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Old May 13th, 2006, 12:57 AM   #1
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I need a pair of mics for live performance recordings

I run a small video production business which does both live event coverage and corporate work. I think I'm pretty much set as far as equipement goes for the video part, but there are still some obvious sound related deficiencies.

So I'm looking to 'complete' (humor me) my audio arsenal with a pair of nice mics for live performance (mostly music) recordings in various places (big and small bars/theaters/concert rooms of various sizes/etc.).

I record live sound to an Edirol R-4 on which I have 4 seperate channels for audio, so my ideal setup would be to have a feed from the board for the voice(s), one for the instruments and use the other two for stereo recording the performance.

So I need your advice on a couple mics to buy for the stereo recording part, more or less in the sub-1K range for the 2, that will be versatile enough for all kinds of accoustics, room sizes, sound levels and types of performers.

I don't have the money for the high end stuff, but I need to best this money can buy me, because so far I've realized the artists I work for usually never complain about the video aspect as they don't know much about that, but they are awfully picky about sound and it needs to be as good as possible.

I've asked the question to a B&H rep but to my surprise he recommended the CAD GXL-3000 package (see it here). I'm a tad sceptical about that one as I've never heard about it and it's an awfully cheap price for 3 mics.

So far in my research I've heard good things about the Rode NT3/5, the AKG C1000s, AT-3031, AT-4041, AT4051A, AT897, AKG C3000BTP, Earthworks SR25, AKG C451B, Shure KSM141, Beyerdynamic MC930, SE-Electronics SE3, Studio Projects C4 and AKG Blue Line Series with CK91 cardioid capsules.

But I'm not sure which specs I should be looking at more carefully, which characteristics are more important, and which mics sound the best (see richest, flatest, fullest) in live recording conditions, or which ones are more susceptible to handle most of the recording situations I'll throw at them.

Any favs on your side? A clear cut winner for this type of application maybe? Any help will be greatly appreciated. I'm not an audio guy and I struggle a bit with the audio related technical stuff.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 01:23 AM   #2
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LOL, I like the Sennheiser ME-66 that runs off of batteries. The reason I like it is I can avoid all phantom power issues and I can keep it close to the stage yet back a bit get a decent sweep. However if your performers are free to go everywhere on stage than two of those won't be enough.

I never mix on location, I iso four channels of audio and then mix it later, don't you find it risky to do a mix on location?
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Old May 13th, 2006, 05:50 AM   #3
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Something to keep in mind with stereo recorded for video (or broadcast), in contrast to stereo recorded for music CDs, is that many of the listeners will actually be hearing the final product in mono. Some broadcasters and cable operators collapse stereo material into mono when they broadcast it. Some set-top boxes collapse a stereo signal to mono on their own (including most devices such as DVD players or VCRs hooked up to send their signal to a TV's antenna input through an internal RF converter). Even some TVs that claim to be "stereo" are really mono electronics feeding two dinky speakers in the cabinet. All this means that it's important to use a recording technique that is compatible with both stereo and mono delivery. Because of this you might want to explore the advantages of Mid-Side micing for your stereo pair using a combination of a cardioid and a figure-8 mic. In that mic lines you mentioned, the AKG Blueline has the CK91 cardioid and the CK94 figure-8 capsules. A pair of the Blueline power-preamps, a pair of CK92 omni heads, a pair of CK91 cardioid heads, a CK93 hypercardioid, and a CK94 figure-8 capsule would give you a kit that would cover almost all 2-channel stereo recording situations you might encounter.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 10:06 AM   #4
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Ironically, the Sennheiser has been panned by some because it doesn't isolate well enough and/or the frequency response isn't optimal, but I think that's why it does an Ok job for live performances where only some isolation is required. If I only have two mikes to cover the stage I don't want too much isolation but if the mikes pick up everything that might not work either.

Are there any comparisons that have been done with accompanying graph overlays of the "sweep" or mike coverage one gets for different mikes?
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Old May 13th, 2006, 11:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessandro Machi
Ironically, the Sennheiser has been panned by some because it doesn't isolate well enough and/or the frequency response isn't optimal, but I think that's why it does an Ok job for live performances where only some isolation is required. If I only have two mikes to cover the stage I don't want too much isolation but if the mikes pick up everything that might not work either.

Are there any comparisons that have been done with accompanying graph overlays of the "sweep" or mike coverage one gets for different mikes?
For a music performance you need to cover the stage evenly if you're going to mic with a stereo pair. Instead of turning the mic to follow a performer as he moves about the stage, thus keeping him always in the same position in the stereo sound field, you want the field to be static and hear him moving around within it. If the soloist starts on the left hand side of the stage and moves over to the right, you want his recording to start out coming from the left speaker and gradually move over to the right speaker as well. There are various techniques you can use - A/B, X/Y, ORTF, MS, Blumlein - but they all involve omni or cardioid (and more rarely hypercardiod) mics. But highly directional mics like a shotgun aren't generally used for that style of recording.

Close mic'ing the individual instruments and vocals and recording mutiltrack, mixing in post, is another matter - you don't want a performer's mic to be picking up much of the other artists' performances and directional mics are more useful there, especially on soloists. With that style of recording you're artificially creating the soundstage by mixing and panning in post and you can position the sounds picked up by a shotgun mic anywhere in the sound field you want it to be..

What you're calling the "sweep" of the mic is its polar pattern and you'll find those graphs for virtually every professional or wanaabe professional grade mic made on the manufacturer's websites. It's one of the crucial considerations in fitting a given mic to a given situation.

The Shure website has some excellent white papers in their knowledge base on various mic techniques.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 11:51 AM   #6
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Getting back to the group you want to choose from, David, it's unlikely that anyone has compared all of them. My experience is with a pair of AT3031s. I can't swear that they are better than the others but I'm sure you'd be happy with them. They're moderately sensitive, quiet, accurate, have a very high max SPL (148 dB) and are just plain nice-sounding. These qualities add up to versatility. With A little practice I've gotten excellent stereo coverage of jazz bands, choruses and orchestras with them set up as an x-y coincident pair. I've also used them one at a time for room ambience and for interviews.

At about $170 each you could add a pair to your kit and still have most of your $1000 left to add more. I have a hard time believing that even if you spent two or three times as much per mic you'd get enough improvement to justify not spending the difference instead on different types of mics that would round out your kit.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 12:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessandro Machi
I never mix on location, I iso four channels of audio and then mix it later, don't you find it risky to do a mix on location?
Like I said, I only partly mix. I have 4 seperate channels on the R4. So I want a stereo coverage with my own mics (did it with my XL2's stereo mic before, the result was less than stellar), then depending on the type of event I'm covering (rock band, solo singer, recital, etc.) I try to get 2 other seperate feeds from the board when possible for key elements (usually the voice), but this is highly depending on the contracted soundman's good will and time, so I can't assume I'll always get those extra feeds. I have to assume the show's sound might only be my own limited stereo recording, so it needs to get as pristine on its own as it can. That's the challenge I'm facing right now. to find the proper mics for that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
Something to keep in mind with stereo recorded for video (or broadcast), in contrast to stereo recorded for music CDs, is that many of the listeners will actually be hearing the final product in mono. Some broadcasters and cable operators collapse stereo material into mono when they broadcast it. Some set-top boxes collapse a stereo signal to mono on their own (including most devices such as DVD players or VCRs hooked up to send their signal to a TV's antenna input through an internal RF converter). Even some TVs that claim to be "stereo" are really mono electronics feeding two dinky speakers in the cabinet. All this means that it's important to use a recording technique that is compatible with both stereo and mono delivery. Because of this you might want to explore the advantages of Mid-Side micing for your stereo pair using a combination of a cardioid and a figure-8 mic. In that mic lines you mentioned, the AKG Blueline has the CK91 cardioid and the CK94 figure-8 capsules. A pair of the Blueline power-preamps, a pair of CK92 omni heads, a pair of CK91 cardioid heads, a CK93 hypercardioid, and a CK94 figure-8 capsule would give you a kit that would cover almost all 2-channel stereo recording situations you might encounter.
That's an interesting perspective, although somewhat puzzling concept to a sound novice like me. So far what I've done are usually products that will serve the artist to book some future contracts, either on TV or with a concert room. There is one artist manager that is thinking of possibly selling the DVD I did for him, but nothing I've done so far has been meant for broadcast purposes, so I don't know how much I should take this into account when doing the recording.

I myself record, mix and output to DVD in stereo and while I'm aware mixing down the soundtrack to mono will degrade and clug up the sound, will the occasional occurence of the problem for my clients be such a key issue that I should really reconsider recording in normal stereo and follow along your suggestion of mid-side micing?

By the way, I won't pretend knowing what that is, are you putting the figure 8 in a front-center position of the stage and the cardioid off centered in such a configuration? If it's the case, I get the impression the stereo image would be less natural and full sounding than a classic stereo setup no?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
Getting back to the group you want to choose from, David, it's unlikely that anyone has compared all of them.
Well to be fair, these are the ones I've heard about so far that were used in these types of application, it doesn't mean I won't consider anything else, I'm open to all suggestions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
My experience is with a pair of AT3031s. I can't swear that they are better than the others but I'm sure you'd be happy with them. They're moderately sensitive, quiet, accurate, have a very high max SPL (148 dB) and are just plain nice-sounding. These qualities add up to versatility. With A little practice I've gotten excellent stereo coverage of jazz bands, choruses and orchestras with them set up as an x-y coincident pair. I've also used them one at a time for room ambience and for interviews.

At about $170 each you could add a pair to your kit and still have most of your $1000 left to add more. .
I've heard the AT3031 mentioned more than once before. Seems like a popular choice. I particularly like the fact it has a 10db pad for those loud environments. How about frequency response? My concern is for accurately picking up the lower frequencies of a band like kick drum and bass. I don't want recordings that will be thin and need bass overcompensation in post. It says on the B&H spec page that it's 30 Hz - 20 kHz but I wonder if that's at 2db accuracy.

How is it doing regarding handling noise? I have an Oktava MK012 that I love but the ridiculous sensitivity to handling/air movement noises makes it impracticle for almost anything.

Did you buy matched pairs or is that irrelevent?

I like the idea of buying cheap if it can provide the quality I need because that would probably allow me to buy a couple SKP100/500 transmiters (depending on the mics I choose) for those situations where there is just no practicle way of running XLR cables from the mic position to the recorder (as is often the case in crowded bars).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
I have a hard time believing that even if you spent two or three times as much per mic you'd get enough improvement to justify not spending the difference instead on different types of mics that would round out your kit.
Honestly I have no idea and that's really what I'm trying to figure out here. Wise spending is what I'm after. I don't like throwing money out the window. If cheap mics will do, cheap mics it will be. But I'm ready to spend more to get a clear cut advantage too.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 01:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
That's an interesting perspective, although somewhat puzzling concept to a sound novice like me. So far what I've done are usually products that will serve the artist to book some future contracts, either on TV or with a concert room. There is one artist manager that is thinking of possibly selling the DVD I did for him, but nothing I've done so far has been meant for broadcast purposes, so I don't know how much I should take this into account when doing the recording.

I myself record, mix and output to DVD in stereo and while I'm aware mixing down the soundtrack to mono will degrade and clug up the sound, will the occasional occurence of the problem for my clients be such a key issue that I should really reconsider recording in normal stereo and follow along your suggestion of mid-side micing?

By the way, I won't pretend knowing what that is, are you putting the figure 8 in a front-center position of the stage and the cardioid off centered in such a configuration? If it's the case, I get the impression the stereo image would be less natural and full sounding than a classic stereo setup no?
Actually M/S IS a classic stereo mic'ing technique and there was a big article in March "Electronic Musician" magazine on its advantages and how to do it. I strongly suggest you take a look...

http://emusician.com/mag/emusic_front_center/index.html

The Schoeps web site also has a page on the various stereo mic placements that you should take a look at ASAP

http://schoeps.de/PDFs/stereo-record...chniques-e.pdf

M/S is a coincident technique where both mics are placed front and center, The figure-8 is aimed so its lobes point left and right (lay the "8" on its side like an infinity sign) while the cardioid is just above it and almost touching, pointed straight at the centre stage. You either pass the two signals through a mixer with a decoding matrix or you can record the mics "as is" and then decode it in post. Decoding consists of adding together the cardioid (mid mic) and the figure-8 (side mic) signals - mid plus side becomes the left channel. You invert the phase of the figure-8 mic and add that signal to the mid mic to make the right channel. mid minus side equal right (It's harder to describe than it is to do and you don't need any special equipment to do it).

This does not give a less full sounding stereo image than other techniques, far from it. It's a common technique, especially in Europe, for micing symphony orchestra concert recordings. One advantage is it gives you a lot of control in post production with the spread and depth of the stereo imaging and you can even rotate the direction on the centre of the stereo image relative to the listener.

You said that when you mix to mono it "degrades and chugs up the sound" and that is one result of recording without considering what will happen later. When you mix the Left and Right channels created by the M/S process, the +side and the -side components of the signal cancel each other out and you're left with the mid mic's signal only, just as if you had recorded the performance with a single cardioid mic in mono right from the start - no degradation. With other mic techniques you need to pay more careful attention to avoid phasing problems when mixing.

You say you don't know how much consideration you need to give this since you're not recording for broadcast. But consider - you shoot a demo for an artist and put it on DVD. He gives that DVD to someone who plays it back on his DVD player hooked up to a mono TV. All of a sudden your nice stereo recording is being played in mono completely without you being able to do anything about it.

I'll second Fred's recommendation of the AT3031 cardioids. I have a pair and they're very nice sounding mics at a good price. Do a web search on X/Y and ORTF micing or look at the Schoeps page and the Shure materials I mentioned for some good ideas on how to best use them.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 02:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
Actually M/S IS a classic stereo mic'ing technique and there was a big article in March "Electronic Musician" magazine on its advantages and how to do it. I strongly suggest you take a look...

http://emusician.com/mag/emusic_front_center/index.html

The Schoeps web site also has a page on the various stereo mic placements that you should take a look at ASAP

http://schoeps.de/PDFs/stereo-record...chniques-e.pdf

M/S is a coincident technique where both mics are placed front and center, The figure-8 is aimed so its lobes point left and right (lay the "8" on its side like an infinity sign) while the cardioid is just above it and almost touching, pointed straight at the centre stage. You either pass the two signals through a mixer with a decoding matrix or you can record the mics "as is" and then decode it in post. Decoding consists of adding together the cardioid (mid mic) and the figure-8 (side mic) signals - mid plus side becomes the left channel. You invert the phase of the figure-8 mic and add that signal to the mid mic to make the right channel. mid minus side equal right (It's harder to describe than it is to do and you don't need any special equipment to do it).

This does not give a less full sounding stereo image than other techniques, far from it. It's a common technique, especially in Europe, for micing symphony orchestra concert recordings. One advantage is it gives you a lot of control in post production with the spread and depth of the stereo imaging and you can even rotate the direction on the centre of the stereo image relative to the listener.

You said that when you mix to mono it "degrades and chugs up the sound" and that is one result of recording without considering what will happen later. When you mix the Left and Right channels created by the M/S process, the +side and the -side components of the signal cancel each other out and you're left with the mid mic's signal only, just as if you had recorded the performance with a single cardioid mic in mono right from the start - no degradation. With other mic techniques you need to pay more careful attention to avoid phasing problems when mixing.

You say you don't know how much consideration you need to give this since you're not recording for broadcast. But consider - you shoot a demo for an artist and put it on DVD. He gives that DVD to someone who plays it back on his DVD player hooked up to a mono TV. All of a sudden your nice stereo recording is being played in mono completely without you being able to do anything about it.

I'll second Fred's recommendation of the AT3031 cardioids. I have a pair and they're very nice sounding mics at a good price. Do a web search on X/Y and ORTF micing or look at the Schoeps page and the Shure materials I mentioned for some good ideas on how to best use them.
Boy I've just become a little less dumb audio wise thank you. So if I understand correctly there is not a one-setup-fits-all and if I want to be ready for all types of room sizes and accoustics I will probably need to look into buying more than one type of mic (figure 8 + 2x cardioids).

Say for example I was to buy a pair of AT3031's, is there a figure 8 mic that would complement one of them nicely in a M/S configuration?

BTW, ever heard of the CAD GXL-3000 Studio Stereo pack? It comes with the GXL-3000 Cardioid, Omni, Figure 8 switchable mic and 2 GXL-1200 Cardioid mics.

I'll do a bit more research on the stereo setups thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 03:18 PM   #10
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I have had great success with stereo recording concert bands using the MS technique with the Studio Projects LSD2. It has 2 capacitor mics mounted one above the other. The top capsule rotates 270 degrees and each capsule can be used as omni, cardioid, or figure of eight. That means that the one mic can to X-Y, MS, or blumlein stereo. IMHO the stereo imaging of this mic in the MS mode is nothing short of amazing. And one can adjust the stereo imaging in post. Don't be put off by the list price, Full Compas has it for less than $500. Derogs are that it needs phantom power and it is a bit heavy.

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Old May 13th, 2006, 05:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
...I have an Oktava MK012 that I love but the ridiculous sensitivity to handling/air movement noises makes it impracticle for almost anything.

Did you buy matched pairs or is that irrelevent?...

I like the idea of buying cheap...
That's funny, I was going to recommend that you can do a variety of stereo mic setups with mc/mk012, but, you already have one and apparently don't like it much.

I've done a LOT of acoustic music recording with a pair of Oktavas that cost me all of $200 on sale at Guitar Center. Apparently, this was before the chinese imitations came out (see the sticky thread at the top of this forum). Handling noise is never an issue, as they are always on a stand in shock mounts. Any pair of cardiod condensor mics you use for stereo recording should be rigged this way - include shock mounts in your budgeting. If you go this route, skip the standard Oktava shock mount for the MK012, the new spider-shockmout is OK. There are others that will fit.

I also converted an old c-stand to a 12' stand by mounting an atlas-style boom in the grip head, very heavy, lots of height.

Air movement hasn't been a problem for me, all my recording has been indoors. Granted, the oktavas are more sensitive than some, but all cardoid condensor mics are pretty sensitive to air movement. It doesn't take much to rattle the diaphram. oktavausa.com sells a foam windscreen, and sound-room.com sells a bigger windscreen too.

So that's my experience. A pair of cardoid condensors will allow you to experiment with x-y, a/b and ORTF configs. X-Y is more mono-compatible, but, unlike Steve, I've mostly stopped worrying about mono compatibility and now use ORTF almost all the time because it has such a nice stereo image. My recordings aren't going via broadcast or cable, but direct-to-video DVD distribution, and even the least expensive dvd player and TV support stereo these days.

M-S is great too. It's pretty magical to dial in the stereo spread you want in post.

Generally, two mics in shock mounts, whether cardoids or m-s array are a little bit of a hassle to set. I've been wanting to try the LSD-2 mentioned above. Rode sells a great X-Y mic in one body. Most "stereo" mics are x-y.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 05:56 PM   #12
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Rode sells a great X-Y mic in one body. Most "stereo" mics are x-y.
Yes indeed - thats the Rode NT4.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 06:25 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
That's funny, I was going to recommend that you can do a variety of stereo mic setups with mc/mk012, but, you already have one and apparently don't like it much.

I've done a LOT of acoustic music recording with a pair of Oktavas that cost me all of $200 on sale at Guitar Center. Apparently, this was before the chinese imitations came out (see the sticky thread at the top of this forum). Handling noise is never an issue, as they are always on a stand in shock mounts. Any pair of cardiod condensor mics you use for stereo recording should be rigged this way - include shock mounts in your budgeting. If you go this route, skip the standard Oktava shock mount for the MK012, the new spider-shockmout is OK. There are others that will fit.

I also converted an old c-stand to a 12' stand by mounting an atlas-style boom in the grip head, very heavy, lots of height.

Air movement hasn't been a problem for me, all my recording has been indoors. Granted, the oktavas are more sensitive than some, but all cardoid condensor mics are pretty sensitive to air movement. It doesn't take much to rattle the diaphram. oktavausa.com sells a foam windscreen, and sound-room.com sells a bigger windscreen too.
I have a love-hate relationship with my Oktava (which is a real one) because I was using it camera mounted on a K-tek KSM shockmount and even with a windscreen, the movements and the camera handling noises were very audible, which is not the case for say my MKH416 (I know, different types, but still). I find that the Oktava responds well in certain situations (stand mounted for ambiances in a room with good accoustics) while horribly during others (boompole mounted or camera mounted is impossible, no matter the shockmount, regardless if I was to use the hyper, omni or cardioid capsules). It's not that I don't like it, but it's not versatile enough for me.

Plus I only have one so there is a good chance that if I get a new one now, it won't match at all as there is some variations from mic to mic with the Oktavas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
So that's my experience. A pair of cardoid condensors will allow you to experiment with x-y, a/b and ORTF configs. X-Y is more mono-compatible, but, unlike Steve, I've mostly stopped worrying about mono compatibility and now use ORTF almost all the time because it has such a nice stereo image. My recordings aren't going via broadcast or cable, but direct-to-video DVD distribution, and even the least expensive dvd player and TV support stereo these days.

M-S is great too. It's pretty magical to dial in the stereo spread you want in post.

Generally, two mics in shock mounts, whether cardoids or m-s array are a little bit of a hassle to set. I've been wanting to try the LSD-2 mentioned above. Rode sells a great X-Y mic in one body. Most "stereo" mics are x-y.
So out of curiosity, are you able to get decent mono sound when using an ORTF setting? I'm in the same situation as you, direct-to-DVD productions, but I thought Steve made a valid point about at least thinking about the possibility. Let's put it this way, the stereo imaging is the priority, but I don't want it to sound horrible if it were for a reason or an other to be listened in a mono fashion. That would reflect very badly on me.

One thing is for certain though is I won't be buying a stereo mic (of the X/Y type). Never been a fan. The LSD2 seems like an interesting one, but I wonder if it wouldn't be better to get say a couple C4 and a C3 so that I'm covered for pretty much any kind of recording situations.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 09:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
So out of curiosity, are you able to get decent mono sound when using an ORTF setting? I'm in the same situation as you, direct-to-DVD productions, but I thought Steve made a valid point about at least thinking about the possibility. Let's put it this way, the stereo imaging is the priority, but I don't want it to sound horrible if it were for a reason or an other to be listened in a mono fashion. That would reflect very badly on me.

One thing is for certain though is I won't be buying a stereo mic (of the X/Y type). Never been a fan. The LSD2 seems like an interesting one, but I wonder if it wouldn't be better to get say a couple C4 and a C3 so that I'm covered for pretty much any kind of recording situations.
I'll try a mono render of some of my ORTF stuff later and report back.

I've not had direct experience with the Studio projects C4... but it has a good rep and looks good. I'm always thinking "value", a cardoid condensor I'd like to try is the Rode NT5, $299 USD (a matched pair!) at bhphotovideo.com right now.

Ideally, the capsules/diaphrams in M-S should closely match, but I've not tried a large diaphram such as the C3 with a small-diaphram mid mic.
Other figure-8s to recommend for M-S: Schoeps (which is well beyond my budget) and AKG also has a figure-8 in their blue line modular mics.

Or, a dedicated M-S mic in one housing.

BTW, IMHO camera mount is no place for a stereo mic. Generally, I think you want the stereo image to remain constant regardless of camera movement.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 10:15 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum
...Generally, two mics in shock mounts, whether cardoids or m-s array are a little bit of a hassle to set...
Oh yeah, roger that. That will be the factor that drives me to try M-S, probably one of AT's single housing mics.
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(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
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