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Old February 15th, 2006, 11:09 PM   #1
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Recording Opera-Soprano is vibrating at frequencies...

Okay, anyone know what I can do about this? I am recording an Opera this weekend and did 2 audio tests this week at rehearsals. Both times, a key song is sung by the soprano at a certain frequency and it is rattling...it's almost as if the mic can't handle the frequency. The levels were totally fine, but when she hit certain notes all throughout this one big finale song, it sounded as if it was overmodulated.

Anyone have any advice on this? It is DEFINITELY NOT a levels problem. I tried this. It did it using both the on-camera mic on a Canon H1 and also a Sennheiser MKH-60 shotgun mic. Both times I was pretty far away from the female singer.

Thanks for any help.

KW
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Old February 16th, 2006, 08:58 AM   #2
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Interesting, I have recorded LOTS of operas and never noticed a problem like that. These days I just use a mono audio feed from the house board (the system is not used for sound reinforcement, but as a monitor to feed audio to the lobby and backstage areas). However in the past I would sometimes use the Sony ECM-NV1 mike supplied with my PDX-10 (same as the PD-150/170 mike). This worked fine at distances ranging from 30 to 100 feet from the stage.

My guess would be that there is a spike that overmodulates even if your meter isn't showing it. Opera has a huge dynamic range from loud to soft. Try setting a lower level overall, or pot it down during the problem aria. Is there a house audio system you can use the way I do?
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Old February 16th, 2006, 10:13 AM   #3
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This may be out of your budget, but I would use two Neumann U87 a i's, suspended from the ceiling over the performers. If ceiling mount is not possible, use microphone stands.

I also own a MKH-70 and have used a MKH-60 a lot. While these are shotgun microphones, they, in my opinion, are not intended to capture sound from "pretty far away".

The Neumann U87 a i's are phenomenal.

I recently recorded a Choral Concert. I set two of these microphones, on mic stands in front of the chorus and I set the pattern to cardioid. The sound I obtained was fantastic. Everyone was very pleased.

While these are very expensive microphones, they are generally available for purchase, used, for about the same amount as an MKH-60 or MKH-70.

You will definitely need the shock mount if you are using mic stands. This will not be necessary if you suspend them from the ceiling.
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Old February 16th, 2006, 10:17 AM   #4
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Kevin,

Please email me, I may be able to assist.

I am in the Augusta, Georgia area.

Were you monitorings the sound via good headphones during the recording, or did you detect the problem while listening to the taped (compressed) sound from the XL-H1? Or were you recording into the Tascam HD-P2?
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Old February 16th, 2006, 04:33 PM   #5
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Hey, Boyd. It's definitely NOT a levels issue. I had it WAY low and it was still vibrating.

Dan, thanks so much for the call and offer to help! It was very nice of you...

I'll let you know how it turns out, but your solution of using my TLM103 may be the answer. I may do both the shotgun on the camera & the TLM103 on the HD-P2 so it will be interesting to compare/contrast the 2.

Thanks so much again.

Kevin
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Old February 18th, 2006, 10:17 AM   #6
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Dear Kevin,

How did it go last night at the Opera?

Did the Neumann TLM-103 perform well?

Were you happy with the TASCAM HD-P2?
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Old February 18th, 2006, 12:01 PM   #7
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Hi Kevin,

I noticed a simular problem when I recorded a choral group once. I determined that the distortion I was hearing through the headphones was audible in the room. It sounded a lot like peak overload distortion but I think of it as sounding like standing wave distortion from the room it self.
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Old February 18th, 2006, 03:36 PM   #8
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Well, so far so good. I'm loving this HD-P2 recorder from Tascam.

Last night I shot the Opera here in Raleigh. I shot with the Canon H1 and the pictures look absolutely stunning. I shot it in 24F mode and it looks VERY filmic with the nice stage lighting, costume design, etc. This camera is blowing me away every time I use it.

The Tascam unit is great. First of all, it was very exciting to be un-tethered in this situation. For best visuals, I was under the mezzanine on the ground level. Well, the sound was a little boomy down there and we were not allowed to put mic stands and cables anywhere. So, it was great to have my sound guy take the HD-P2 whereever he wanted. He took it up to the top of the mezzanine where the sound was much more live. Unfortunately, he did have to go to one of the extreme sides, but it still sounded great.

I brought, on generous advice from Dan Keaton, a TLM103 mic and had my Sennheiser MKH-60 shotgun mic running into the Tascam. This time, we only recorded 48K, 16bit to ensure compatiability in Final Cut Pro.

The 6 gig Microdrive card that comes in the package deal from B&H ($1300) said we could record over 8 hours at that bit rate! Nice...no worries there. It takes 8 AA batteries which we had in, but were able to plug in. Good to have batts in, in case of power blips.

The unit worked perfectly...like I had hoped. It recorded very nice sounding music/vox. The mics exhibited no trace of the vibration problems I had before (my on-camera mics again did have the vibrations).

I brought home the Tascam, plugged it in via firewire, it came up as a harddrive on my G5, dragged the file to my local drive and imported into FCP. Perfect sync. 2 hour long .wav file...no problems at all! Very, very easy to use...I haven't even read the manual yet.

I'll try testing the timecode features soon...I'm waiting for a TC cable to arrive. So far, I would say this is one great unit for the price. It's very light weight, has all the controls I want, has the timecode features, sounds great, etc. One note, I did read that the Microdrives are spinning disks and aren't the best thing for field audio where you might be banging around a bit. Compact Flash will work better for this, though smaller record times.

That's it for now...another production tomorrow, but I'm relieved that this is working just as I had hoped.

Kevin
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Old February 18th, 2006, 05:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Wild
Last night I shot the Opera here in Raleigh.
Hey.... were you shooting video of Salome at Opera Company of North Carolina (actually I guess it's in Chapel Hill) by any chance? That's my set, and I was just down there installing it last weekend :-)
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Old February 18th, 2006, 05:24 PM   #10
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I was! Sorry I missed you...would've been nice to meet up. Nice job, by the way. I love the sky background...great depth. Email me off list and I can send you some pics, if you want.

Shot it all HD on the H1, but not sure they want the video out except for internal purposes. I'd have to check before sending that...

Kevin
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Old February 19th, 2006, 12:53 AM   #11
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Hi Kevin!

I'm record audio for and shoot a lot of operas and singers... (though usually with ~20 mics). There are a few possibilities for strange distortion, though I'm not quite sure what you mean by "rattling"... It's possible for the mic to be distorting, even if the levels out of the preamp are low; it's possible for the mic to be overloading the preamp (although these two are sorta unlikely if you're not very close to the stage); it's possible that something is resonating to the frequency (not necessarily the mic); it's possible that the singer is actually making the noise (the human instrument can make some pretty strange side-effect sounds). If you have a limiter on the camera you might be hitting it; and it may very well be compression.

Keep in mind that levels for most of the opera have to be extremely low, 'cause the peaks are really high! (Also a bad scenario for compression).

In general, a set of good boundary mics tends to be the best way to pick up the singers (since as you know you can't do anything visible, and you generally can't hang anything 'cause of the set pieces/curtains, etc.). Of course you'd have to mic the orchestra separately... sometimes I've been allowed to place some mics unobtrusively in the front row of seats; this can also work out pretty well (usually 3 omnis or 3-5 cardioids).

So what's "rattling"?

-Barry
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Old February 19th, 2006, 08:39 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry Werger
Keep in mind that levels for most of the opera have to be extremely low, 'cause the peaks are really high!
How true. Just last night I was recording our production of "Margaret Garner," which is a new work based on the same story as the film "Beloved." You get some *really* high peaks when you have a big chorus singing gospel style and all *clapping* in unison! :-)
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Old February 19th, 2006, 06:58 PM   #13
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Well, that's really tricky - 'cause you can usually ignore clapping peaks (and often want to do so, to maintain decent levels). Such sharp crisp peaks don't sound bad when clipped. I've done a few shows where people are smashing crockery and such, often near the mics! You don't want to set levels based on those. When there's singing and smashing (or clapping), it's tricky to sort out... basically you've got to listen real well to see if there's "ugly" distortion or not!
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Old February 19th, 2006, 07:44 PM   #14
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Well I didn't adjust the levels for the clapping, just cringed as I watched the meters ;-) It sounded OK in the headphones during the shoot, but haven't played back the tape yet. Hopefully you're right....
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Old February 20th, 2006, 07:53 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry Werger
Well, that's really tricky - 'cause you can usually ignore clapping peaks (and often want to do so, to maintain decent levels). Such sharp crisp peaks don't sound bad when clipped. I've done a few shows where people are smashing crockery and such, often near the mics! You don't want to set levels based on those. When there's singing and smashing (or clapping), it's tricky to sort out... basically you've got to listen real well to see if there's "ugly" distortion or not!
Sounds like a situation where duplicate recordings are in order, the backup 12 db or so lower than the primary.
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