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Old December 15th, 2008, 01:26 PM   #1
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Advice for shooting church choir ??

A friend asked if I could help tape the annual choir session at her church. This is something a church member has done in the past using a very basic consumer type cam with on board mic and photo tripod, shooting from a balcony in the back of the church (singers & organ are in the front for this event). So, working in my favor, although they like what's been done in the past, the bar has been set pretty low.

I'd like to help out and at the same time pretend I know what I'm doing. :) Given that I also expect to be taping some sessions for our corporate training company in the near future, this would be a good time to perhaps invest in some additional equipment beyond the basic XH-A1 and HV-30 cams I now have.

Especially interested in advice on the best way to record the audio. I've read hundreds of threads here re. audio options, but still not sure what would be the best system to invest in here. Budget? Well, I don't think I'd be looking at some of the high-end systems I've seen mentioned here, but at the same time perhaps something for a "few hundred" US $$?

Any general advice in general about such a project would be much appreciated? Two camera possibilities (any way to sync audio with these 2 cams)? Sessions typically last a bit over one hour-- turn both cams on continuously? Light/sound placement? Internal vs. external recording devices?

I'll be using Premiere Pro CS4 for post work...

Thanks much,
Tim
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Old December 15th, 2008, 02:10 PM   #2
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Church Choir

Tim,

I won't tell you what to do, I will tell you my set up and you can take from it what you want.
hv30 w/ wide angle lens on wide shot. Personally I set this as a good shot all of the time camera, so I like to be able to see some faces. I find that if I try to get the entire choir in the shot, it becomes impersonal. I always make sure to have the conductor in the shot that way there is always something important going on.

XH-a1 on close ups. Normally I film these from balconies far away from the altar so panning smoothly can be treacherous. I instruct my crew to find a group of faces singing and stay there at least until the phrase ends then move quickly and find another group. Be prepared for a narrator to talk between every song. As long as someone is singing in your shot, you can use it!

Audio. If the church is running everything through their board and the music is from a track, I will come out of their board with an XLY cable straight into the XH-A1. If there are live instruments I set up a Audio Technica 825 Stereo Condenser Mic about 5 rows back from the choir on a 15' mic stand and run wireless with a Sennheisser G2 Evolution set up. Works great and I don't have to worry about people sitting too close to me and talking. I make sure the people around the mic are aware of it, but normally in these settings you are dealing with very nice conscientious people.

Hope this helps some.

Jonathan Schwartz
CA Video Productions
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Old December 15th, 2008, 02:20 PM   #3
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Is it an amplified choir in a deadish space, or an unamplified choir in a gothic style reverberant traditional church. Audio techniques will be very different. Here in the UK, we have some super sounding churches, even the small ones which produce superb audio with minimal equipment, unlike the huge theatre style ones you seem to have in the States.
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Old December 15th, 2008, 02:28 PM   #4
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Some suggestions

I do a fair bit of this stuff on fairly basic gear. (XH-A1 and HV-30s)

Sync first:
The "sessions typically last a bit over one hour" concerns me slighty, otherwise letting both cameras run throughout will ease matters greatly. Any chance of an interval to change tape? (I assume you don't have a couple of Firestores available). Or can you arrange for an extra long verbal introduction to one of the items about halfway through? If you are doing this recording session with the full cooperation of the choir and conductor that should be possible.

Audio/video sync points are essential for editing and can be arranged fairly unobtrusively with a bit of thought. If the conductor is using a white baton, a couple of taps on a music stand seen in shot of both cameras will do nicely. I've been known to use a piano lid banged open deliberately, an accompanist's backside hitting a chair hard, a pizzicato fake tuning check on the leader's violin, and a simple and undisguised handclap (with or without a "this performance is being recorded on video and I've been asked to do this" from the person introducing the choir). Everything except a clapper board in fact (though I brought one back from Disneyland for a laugh - I wonder if I'll ever be brave/silly enough to use it). Ideally get a sync point at the beginning of each piece.

Flashguns don't make a noise so they are not much use for an audio sync point.

All of the above would apply whether your are recording your audio on one or both cameras or an external recorder. You can edit it out once you've got your sync.

Audio:
I prefer a simple stereo pair (X/Y or ORTF) centre front above head height for this sort of thing but depending on the accompaniment (piano/organ?) and where it is relative to the choir you might need to mic that separately which complicates things a bit. The Mid/Side technique requires special processing and different mics so maybe best left alone.

I would look at some of the Rode condensers for mics - not the ultimate but very good bang for buck:
RØDE Microphones - Our microphones

I got a good deal on a pair of N1-1A's but they might be a bit big for some folks. There is a Rode X/Y type stereo mic but it is less flexible in use than a separate pair.

Feel free to ignore/disagree with any of the above, and do post us a clip when it's done.

EDIT: After reading the other posts, I realise I jumped in assuming it was purely an acoustic performance.

Last edited by Colin McDonald; December 15th, 2008 at 02:32 PM. Reason: Afterthought
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Old December 15th, 2008, 04:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Schwartz View Post
XH-a1 on close ups. Normally I film these from balconies far away from the altar so panning smoothly can be treacherous. I instruct my crew to find a group of faces singing and stay there at least until the phrase ends then move quickly and find another group. Be prepared for a narrator to talk between every song. As long as somone is singing in your shot, you can use it!
Hi Jonathan,

Great advice-- thanks much. It sounds so simple reading it but until you've done it a couple of times those are the kinds of things one that one doesn't think ahead about.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Schwartz View Post
Audio. If the church is running everything through their board
I should have described the setting in more detail. It's a relatively small, rural frame style church. White steeple New England architecture, if that's descriptive. The organ is powered but beyond that it's just the choir doing it's thing.
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Old December 15th, 2008, 04:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Is it an amplified choir in a deadish space, or...
Paul-- see my response to Jonathan re. venue. More like what you describe as a small, UK church.

Tim
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Old December 15th, 2008, 04:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colin McDonald View Post
Sync first:
The "sessions typically last a bit over one hour" concerns me slighty, otherwise letting both cameras run throughout will ease matters greatly. Any chance of an interval to change tape? (I assume you don't have a couple of Firestores available).
Colin,

I do have a few more tools which might (or might not) help actually. I have an Audio-Technica PRO 88 wireless system with an Audio-Technica AUMT830MW MT830mW Omni-Directional Condenser Lavalier Microphone. Bought the microphone thanks to advice received here in fact.

I also do have a Zoom H2 digital recorder, but not sure whether that could fit into the mix. I also considered using my notebook with Adobe OnLocation if there's a place to set it up. Surely overkill, but it's a no-pressure find kinda' job and it would be a good chance to play with some of this stuff that I've used very little so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colin McDonald View Post
Audio/video sync points are essential for editing and can be arranged fairly unobtrusively with a bit of thought. ...

Flashguns don't make a noise so they are not much use for an audio sync point.
Great ideas. I'm pretty sure they would be willing to go along with something like what you suggest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colin McDonald View Post
Audio:
...
I would look at some of the Rode condensers for mics - not the ultimate but very good bang for buck:
RØDE Microphones - Our microphones

...

Feel free to ignore/disagree with any of the above, and do post us a clip when it's done.
I'll definitely check out those sources. I expect that like a lot of folks starting out I figured the audio part would be a breeze, but I'm quickly realizing that you cannot understate how important it is to the overall end product!

Tim
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Old December 15th, 2008, 07:02 PM   #8
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Hi Tim,

Most of my projects are similar to the one you're going to do. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to take a feed off of a board but more often I'm having to mic the performance myself. The equipment I use is:

Video-
XH A1 (soon to be XL H1a)
HV20

Audio-
Sennheiser ME66 shotgun (mostly to pick up dialogue)
2 Rode M3 mic
Edirol FA-101 A/D
Alesis 8 track mixer with firewire out
Sony PDM - D50 field recorder
Laptop

If I can get a feed off of the main board I usually take the feed into my Edirol, as well as the Road mics picking up from about 20' to 25' back. The board and mics go out into my laptop recording onto separate channels for each input. Then I record onto my XH A1 using my shotgun and use the onboard on my HV20. I also usually have my Sony D50 on recording both channels to pick up additional ambient.

In post I sync up all the audio signals to the camera's embedded audio and mix to get the most natural and best sound. I usually turn off the audio from the cameras since it's compressed and doesn't handle post corrections very well. I usually record 24bit at 48k or sometimes even 96k but most people feel that going above 48k is an overkill.

And, don't forget about wires. I have about 500' of various wires (most of my XLR and Balanced 1/4" wires are 50 lengths). And, extension cords for power.

One thing I learned was that bad audio can kill great camera work.

I purchased most of my audio gear used over time so my overall audio set cost me just around $1000 (excluding the laptop but including wires).

I just did a shoot out here at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and they had audio gear to drool for. That was great because we got feeds from there boards as they were mixing for a recording session and the sound was increadible. Very Very Cool Studio.

Hope that helps a little.
Garrett
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Old December 15th, 2008, 07:28 PM   #9
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If they have rehearsals in the main church, be there to test and learn the program so you can plan the shoot to the program, especiall for any portions that call for a close up.

Close up shots of soloists if there are any.

Visit the Shure web site, see their resource section for tips on use of microphones for choirs.

If it runs over an hour, you can plan tape changes so as to be sure one camera is always running. You could try 80-minute tape if that works for you.

Consider recording the audio to a separate recorder; e.g., like the Midiman 24/96

The XH-A1 camcorder mic can at times give reasonable sound, but not if there is an audience present and it is located behind the audience. Directional mics (i.e., cardioid pattern) are good in this situation, but it is often best to avoid shotgun mics - they can introduce pattern-based artifacts.
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