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All Things Audio
Everything Audio, from acquisition to postproduction.

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Old January 29th, 2006, 05:31 PM   #16
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The "audience taper" crowd deals with these issues all of the time, and it is well known that a soundboard recording all by itself is often lacking. This can be due to several reasons, but usually has to do with two: (1) the SBD is mixed to make the venue/room sound good, not the line outs, and (2) a SBD recording is often just too "clean" in that it doesn't pick up enough of the room's ambiance/reverb nor does it pick up the audience either, which is something you usually want some of in a recording. On the flipside, audience recordings (AUD) from a stereo pair, be it split omnis, a Mid-Side figure eight-card pair, or XY/DIN/DINA/NOS/ORTF cardioid stereo pairs, can sound great depending on the mics and their position with respect to the musicians. But, AUD sources can suffer from other problems like picking up too much verb from the room, picking up too much of the audience, and/or bringing in too much boom/bass depending on the venue.

They both have their pros and cons, but if you had to pick one or the other most novices would go for the SBD thinking it is the holy grail of sources when it might or might not be. Others with more experience might examine the SBD source before deciding which way to go. But even better yet, is to make what in audience taper land would be deemed a "matrix", which is just a mix of the SBD and AUD sources, usually much more SBD than AUD, but it depends. This matrix can be done on-the-fly where you mix it as you record and that's the last chance you get at tweaking the mix, or better yet, you can record the SBD and AUD sources completely seperately so you can mix them in post -- this is preferrable for a whole bunch of reasons.

Some things you have to be careful about relate to if you mix on the fly, the AUD mics must be somewhat close to the mics feeding the SBD or you risk a sound delay that can ruin your recording. For example, if you set your stereo AUD pair near the board, but the board is 50' back from the stage (where the mics feeding the board are), the sound delay can really screw things up. Another problem that can arise is if you get lucky enough to put your AUD mics on-stage, where you fix the delay problem, you often want to point them out toward the audience (not towards the band) to pick up the sound that you don't get from the board, you can run into phase cancellation problems (stage mics pointed in opposite direction of your mics). This is more of a potential problem with directional mics than omnis, but can be fixed by having some XLRs adapters that flip the polarity of your stage mics. BUT, recording the AUD and SBD sources seperately help with a lot of these problems because you can sync them after the fact (fixes the delay problem), you can mix them in the proportion that sounds best (as opposed to picking a mix on the fly and living with it), you can master each recording seperately before mixing together, and finally, if you need to, you can flip the polarity in post with a few clicks.

With respect to recording into a camera, there is no doubt the audio sections on most of the cameras we use are not that great. Some are better than others, and some outright suck. No preamp in any of these prosumer cams can compete with a higher-end stand alone preamp, and the a/d converters (analog digital converters) in the cameras aren't nearly as good as stand alone a/d's. BUT, if you use an external preamp and go LINE-IN to your camera (some consumer cams can only go mic in), chances are you'll get some pretty good audio. So, when you take a board feed, make sure you are going LINE-IN to your cam's audio inputs or it'll never work.

Also, with respect of connections to the SBD, you aren't likely going to have a choice as someone suggested above ("tell the sound guy to give you xyz connection."). You'll get what you get, so you need to be prepared to handle all of the following connections: 2 RCA outs, 2 XLR outs, 2 1/4" outs, and one 1/4" stereo outs. Each SBD is different and if you aren't prepared to handle any one of these outputs, you might end up screwing yourself.

Anyway, I just so happened to make a SBD/AUD matrix recording of a taper-friendly reggae band at the Warfield in San Francisco last weekend. I recorded the 2x 1/4" mono outputs from the SBD into the soundcard of my Dell laptop, and I recorded a stereo pair of condenser cardioid mics that were clamped to the balcony at the Warfield right next to the SBD into my field recording kit (external preamp/ad/hard disk recorder). I later mastered both recordings in Sound Forge and mixed them together using Vegas. Below, you will find a sample MP3 file of the transition from the end of one song into the beginning of another while I muted and unmuted the AUD source into/out-of SBD source. This will give you a really good idea how much a "matrix" approach can improve your musical recordings. It's much more work and more of a hassle, but the results can be outstanding.

Matrix Demo MP3 Example

Note: some of the echo/reverb you hear in this sample is actual effects used by the band, it is reggae after all, and they love the echo/delay/reverb fx, LOL! Just thought that was worth noting so you don't think it was from me syncing the two independent sources. Also, the sample starts out Matrix, then flips back and forth from Matrix to SBD-only, and then ends with the Matrix -- use headphones if you really want to hear the difference. And, it's not a perfect comparison because it gets louder when I mix in the AUD, but it was just to make a point...

-- Taint
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