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Old November 22nd, 2006, 09:36 PM   #1
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need help on recording audio for school show

well, I'm very new to all of this, but now have an HDV cam, so it's time to get our there and practice / learn as much as possible.

I'm planning to tape a show upcoming at our local school but am a bit concerned about the best way to tap into the sound system.

I checked it out today, and I could access L and R phono jacks on the mike mixer (which I assume are line level out), or there is also a 1/8" (I think) headphone monitor on the front of the mixer, which I would assume has the same audio as the phono jacks (which may be better).

I have access to a DV Promix 3 three channel mixer (professional sound corp), which can take either line or mike level input.

To record from the sound system, do I only need to convert from either the mono or stereo jacks to XLR and set my mixer inputs to line level, or do I also need to change the impedence coming from the mixer? I assume the 1/4" mono plugs would give me better sound than the headphone monitor?

Also..I am planning to leave the mixer near the stage and go wired back to the fixed cam, maybe 25+ feet. I assume I'd be better off sending line level back to the cam than mike level at that distance? (cam can take either).

The cam has only 2 channels for audio..am I better off taking the L and R from the mixer and using those straight into the cam, or should I mix those both to one channel and set up my own mike(s) near the stage for secondary audio. I don't expect much stereo from the mixer, maybe only taped background music would be turned into mono.

If I do set up my own mike(s), would the shure SM58's be of any use if they are in front of the stage, or would that be too far away for them to be useful (maybe 10 feet from the 'talent' (kids))?

Thanks in advance..really appreciate any assistance.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 10:29 PM   #2
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You may want to make sure you are allowed to tape the show.

XLR is a balanced system that is good for long runs of cable. 1/4" is usually unbalanced and will probably pick up some hum in a long run. It has nothing to do with line vs Mic.

The SM58 is the wrong mic. They are meant to be used inches from the sound source not feet. I use a Studio Projects B1 for this and a shotgun pointed at the sound system speakers to get the dialog. You could use your mixer to combine the lineouts from the sound board into one channel in your camera. Use an area mic (condenser is good here) to get room audio. Mix in post.

With only a two channel system, you want to separate the ambient room audio from the sterile mixer output and remix in post.

Line outs are better than headphone jacks. You can use a direct box to convert them to XLR mic level for a long run to your camera.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 11:07 PM   #3
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thanks, makes senese. b/c of the 1/4", I'd like to get that to the mixer with as short a run as possible (few feet), then XLR to the cam. (was thinking about wireless but not sure whether I'm ready to make that plunge yet, and the wire would be a little more reliable).

appreciate the advice on mixer vs. room ... that's what I'll try..also, thanks for the tip on the mike... I also have a ME66/K6, but not sure I'll need it if I can patch in to the sound board (and actually it's my own kids show, so I have checked w/ the music teacher :-) and in fact I think I'll be the one elected to create the DVD from this).

also, any specifics on converting the 1/4 (or stereo headphone) to XLR - what type of direct box (brand or model)? I guess I'd rather send L and R separately into the mixer but it probably doesn't matter. I'm on the B&H site, but am not quite sure what I'm looking for to do the conversion..

again, thanks, greatly appreciate it.
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 10:17 AM   #4
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Sometimes 1/4" is consumer level... sometimes it is pro level.

It is quite possible that the 1/4" outputs are balanced TRS (tip-ring-sleeve), which, if so, functions the same as XLR.

To find out, look carefully at the output, many mixers will be labeled, possibly "Balanced" or "TRS". If unlabeled, get the exact model number and manufacturer of the mixer and post it here.

If this is what the mixer outputs, then all you need is an adaptor cable from TRS to XLR-Male, no direct box or mixer need be used.

Regarding L & R out of the mixer - most stage shows are mixed in mono, and will have the same signal at both outputs - find out!
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 10:32 PM   #5
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Hi Dave,

A note of caution: I recently did a Variety Show and tried to come off the Theater sound board. It turned out they did not have the live instruments mic'd, so the board only had the vocals and canned music. Ended up having to use external mics to get sound off the main sound system along with the live instruments.

Don't know your situation, but be sure every thing is mic'd properly before relying on a feed from the Theater's board.

Harold
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 11:33 PM   #6
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At my daughter's recent high school play they ran two overhead mics through the sound system, but it was inconsistent. On opening night it was very low. On the following weekend it was too high and led to a low-level feedback resonance. One of the actors partially lost his voice toward the end of the run, so they had him mic'd for the last two shows. Also, they played some source music, which would have been way louder than the actors - except the mic'd one.

Run your own mics if possible. The board is just too unpredictable.
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Old November 24th, 2006, 11:20 AM   #7
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thank you for all the advice - this is incredibly helpful. and this being an elementary school where there may only be 1 person at best who knows the sound equipment and maybe no one focusing on this, I certainly appreciate it.

so I am looking at the whirlwind direct2 passive direct box..would give me 2 channels if I need it..doesn't have the more expensive transformer, but for this type of event (in general) I would think I'm ok without the more $ version (e.g. vs. a live musical event).

question - if I do want to combine the L and R channels out of the mixer (e.g. if they have a CD or other background music and I don't want to drop one of those channels), can I do that correctly with a cable, or do I have to do it in the mixer? they should have the same level out, so can I just use a Y cable to combine those or does that not work. If I can combine outside my mixer, that'd save me one channel in the mixer for something else.

question on the mikes - lets say I go with a studio projects B1 (reasonable price), the stage shows sometimes have a large group of kids on the left side, sometimes on bleachers in front of the sage, same thing on right, and the main action on stage (think elementary school gym/stage size). Is 3 mikes overkill ?(I could mike each area, mix them, and send them back one channel, and then save my other recorded channel for the sound board output, esp. if I can combine L and R from the sound board with a Y cable). Would 2 or 1 be sufficient? I know very little about this, but it would seem that if the kids are on bleachers in front of the stage, a mike pointed towards the stage would not pick up the bleachers.

again, really appreciate the help..show is dec 6, and I've got to order the rest of the equipment in time for rehersals so I can practice a bit and make sure I like both the sound and also video quality.

thanks again...!
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Old November 25th, 2006, 08:37 AM   #8
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Seth correctly points out that 1/4" TRS may in-fact be balanced coming out of the mixer. That means you don't need the direct box and could, if you had the right cable, run it into your camera. If the mixer output is line level, then you need a pad or a direct box to get it to mic level XLR for input to your camera or mixer. A lot of answers depend on the quality of the board, the skill of the operator and the quality of the in-house mic setup.
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Old November 27th, 2006, 09:30 AM   #9
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gentlemen - thanks again.

turns out the mixer is a mackie cr1604 vlz ( http://www.mackie.com/products/cr1604vlz/ )

question - it shows the outputs as balanced/unbalanced - do you guys know how that works? Does it depend on the physical phone plug I use, e.g. if I use a TRS will it give me balanced and TS (is that what it would be called) would give unbalanced? I did order a TRS to XLR male connector and the camera can take line in and also attenuate it, so maybe that's all I need (?). I did order the direct box (can use for other events) so I could also take unbalanced, lift the ground and attenuate, then send that as balanced mike out to the cam.

the mono out goes out to a feedback eliminator then to the amp, but the L and R outputs are unused. If they are only using mono out, then I assume I could use either the R or L output or combine them (I forgot to check the pan controls to see how it's mixed, e.g. if it's all mixed to one channel or if they mix to both and then take a combined out).

greatly appreciate all the guidance...
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Old November 27th, 2006, 11:06 AM   #10
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I have that mixer's brother, the 1642VLZPro. You've got a lot of options to play with, esecially if they're only using the mono output.

First off, the balanced/unbalanced outputs work exactly as you surmised. Use a 1/4" TRS plug and you have a balanced +4dBu line output with signal + on the tip, signal - on the ring, and signal ground on the sleeve. Use a 1/4" TS plug and you have an unbalanced +4dBu line out. There's also the set of RCA Tape In and Tape Out jacks. The Tape Out parallels the Main Out jacks but sends an unbalanced -10dBv line level signal. So take your pick...

The only problem with all of these is they are all post fader, which means that as the board operator adjusts the gain, the signal sent to you is going to vary. Far better to tap your signal off pre-fader so you can get a constant level regadless of the board op's setting of the master gain. A good solution there is to use the Aux Sends. Each channel can be routed to one or more of the mono Aux send outputs - these are often used for stage monitors or headphone feeds to the talent but if they're not using all of them you can grab a line level output from them for your feed. These are post-fader as far as the channel strips are concerned but pre-fader as far as the master and submix outputs go. Or you could use the submix outs to set up a stereo camera mix that is independent of the main mix. Yet another option is to use the Main Inserts as a pre-fader send, using a mono TS plug and inserting it only to the first 'click.'

Note the Mackie manual for this (and all their other mixers) is available for DL online at www.mackie.com. A quick read should give you a lot of ideas and I'll bet you'll end up knowing more about their system than their own board ops.
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Old November 27th, 2006, 08:43 PM   #11
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Steve (and all) - excellent ... I've gone through the manual a few times now (takes a little bit to absorb, esp. if you don't have one in front of you; those writers have a good sense of humor, which I guess is needed!).

- In the manual, there's a Bus insert .. that must be the same as main insert (the manual says this can be used as tape out if plugged in the first click)

- the aux outputs also look good although I'll have to check how they are currently set..I don't think any are connected, but am not sure I want to mess with how they are set, so bus insert may be better

question - what do you think of using the headphone jack on the mixer into the direct box? to be honest, I don't think anyone works the mixer during the show..they probably power the whole thing up, and as long as everything seems to work, they don't touch it, and so I don't think there'd be any headphones plugged in... this might be another option and I wouldn't have to change the aux output settings and could connect from the front of the mixer rather than the inserts in back - would just have to set all the levels prior to the show..? I assume the headphone is post-EQ and post channel strip faders?
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Old November 28th, 2006, 07:36 AM   #12
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I can't imagine any advantage at all to using the headphone outs on the Mackie board to feed your camera. It is post-fader on the main out so it will follow any level adjustments at the board plus it has its own level control as well. That means there's a lot of dials, knobs, and faders for someone to mess with that could screw up your gain staging. I'd give careful thought to using one or two (mono or stereo) of the Aux Sends if they're not in use for stage monitors for the talent, setting them up pre-fader so you get a signal that isn't affected by the setting of the channel strip faders or the main mix settings.
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Old November 28th, 2006, 08:39 AM   #13
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steve - thanks..I talked to the music director this morning and we're all set..she filled me in on which mikes she's using, what outputs, etc. so I'll be good to go with one of the aux sends and now know that that won't cause her any problems...

thanks to all you guys for the help, I wouldn't have been able to do this without it... dress rehersal is next week, and I'll be taping that / checking the sound setup, so I'm sure I'll be back on this thread for help if I run into any snags...

thanks again, I really appreciate it!
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Old November 29th, 2006, 04:21 PM   #14
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Dave, another piece of advice: If you can, borrow another camera and find someone to operate it. Even without real time coordination, two cams are four times as good as one. In post there's a much better chance of having a good shot to go to, and you'll often be able to cut from a wide shot to a closeup and vice-versa without subjecting the viewer to panning and zooming.

But this is the audio forum. You will have the advantage of a completely independent sound track. It will not be as good as the one you're planning, but nothing is worse than silence.
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Old November 29th, 2006, 04:47 PM   #15
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thanks, good thought. I do have a regular camcorder, but since I'm planning to shoot this in SD widescreen b/c I think at least half of the parents have sprung for a widescreen TV and it would look nice, and my regular miniDV is 4:3, I guess I could just let it run and if I need to use frames from it, pan & scan in post to get the aspect ratio all 16:9 (might not look good zoomed in on the editor though - but worth a try).

and on audio, I think I've convinced myself that what I should do is mix my 3 mikes down to 2 (L / R), which might give a nice stereo effect for the voice tracks since the kids will sing L and R sides separately, record 1 channel from the mono board, and use the shotgun on the fixed cam for the 4th channel, either for additional ambiance or as a backup (albeit 25' from the stage, or I could use a mike stand for it closer).

problem is that my cam has only 2 tracks (canon XH A1). so I've convinced myself that I need to acquire a tascam hd-p2 prior to tues next week :-) ($$ ouch and I have read the threads/info on the 2 track R9, maudio, etc.)..

other choice would be to forget the stereo for the voice tracks, mix the 3 mikes down to mono, and record the mono on both the cam and a secondard recorder as backup (could use my camcorder if I convert balanced back to 3.5" mini unbalanced..beachtek I think). haven't decided on that yet..not completely comfortable that if I do spring for the tascam that I'd bet on its first use as the only recording of my primary voice tracks, although I think the stereo effect would sound really good.

input welcome! (whilst I fiddle with field order and why I'm not happy yet with vegas 7 encoding of 30F..but that's a different thread!).

:-)

Last edited by Dave Stern; November 29th, 2006 at 05:54 PM.
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