's incredibly reckless of you all to post as if you're experts and give advice that is totally wrong. I'm glad I went out and tested things myself to find the answer.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 07:45 AM   #7
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

As someone who has worked with audio for over 30 years at a very technical level (I'm an electronics engineer, working in audio), I have to say that what the others were recommending was perfectly valid.

Your test of a single voice at close range does not simulate an audience situation.

That said, what you are doing will also work, as long as the audience mic is on a separate channel and mixed later.

I would do it completely differently, but then I'd have a higher budget to work with.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 10:57 AM   #8
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

Every person has their standard of quality, regardless of how long you've been doing it professionally or how many degrees they have from so called broadcasting 'schools'. I posted actual audio and compared the two. There's no denying that or no way around it, the quality of the audio from using the internal mic to hooking up a basic Shure SM58 external vastly improved.

Saying that the test would have been different recording an audience than a person speaking (three feet away) is ridiculous. You can clearly hear the background hum and unwanted sounds with the camera microphone.

It's so obvious I can't believe I'm even responding to this.

People can be anyone they want on the internet and talk about things they don't know about. I would advise anyone doing any sort of project to test things for themselves. Test, test, test. I'm glad I did. If I listened to the advise of internet experts, I would have ended up with a poor quality recording.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 11:53 AM   #9
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

I agree with you, James, but FWIW there are better options than an SM58 clone. The Shure is designed for close-working vocals. Any one of a number of cardioid condenser mics would probably sound better suspended over an audience.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 01:54 PM   #10
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

A 57/58 or other type of mic optimized for close proximity, certainly would not be my first choice for audience mics either. Furthermore, If I were on a limited budget shoot, I would use stereo camera mics as well. Testing mics by talking into them (but using in other placement) only confirms the mic(s) are passing signal.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 02:34 PM   #11
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

At first listen, the brief SM58 voice sample sounds better than the camera mic in some ways. It might be helpful to understand why.

First of all, the SM58 level (as measured with CoolEdit's RMS analysis) is about -12dB lower than the camera mic. That lower level makes the background noise much less audible. But if you boost the SM58 recording by 12dB, so it's roughly the same level as the camera mic, then the room noise becomes more audible. Not exactly the same tonal quality as the camera mic, but we'll come back to that.

Certainly the voice with the SM58 sounds more pleasant ... warmer. Indeed, the SM58 is designed to sound good up close with voice. It's a good mic to have on a stand for the solo performer in question. That doesn't necessarily mean it's the most accurate mic when recording sound of a large ensemble, or sound at a distance... but it does sound nice and warm when used close. And just because the SM58 is designed for solo work does not mean there's anything wrong with the camera mic.

As to the room noise, CoolEdit's frequency analysis graph [see attached image] shows that it's predominantly around 120Hz, 240Hz, 300Hz, and 360Hz, all of which are harmonics of the AC power line frequency. I would guess that the noise comes from either a motor (cooling fan, refrigerator, HVAC motor, etc.) or perhaps fluorescent light ballasts. There's no question that the camera mic picks it up, but that's just because it's doing a good job of accurately picking up the sound in the room. It's also present in the recording with the SM58, but it's less audible because the overall level of the SM58 recording is so much lower.

I've attached an audio clip, made by downloading your EweToob file, then keeping just the audio. After that, I raised the level of the SM58 portion by 12dB so that you can compare "apples to apples" at the same relative level. You'll note that the room noise is now more obvious. It does, indeed, sound different in quality, compared to the camera mic... that's to be expected, because they are very different mics.

My conclusion is that I largely agree with almost everything stated above.

I agree with Mr. Massengill and Mr. Reineke: don't mix the performer's mic with the audience mic.

I agree with Mr. Johnson that the camera mic should not, and does not (based on Mr. Riske's test) sound "horrendous"... it really sounds like a very good recording of the voice and the background noise in the room. (The problem with the "hum" that Mr. Riske hears is not that the mic is producing the hum... the "problem" is that the noise is there in the room in the first place, and the mic is picking it up accurately.)

I agree with Mr. Warren's saying that the other recommendations were perfectly valid.

I agree with Mr. House's suggestion that there are better external mics than the SM58 for this situation.

And I agree with Mr. Riske's feeling that the SM58 solo voice recording sounds more pleasant than the solo voice recording on the camera mic. But, having analyzed those sample recordings, I do not conclude that there's anything wrong with the camera mic.

I agree that testing is important, but the test needs to relate to the final usage. A GMC dump truck is better than a Mercedes sedan for hauling crushed rock; but a Mercedes sedan is better than a GMC dump truck for a scenic trip across the country. A close range solo voice test in a quiet room does not necessariily reflect how the same equipment will perform with audience reaction in a noisy performance space.

I think that if you're recording an audience in a typical performance space, the room background noise will be so loud that you won't hear any tiny little background hum like the one in this recording. The two mics will give you somewhat different sounding recordings of the audience reaction, but I don't think either one is especially better or worse than the other. (Based on using mics, including SM58s, in the professional theatre and broadcast environments for nearly 50 years, I tend to think the SM58 will be slightly less accurate although it does sound more "pleasant" for solo voice, especially when working at a close distance.)

There is one thing I most emphatically do not agree with: Mr. Riske's rudeness. He is an absolutely new visitor here. This forum represents literally hundreds of years of accumulated professional experience. By his comments, Mr. Riske shows that he has very little experience and knowledge of audio. That's perfectly OK: new visitors are welcome here. Mr. Riske can hear a difference between his two tests, but he clearly does not understand why he hears a difference... and that's perfectly OK, given his lack of experience. But what is not OK is his assumption that everyone else here is wrong. What is not OK is his offensive comments about the other people in this forum, simply because he does not fully understand what's going on with his test. His rudeness, as a brand new visitor here, asking for help, is, IMHO, entirely out of place. I am not afraid to say that, unless he takes a different tone in the future, I hope we have seen the last of him.
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Last edited by Greg Miller; January 28th, 2014 at 04:23 PM.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 03:42 PM   #12
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

To what Mr.Miller has said, I have enjoyed the professional courtesy and mutual respect on this forum for many years. It is a golden example of how a forum should be conducted. There are hundreds of able and experienced people here, some of whom disagree (Politely!) on their advice, but all of whom conduct themselves with decorum and mutual respect. Perhaps our new guest might read some of the forum entries to get a feeling for how we expect those who share this space to behave.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 03:53 PM   #13
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Re: Need Help in Setting up Audience Mics

Sometimes people want advice that supports the position they've already decided upon, and this is then a bit painful.

I was looking at my camera collection, and this runs from current to a Sony Betacam SP that still works. Some of these have the usual short shotguns, and others have various built in mics in the housing. The little Panasonic SD9 I have has a small array of condensers for the (sort of) surround sound. None of these cameras has bad audio.

However - recording anything that has already been amplified, and especially music that has extended bass sounds less good - because it IS less good. Often systems are overdriven and when the volume is cranked up, our ears shut down and we don't hear what the system really sounds like. The cameras do - and often you can hear distortion, out of tune singing, poorly tuned guitars and all sorts of noises, that at the time, in the room - were hidden. This probably means the camera mics were good, not bad.
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