View Full Version : Marching Band Sound recording

Joe Winn
September 12th, 2010, 08:32 PM
I have an XL-2 that I have been doing high school marching band with. I am looking to get better sound than the standard XL-2 mic.

I am setting up the camera usually in or next to the press box in the stands. My budget is going to be less than $500 for now which rules out wireless mics set up down on the field. I don't want to run miles of cables to standard mics down on the field either (unless you guys advise this is the absolute best way to go within my budget). Is there a decent on camera mic that will give decent sound while still blocking out some of the crowd and wind noise? If not, is there a decent off camera mic (or mics) that I can set up in the pressbox with me or on either side of the press box etc...without running cables all the way down to the field?

Thanks guys!


Don Palomaki
September 15th, 2010, 06:48 PM
For decent sound pickup you need to get a directional mic in front of the audience and facing the band so the audience noise is rejected. A cardoid pattern is arguably the best because the minimum is directly behind the mic. Keep in mind that any sound source between the band and the mic will be picked up by the mic, so the objective is to not have sound sources, like clapping parents and giggling teenagers, between the mic and the band.

You might be able to use the press box to shadow the audience noise a bit, by having the mic back on the roof, but the results will only be marginally better.

Running a couple hundred feet of cable can be a pain, but is is usually lower cost than wireless mics, and also less prone to stray RF interference at a given venue. An alternative is to have an assistant with a small recorder such as the Tascam DR-100, M-Audio MicroTrak, or even a MiniDisc near wired mics at field level to record the sound and then sync it in post. It could even be a second camcorder. This separate recorder with good mics should actually give you better sound than a decent wireless system.

Mic placement can be a bit tricky. a center mic at feild level will tend to emphasize the sound of the pit. I generally place the mics mid runnign track at the 40 yard lines - gives a wide stereo image, and soem separation form the pit. I've been using Shure SM58 elements on a wireless system. The elements are rugged which is why we have used them for several years now.

If I am in a situation where a single point stereo mic is appropriate I've used an AT-825.

But mic selection is a personal preference and an art.

For wind noise roll-off filtering helps, but best to get a good "dead cat" sort of thing. The foam wind stuff helps a bit, but do not expect much from it.

Joe Winn
September 16th, 2010, 03:05 PM
Thanks for your reply.

Will there be a mixer required? I'd like to get as simple as possible.

Don Palomaki
September 18th, 2010, 07:56 PM
Whether or not you need a mixer depends on how your system is set up. But in general you will not need a separate mixer if you are feeding two mics to the camcorder, or to a field recorder such as the ones I mentioned. They do provide level control for two (or a stereo) microphone.

Actually the stock mic can give decent sound for field use, the trick is to get the audience out from between the mic and the band. However, because it is unbalanced and draws power from the camcorder, running long leads is not practical.

Kyle Root
September 21st, 2010, 08:00 PM
I've filmed a ton of marching band competitions.

The setup depends on exactly how much effort you want to put into it.

What I would do at Vanderbilt is be up in the press box, and use 2 ME66's and spread them out on the left and right using 1-25' cable for each, so about 50' apart for the 2 mics. They were pointed at the field and "over" the audience. Those mics did an absolutely amazing job of picking up everything from the flutes to the xylophones to the bass drums. It also gave a very neat stereo separation. Particularly, very cool for the drum line when they move left to right or right to left.

For smaller venues, such as most high school stadiums, I usually just use the onboard mic and that is generally sufficient.

However, the shotgun mic does provide "more punch" I would say to the percussion side of the house.


Don Palomaki
September 25th, 2010, 10:01 AM
Additional thoughts. Marching band competitions and festivals are different than most game night halftime performances. The audience at the competition is there to hear the bands and will be quiet during the performance (except perhaps for applauding solos, breaks between numbers, and special happenings in the show). Under these circumstances, decent directional mics on the press box can work reasonably well.

Using audio AGC can ruin the dynamic range of the performance, especially if it is one that has soft passages, clear crescendos and climaxes. For smaller bands getting mics close to the field will help the sound.

The worst possible situation is using a camcorder mic with AGC while sitting in the stands among the masses.