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Old November 12th, 2017, 02:59 PM   #16
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Ambient recording is the hardest thing to get right out of almost everything. If the orchestra is moderately good and large, then you've got so much to consider. The seating arrangement of the orchestra is almost standard - 1st violins on audience left (Stage right), then 2nds, violas and cellos - add in the basses - then another fan of the woodwind and brass + percussion. The dynamic range can be huge - the difference between FFF and ppp is phenomenal once you go above 40 musicians or so, and somewhere will be a guy with a bell tree or a single glock.

If you space the microphones, the furthest sources are also the quietest, so you will lose them with even modest string levels. If flying the mics is out (it usually is unless you plan in advance very carefully) then the conductor can be your saving grace. He or she will be central, often elevated so they can all see the baton. This might give you the possibility of a single stand, perhaps with a heavy circular base on a carpet tile for a bit of isolation, and get the mics up in front of the conductor without obscuring his view and eye contact with the players. It's not the best, but it's a much better bet than further away. The usual 90 degree mic separation might not give you the very edges, but I'd recommend not opening it up because you then get a hole in the middle. You might lose the leader off to one side, but with enough strings, that might not matter.

Kit.
The best and most expensive radio system is nearly as good as a $10 XLR cable - avoid them if at all possible. They use companders to get better signal to noise and the wide dynamic range of an orchestra just doesn't sound good - PLUS - they always pop, splutter and cut out - and batteries always die. Always!

Long XLRs are by far the best solution, a zoom or similar a next best solution, and radio as an absolute last resort. Wifi is too unpredictable to be used at all.

Stereo techniques.

Huge subject - but DO NOT get carried away with ORTFs and Decca Trees. To use these you need to really have a lot of recordings under your belt. They are specialist techniques that done badly sound simply horrible. X/Y, as in the simple coincident par at 90 degrees-ish is by far the most forgiving. You'll find large number of variations that differ by opening up the distance between the elements.

Remember that stereo can be obtained by variations in amplitude between left and right, or variations in time between two mics in different places - or in the clever ones, both! Time errors can make or more commonly destroy your recordings, and if mono is ever in the gameplan - getting this wrong produces cancellation that can sometimes make soloists or even sections vanish totally! Cardioids are most useful. M/S is a definite possibility if you understand how to de-matrix it back to left and right.

For quite a few years I used to be in charge of examining recording by students and they had to do this. It was very rare to hear a good one - even the best didn't match what you hear on CDs, in the movies or on the radio. Most sounded hollow, weak, confused, noisy (electronic AND physical noise), and only a few didn't make your ears ache.

It uses very few mics and goes direct to stereo in most cases, and people assume this means it is easy. It is not!
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Old November 12th, 2017, 03:52 PM   #17
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Bottom line with respect to wireless, is use it only when wired mics are just plain too hard to do.

But back to some core questions that can drive the most effective approach.

What type of group are you recording?
Professional or amateur?
What is your budget for additional gear?
Who is the customer for the recordings?
How good is good enough?

Because beyond applying some basic low cost methods and techniques, better usually costs more, sometimes a lot more.
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Old November 12th, 2017, 07:03 PM   #18
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Thanks everyone for the info, this really helps. Thanks Don P. for your input, you described exactly what I'm am doing. Our HS Band just got back from Nationals so the outdoor recording is done for the season but the indoor concerts (Orchestra, Jazz, Drum Line) are just starting.

I figured if I had a paying customer and the indented use of the recording was for broadcast then I would become an XLR cord wrangler. I think Wireless quality is a good upgrade compared to the previous on camera mic and considering this is all pro-bono work.

Thanks again for all the info, KPO.
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Old November 13th, 2017, 12:30 AM   #19
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

I did a similar thing for the several years that my three sons were in high school...video recorded orchestra, band, and choir in an indoor theater and marching band on the football field at half time.

in my case, the band directors had a professional audio guy do the audio recordings and he gave me a copy to sync to my video. it worked really well since he could focus on good audio while i focused on good video. he set up his mics on a tall stand in the center of the auditorium in the first couple rows. that gave him good sound. i was way in the back on either side to get a nice wide shot with one camera and used a second one to get closeups. the mic stand would be in view; so be it. syncing was pretty simple (sony vegas along with plural eyes).

for marching band, i did audio recording for two purposes. first, the band director wanted to show the band how they were doing to improve their scores in marching band competitions. thus, pristine audio wasnt necessary but rather just ANY audio and video to see what they looked like. so i would use an on-camera mic (a Rode SVM that was within my budget). it worked good enough for this purpose.

the second purpose was something for the marching band performers and parents to have as a keepsake. here, we wanted much better audio, so we'd use a studio recording of the marching band performance that i'd sync to video of them at half time. but it was a VERY big effort because i'd record a half dozen half time performances from the sidelines and merged them into a seemingly seamless performance. since the audio and video were no where near in sync, i would meticulously put everything in sync by going thru all 6 video recordings one at a time and stretching them in 10-15 second intervals to be perfectly in sync with the "master" audio track. once all 6 video tracks were synced, i could then do multi-track editing to cut between the various performances to make a "fake" single performance. it turned out realy good but was VERY time consuming.

that's what worked for me.
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Old November 13th, 2017, 09:40 AM   #20
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Integrating video and audio from different performances is a a lot of work, ainly due to tempo shift/drift between and within performances. I've used the "time stretch (preserves pitch)" effect in Audition to match audio to video. As long as one can keep within a frame or two it is not an issue as long as the audio does not lead the video.

"Professional" recordings are a good source for stage concerts if you can get them, and if they are good recordings. In some cases this is a "garage" business and might not be any better than you could do with a bit of practice. I record indoor work to a TASCAM DR100 recorder using wired mics. If video is involved I sync it in post. Indoor wireless would be reserved for mobile mics, such as with a vocalist moving around on the stage.

The companding (compression for transmission and expansion for receiver output) used in analog wireless systems while improving S/N can effect other audio quality, especially transients. However, compression for transmission performed in the digital domain may be less intrusive.

I note that some of the new all digital wireless systems operating in the 2.4 GHz claim 24-bit sampling and low latency (around 4 ms or so).
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Old November 13th, 2017, 09:46 AM   #21
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Please reconsider wireless, your money of course! As I said - wireless is simply designed for this. They all (bar some digital ones) have attenuators built in for when people bellow into them, to prevent distortion in the preamp, and as a result, even on the 0dB setting, there is insufficient gain for quieter pieces recorded at a distance. Only the very expensive ones provide phantom power for condenser microphones, limiting you to dynamics, so apart from a couple of cables present more problems than they solve.

I wish you the best of luck.
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Old November 13th, 2017, 11:27 AM   #22
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Would you guys recommend a pair of omnis or a pair of cardioids for a concert band performance? Looking at a pair of Rode NT5.
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Old November 13th, 2017, 12:02 PM   #23
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

It depends. A pair of omni mics would have a more even frequency response.. but.. may pick up too much of the room, sound distant and/or pick up other unwanted sounds.
Cardioids would be safer. It's easier to add reverb to liven it up than to attenuate excessive ambiance afterwards.
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Old November 14th, 2017, 03:39 PM   #24
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

I recommend cardioids for recording events with a live audience. Located between the audience and the ensemble. This will give around 10-20 dB suppression of audience noise. They have a reasonably wide pick-up pattern to cover the group, and provide a reasonable polar pattern at different frequencies.

Publications | Shure Americas
is a source with a lot of information on recording in a school/church/educational type of environment.
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Old November 14th, 2017, 07:12 PM   #25
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

I would recommend cardioids for a simple set up. I find mics above the conductor to be too close. I prefer right off the stage or even as far back as the 3rd or 4th row of seats. A lot depends on the hall and what type of sound treatment it has. If possible hang the mics from the ceiling to keep your shot clear. If you are shooting from the balcony a single tall mic stand is not very noticeable in a wide and if you're punching in on specific instruments you most likely won't have it in shot. If it's that the house objects because it is blocking someones view, then hanging from the ceiling is the way to go.

When setting up your mics do some testing to make sure you don't get any strange combing effects. Wire your mics. Don't use wireless unless you have a strong stomach and tolerance for problems. Live performances are impossible to fully control what type of strange waves are floating around and having one less thing to worry about goes a long way.

My first pick for quick, a easy setup for orchestra recording are a pair of Schoeps CMC641's in XY. For better stereo imaging, in my opinion, I like M-S but it takes more in post. If you're project doesn't have budget for mics like the 641's, almost any decent pair of cardioids will do. I've even gotten good recordings with very budget mics like the iSK Little Gems ($50 ea). Just make sure that whatever mic you use can handle the dynamic range and has low enough noise so that the very quite passages can be reproduced without a lot of noise. I would recommend using a recorder or mixer with good mic pre's as this will really help reduce the noise in your signal path.

To see what a single mic stand in the middle looks like in a recording you can take a look at this video:

Recording orchestras are fun and very rewarding. I actually find it easier to record a full orchestra than a quartet or even a single piano. Have fun and experiment. There is no one way to skin this cat and you'll find that a few basic techniques can give you some really impressive results.
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Old November 16th, 2017, 01:00 AM   #26
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

I usually put my mics on a stand about 10 feet in back of the conductor (around the 1st row of seats in the place we normally use) and fairly high - maybe a couple of feet higher than the conductors head. I always use M/S with a pair of Schoeps - figure 8 and Cardioid (or even Omni if the audience is well behaved, which they usually are, or maybe a Hypercardiod if they're noisy like when I record a brass band at the mall before Xmas.) I record into a Sound Devices 722 at the base of the mic stand (which by the way is gaffer taped to the floor!!!)

One of the reasons I back the mic stand a bit away from the stage is that I video from the balcony and it keeps the mics from blocking the line of sight to the orchestra. I usually have three or four cameras in the balcony, one locked off wide covering the whole orchestra, one locked off relatively tight on a soloist and one moving. In the case of a piano concerto I usually have a small camera on stage looking through the piano at the soloist's face and I sometimes have another small camera looking out at the audience from the back of the stage. If I can find space to set it up I like to have another small camera (even a GoPro) looking at the director's face. I run an output from the 722 into a digital wireless and have the receiver in the balcony feeding a sync track to each camera through a MOTU Audio Interface. The on-stage cameras are on their own! Again it's only a sync track. I bought a few refurbed Canon Vixias when they were on sale for $100 or so at B&H and that's what I use on stage - if one of them gets trampled it isn't the end of the world!

I used to run an XLR cable to the balcony but getting it laid in place with covers where it crosses aisles etc is a horror show and takes forever. The digital system is clean enough for a sync track and it saves schlepping a ton of cable and a lot of work. As it is, I can get everything set up and checked out in under an hour. The only thing I need help with is carrying the kit up to the balcony but there's always somebody willing to help. Aside from that it's a one-person deal.
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Old November 16th, 2017, 04:18 AM   #27
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

I also tend to use an M/S mic for orchestra and acoustic ensembles but it is usually the Sony ECM-MS957 which outputs an A/B signal so is easier to handle.

You can also adjust the width of the mic and if budget is tight then even the smaller ECM-MS907 can give good results.

Placement is best a few feet back from the conductor or wherever you can put it in the room to be out of way and get best results and sometimes I hook the mic up to a small Canon HF11 camera as a locked off wide shot and stereo recorder combined.
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Old November 16th, 2017, 11:27 AM   #28
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
I usually put my mics on a stand about 10 feet in back of the conductor (around the 1st row of seats in the place we normally use) and fairly high - maybe a couple of feet higher than the conductors head. I always use M/S with a pair of Schoeps - figure 8 and Cardioid (or even Omni if the audience is well behaved, which they usually are, or maybe a Hypercardiod if they're noisy like when I record a brass band at the mall before Xmas.) I record into a Sound Devices 722 at the base of the mic stand (which by the way is gaffer taped to the floor!!!)

One of the reasons I back the mic stand a bit away from the stage is that I video from the balcony and it keeps the mics from blocking the line of sight to the orchestra. I usually have three or four cameras in the balcony, one locked off wide covering the whole orchestra, one locked off relatively tight on a soloist and one moving. In the case of a piano concerto I usually have a small camera on stage looking through the piano at the soloist's face and I sometimes have another small camera looking out at the audience from the back of the stage. If I can find space to set it up I like to have another small camera (even a GoPro) looking at the director's face. I run an output from the 722 into a digital wireless and have the receiver in the balcony feeding a sync track to each camera through a MOTU Audio Interface. The on-stage cameras are on their own! Again it's only a sync track. I bought a few refurbed Canon Vixias when they were on sale for $100 or so at B&H and that's what I use on stage - if one of them gets trampled it isn't the end of the world!

I used to run an XLR cable to the balcony but getting it laid in place with covers where it crosses aisles etc is a horror show and takes forever. The digital system is clean enough for a sync track and it saves schlepping a ton of cable and a lot of work. As it is, I can get everything set up and checked out in under an hour. The only thing I need help with is carrying the kit up to the balcony but there's always somebody willing to help. Aside from that it's a one-person deal.
This response is a little off topic:
Hello Jim, you seem to have a similar event / environment setup as I will. Mic the stage and shoot from the balcony. Not sure how you do it alone and setup in one hour. But I like your idea of several accent cameras picking up special angles from stage level. I have several GoPro's I could use for this but do you let the on-stage cameras run the whole show?
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Old Yesterday, 02:28 AM   #29
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Everything runs for the whole show - or at least as long as the batteries will last (Ha!) I do use a couple of gopros on stage and I hang an auxiliary battery with them. I TRY to start them from my iphone but it doesn't always work. It's quite a a challenge running up to the stage from the balcony and wiggling through the orchestra to start them manually.

Good news in a way is that the orchestra usually schedules concertos in the 1st half of the concert so the odds are good that the batteries will hold up long enough to get at least that much.

Getting it all set up in an hour is a challenge and no way I could do it until I got the Audio Technika wireless to replace the 100 feet of XLR cable to the balcony. The other thing I do is set everything up the night before at home and leave as much cabled together as I can transport in a large plastic file box. For example I plug all the cables into the MOTU box tagged with the camera they run to and stuff the MOTU with cables into the box. Because the AT receiver is so small it goes into the box with the MOTU. Cameras with lenses attached go into another large plastic box or two. The mics are set up on a holder and cabled to the SD722 and a backup recorder is cabled to the 722 as well. I had Markertek make me a custom cable so I can run an output from the 1/8 jack of the 722 to the transmitter as if it was the mic. This all goes into another "FOH" box cabled together as much as possible.

I can usually press someone in the first row into service as a "guard" to watch the FOH stuff for me - and as I said I tape the mic stand to the floor with a LOT of gaffer tape. I've recorded the same group in the same venue often enough that I can pre-set record levels pretty closely ahead of time and just make a quick tweak while the orchestra is tuning up. I have one set of headphones in the FOH box and another in the box with the MOTU that goes to the balcony with me.

I usually work up quite a sweat getting it all in place!!!

Last edited by Jim Andrada; Yesterday at 01:10 PM.
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Old Yesterday, 04:34 AM   #30
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Re: Recomended Mic Placement for Orchestra Recording

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
I used to run an XLR cable to the balcony but getting it laid in place with covers where it crosses aisles etc is a horror show and takes forever. The digital system is clean enough for a sync track and it saves schlepping a ton of cable and a lot of work. As it is, I can get everything set up and checked out in under an hour.

This just made me smile - the sound of the event is controlled by the amount of work you have to do? Seriously?

I have just filled my van to the brim, and am driving 300 miles. I have rolls and rolls of gaffer. A flightcase full of cable, rubber cable strips and quite a few doorway width pieces of carpet that will cover cables with less of a hump that the rubber stuff. I have bags of ties, clips, and even some nails and a small hammer hidden away. Some nylon cord, and other stuff. Tomorrow I will be 60 feet up running some cables up from the stage, over the top and down again to a camera position. I'm sitting here, looking at a 6 way rack of radio mic receivers. Should I unload all that stuff and just take this little rack and some radios? Not a chance!

I'm sorry to be blunt here, but you have been told the best methods, and you are choosing the simplest and quickest solution, ignoring the sound, and accepting compromise. It's up to you of course, but whats the point of asking for advice, then rejecting it because you're a little short on putting in time and effort to do the best job. I want the best sound, not the easiest sound.

I just do not understand the concept of compromise, unless the reasons are serious. Safety is one. Cost of course is another - but then the client has the call to make. We can do it for X, if you need to do it for Y, then the result will be Z - is this acceptable? Any compromise to the sound is then not your problem.

In a weeks time 3 people will spend best part of a day putting in a big PA for the same event - the sound designer has decided two cabs will go in a certain place. The easy place is 5m away. He wants them in exactly the correct place - so ropes, a cherry picker, scaffolding and tricky cable runs will be the result. Nobody complains - quality is the game here. They will have hundreds of metres of cable to run in, kit all over the place. Some will have to be fished through ducts, and others dropped behind wall panels.

This is the real world. If a couple of XLR cables is too much work, I'm a bit sad. When you listen to the result you will have to accept the compromise and convince yourself a bit of extra work would not have been worth it. The nasty THWOP the radio system suddenly makes you can ignore, and the over-ambient sound just one of those things. Blame it on the venue, the time allowed, the spur of the moment TV crew who turned on their transmitters without checking the frequency was in use - not expecting anyone would be daft enough to risk a radio link for a recording?

The title said it all - mic placement. People advised, advice rejected for all kinds of reasons. Just record it from the balcony. It might be a bit blurred and indistinct and audience contaminated, but at least it will be interference free. If you get to the end with a phutt free recording. It was sheer good luck.
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