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Old June 24th, 2014, 12:11 AM   #1
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Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Hey guys. Last year around this time I was considering a rather extensive (and expensive) miking setup for an adult education classroom and I got some helpful feedback from some of you.

After much thought, I put the idea aside. But our little "gig" has been expanding and we're looking to partnering with a rather large publisher soon so I'm revisiting the idea. My end goal is to capture great audio from the students in-class that I can pipe via XLR to our camera and ultimately to our video feed (where the other half of our students participate live distance-learning).

I think I may have figured out a microphone configuration for a classroom setting, but I need your input.

To preface, here are some important details:

1. This is a traditional classroom set. Two banks of five or six long tables (two chairs per) on each side extending front to back.

2. The students are finance and accounting professionals. Average age is 35. They typically bring their own laptops to class and sit two per table, aforementioned.

3. The audio equipment I'm proposing to my boss is below. It will be used to pipe audio into a camera via XLR which is then ultimately fed into Ustream Producer for a live webcast. The point of miking the students in class is so that the distance-learning participants can hear their questions/comments, etc.

Proposed Equipment:

1.
(8) Shure SM48-LC Microphones
2.
Peavey PV14 Mixer
3.
(2) 8 channel audio snakes
4.
Sony MDR 7506 Headphones
5.
Behringer EuroLive B205D PA
6. A host of mic cables, desktop stands, a rackcase, etc.

One microphone will be placed on the center of each of four tables to pick up speech from the student sitting on either side of the it. The snakes run on each side of the classroom to the back where I am with the mixer. The PA is there is to provide a moderate reinforcement to students near the back of the room.

I'm open to place two mics on each table (meaning one per student) if need be. The microphones are not that expensive anyway.

My question: Do you think this modest ($1,500) setup will work for the purposes I outlined above?
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Old June 24th, 2014, 01:01 AM   #2
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

How is the teacher mic'd?

Who is operating the audio set up or are you just opening ALL the mics and hopeing for the best?

Does that operator understand Eq, compression, limiting, and are those tools avalable to them? (needed for the limited bandwidth of webcasting)

My suggestion is hire a 'professionsl' location sound person (who will have all the gear you need), set up the room, operate the mix, and deliver a 'pro' level product to the camera / webcast for probably about half your allocated budget.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 02:03 AM   #3
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Personally, the SM48 would not be my choice at all. Somebody swapped one of my 58s for a 48 last year and compared to the 58 it's a bit dull. I'd look into condensers without a doubt. Small diaphragm imports are crisp, bright and cheap, but there are some nice goosenecks used by the conference people that would be quite nice, come with a built in stand and get the mic closer to people's mouths. I have ten small cheap condensers I use for conferences and would not swap them for SM48s .

In the conference setup I use the table is a single long one, and the biggest operational problem is catching peoples first words. The mixer we use at the moment is an x32 Behringer. I appreciate your budget problem of course, but the key feature for us is that it lets us gate the mics that are fader open, but not in use. Somebody speaks and the gate opens. Nice and clean. Before we had this mixer, the only working solution was to have all faders half open, and then when somebody started to speak unexpectedly, we'd have to find which one quickly. A nightmare in practice. I'd really suggest having the mixer at the side where you can see their mouths. The back of their heads doesn't help at all.

I would not consider sharing mics, because it works, but needs increased distance, and while maybe ok for the video it's not helpful for PA.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 09:20 AM   #4
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

IMHO those hand-held "rock star" microphones are a very poor choice for this application.
I still think the On-Stage DJM618 DJ Gooseneck Microphone (or equivalent) would be a FAR better choice.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 10:28 AM   #5
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

A lot is going to depend on the competency of the console operator. If all the mics are 'open', the recording is gonna be a freak'n mess no matter what mics you have. I have done 'similar' projects and used prefader sends for the house PA and used the linear faders for the recording / webcast.
I would also suggest a wireless headset or lav mic for the instructor as well as shock mounts for the table mics, (especially for the budget variety mics, the capsules are hard mounted.. (folks who tap on the table top sound like Godzilla walking)
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Old June 24th, 2014, 11:11 AM   #6
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

I agree with a few of the points raised above.

Mixing this is going to be a headache. You will need a good operator.

You definitely need good shock mounts on the mics, because each mic is on a table with two people typing at their computers. Without good shock mounts, the typing noise will be more than annoying, and might be enough to open the mic channels if you use an automated mixer. Even with shock mounts this might be a problem, which takes me back to the need for a good audio operator.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 03:49 PM   #7
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Is the situation where you have to break down all the equipment, and then set it all up again for the next session? Or can you leave it all set up for days at a time? Are you recording at all, or only the live webcast? And does the webcast have live long-distance participants from elsewhere interacting with your students?
I wonder if headsets for each student would be better for live interactivity.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 04:44 PM   #8
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

I agree with what other people are saying. That's an awful lot of open mics and a dynamic mic like that needs to be spoken into from inches away to pick up anything. That many open condenser mics would just give you mud. Have you thought about going with a single boundary mic up high or even a pair of them on facing side walls? It wouldn't sound pretty but you could probably hear everyone well enough to understand what they are saying. Another option would be to pass around a handheld wireless mic and insist that no-one can comment unless they use it, kind of like a talking stick. This would sound the best. The instructor would need their own mic, of course. Make it a wireless lav.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 05:08 PM   #9
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

I fear most customers like this won't understand the difficulties without spending a big pile of money and failing. That is the only consultant/expert some people understand.

IMHO, there is NO situation where boundary microphones will give you anything superior to just using the mics built into the camcorders (which will be terrible). Complete waste of time and money, IMHO.

If the presenter can't remember to repeat the question, then appoint an "MC" or "moderator" or "host" or whatever you want to call them and whose primary job is to ensure that comments and questions are adequately captured. There is no effective "budget" solution to this scenario.
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Old June 24th, 2014, 09:23 PM   #10
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

I am still having a hard time even understanding what numbers we're talking about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornelius Allen View Post
Two banks of five or six long tables (two chairs per) on each side extending front to back.
I interpret this to mean one bank of tables on each side (a total of two banks) with either five or six tables per bank. Is that right?

If the above is correct then you are talking a total of ten to twelve tables. And you're talking about one mic per table, so that would mean ten to twelve mics.

But then later you talk about having eight mics. As far as I know, eight is not the same as ten or twelve. Please explain how you will deal with the two to four tables that seemingly have no mics.
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Old June 25th, 2014, 02:23 AM   #11
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Quote:
I interpret this to mean one bank of tables on each side (a total of two banks) with either five or six tables per bank. Is that right?

If the above is correct then you are talking a total of ten to twelve tables. And you're talking about one mic per table, so that would mean ten to twelve mics.

But then later you talk about having eight mics. As far as I know, eight is not the same as ten or twelve. Please explain how you will deal with the two to four tables that seemingly have no mics.
Sorry. I should have been more clear. Not all the tables are occupied by students; some are used for other reasons. So actually we have 3-4 tables in total being used.

If I have to increase the microphone count to 12, then that's fine and negligible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Personally, the SM48 would not be my choice at all. Somebody swapped one of my 58s for a 48 last year and compared to the 58 it's a bit dull. I'd look into condensers without a doubt. Small diaphragm imports are crisp, bright and cheap, but there are some nice goosenecks used by the conference people that would be quite nice, come with a built in stand and get the mic closer to people's mouths. I have ten small cheap condensers I use for conferences and would not swap them for SM48s .

In the conference setup I use the table is a single long one, and the biggest operational problem is catching peoples first words. The mixer we use at the moment is an x32 Behringer. I appreciate your budget problem of course, but the key feature for us is that it lets us gate the mics that are fader open, but not in use. Somebody speaks and the gate opens. Nice and clean. Before we had this mixer, the only working solution was to have all faders half open, and then when somebody started to speak unexpectedly, we'd have to find which one quickly. A nightmare in practice. I'd really suggest having the mixer at the side where you can see their mouths. The back of their heads doesn't help at all.

I would not consider sharing mics, because it works, but needs increased distance, and while maybe ok for the video it's not helpful for PA.
I'll review the goosenecks again, but they are so darn expensive. I originally (last year) posted about the use of an automatic mixer, but I became a bit more open to *not* using one because a recent panel discussion we had used convention handhelds and a rather generic mixer and we got great results. Video below.

The mics are strictly for patching in audio to the camera. The PA will be used primarily for other functions.
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Old June 25th, 2014, 02:35 AM   #12
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Here's a video of a recent panel discussion where we experimented with convention hand held microphones.

Ignoring the audio sync issue (that was later corrected), I think the audio portion came out just fine. That's what I was attempting to replicate per this scenario I posted.
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Old June 25th, 2014, 02:39 AM   #13
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornelius Allen View Post
I'll review the goosenecks again, but they are so darn expensive
Huh? Your rock-musician microphones are shown in your citation at $37.04 each.
The On-Stage gooseneck mics are selling for $29.95 at every place I look.
What does "so darn expensive" mean here?

Ref: On-Stage DJM618 DJ Gooseneck Microphone at zZounds
On-Stage Stands DJM618 18" L Gooseneck Microphone with XLR-M Connector, DJM-618 | Full Compass
On-Stage DJM618 | Performance Audio
Amazon.com: Audio Spectrum DJM618 Professional XLR Gooseneck Microphone: Musical Instruments

A condenser microphone is inherently more sensitive. Your application needs all the sensitivity you can get.
The gooseneck gets the microphone up closer to the subjects' mouths. You desperately need proximity in your scenario.
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Old June 25th, 2014, 02:41 AM   #14
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornelius Allen View Post
Here's a video of a recent panel discussion where we experimented with convention hand held microphones.

Ignoring the audio sync issue (that was later corrected), I think the audio portion came out just fine. That's what I was attempting to replicate per this scenario I posted.
This show has been password protected by the host.
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Old June 25th, 2014, 06:21 AM   #15
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Re: Please Evaluate my $1,500 Classroom Miking Proposal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley View Post
A condenser microphone is inherently more sensitive. Your application needs all the sensitivity you can get.
The specs state that those gooseneck mics are dynamic.

However, if you can provide one mic per person, and can get the people to talk directly into their mics, this would probably be satisfactory. Don't forget the isolation mounts!
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