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Old December 7th, 2008, 04:00 AM   #16
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Thanks. I'll think this through over the next few days. If I'm going to call an APB I'll make sure that the whole story is available. Again, it's amazing and truly heartwarming to see the amount of effort unknown people put into this. But then again, as an entrepeneur I'm always surprised at the assistance I get from like-minded people - until I remember that I'm as willing to give as much assistance as I can to anyone who asks. It's neat and humbling too.

BTW: I certainly have taken everything on board, guys. Sponge mode on. Keep it coming.

I'll call the ABC and SBS (Aussie broadcasters) this week. It's worth an ask.

What this exercise has done already is to take me from doing something half-well into wanting to do it very well.

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Old December 7th, 2008, 08:00 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Neil Bolton View Post
What this exercise has done already is to take me from doing something half-well into wanting to do it very well.
Isn't that always the way. Its a challenge many of us face.

As an aside, I'm a motor racing fan and when I moved up here last year I found a storied local track that needed a shooter. So I started shooting some races. Having never done that before, the first few were really rubbish. But by the end of the season many, including the track owner really liked what I'd put together so much that I was asked to do a quick season retrospective for their banquet. You can see some of the peripheral pieces here: Oxford Plains Speedway Channel. I shot and cut all of this myself.

My point being that there's a lot you can do with proper preparation and practice. And you don't always need a shed load of people and kit to get it done. It just makes it easier to do well and gives you more options. Going "light" means you have to be smarter about what and how you shoot.

Chris is right (again) in saying your prep should start now. From the APB to practice shooting in different venues, you cannot start to soon to make sure that all is ready when you board the first plane.

One other thing I'd suggest you think about. You've focused upon capturing the performances which should be the centerpiece of your project. You might also want to look at other facets of the story that you could capture. The kids in the group. The sights you'll see. Anything that will add more threads to the story will make the end result more interesting.

I don't know your ultimate goals for the delivery of this piece beyond preserving time for the kids and their parents, but if done well you might be able to sell some DVDs or BDs to those who have seen the group's performances or even place them for sale in the gift shops of the venues you'll be going to. Will you make a lot of money with these options? Probably not. They're just options to consider.

What a neat opportunity you have.
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Old December 7th, 2008, 09:30 PM   #18
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Hi ,
I strongly recommend the Zoom recorders, however I came up against a small potential problem recently, a borrowed H4 wouldn't accept a 4GB HC SD card. I used the Zoom as a stand alone mic, and had to set and forget 30 minutes before the concert started, and retrieve afterwards.
Also, Why not use a separate ZoomH2 with a wired lav in place for the soloist. Heaps cheaper than a wireless lav, and none of the hiss. If you use Nimh batteries, you can just record the whole shebang.
One word of caution, the zooms, and any other non synchronised recorder have time slip, you can correct in post with most of the editing packages, Vegas, FCP Avid etc.

As for cameras, I recommend mini DV tape, love the Canon HV20 and 30. They are HD, do a reasonable job in low light, are small and easy to use. You can post your tapes back home to yourself, unless you are taking some serious computing power with you and want to download from a HDD cam on the road. Get some spare battery packs for cameras. Ive also done a youtube tutorial for multicam,
YouTube - How To - Tutorial Part ONE Video Camera Skills and Tips for Multi Camera Concert
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Old December 8th, 2008, 08:04 PM   #19
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Thanks yet again everyone.

A timely blog entry from Vincent Laforet: Tips and Tricks for the 5D MKII - PART II - Audio Vincent Laforet’s Blog - "My first recommendation is always to record your audio independently - i.e. with a separate device. This gives you much greater freedom with your edit when you have a continuous sound recording - and are now free to cut between shots even if they weren’t sequential. If you want to shoot stills and video - an independent audio recording device allows you to cut between stills and video - shot with the same camera."

He has some nice things to say about Rode mikes, which is good because they're Aussie and I'll go for the local product because I'm parochial.

Re time slip on digital recorders: Yes, I can see how it can't be avoided, but how often in (say) a one-hour recording would you need to re-synch?

Re Zoom H2 versus H4: Still can't figure out the answer to that one. I thought I had it - the H4 is 4 track, but the specs say you can only record two tracks at once. It seems that both will do the job so the simpler option (H2) is the best as long as the mike quality is OK.

Love the idea of an H2 recording directly from a lav for the soloists. This is getting simpler and simpler. That idea sure beats wireless. (Maybe use 4 H2s/H4s - two in front, one on the soloist, one on the organ.)

We'll be taking a lot of computing power with us - my day job is building and selling a Recruitment CRM by Recruitment Systems so there's never a problem about the amount of technology available. (That also means we'll be able to create a lot of content on the road and YouTube it for the folks back home.)

What I have got so far:
1. Practise.
2. Keep it simple.
3. There are a lot of people on this forum who know a great deal.
4. Zoom H2s or H4s.
5. Skip wireless.
6. A camera only a little better than my little Sony HD will cost a lot - but they are available for rent.
7. Use damn good video tripods.
8. On-camera mikes aren't good enough - a Rode shotgun seems to be the way to go.
9. Record a lot of video and do the editing in the computer.
10. Record the sound from start to finish on multiple recorders.
11. . . . and quite a bit more.


Neil Bolton

Last edited by Neil Bolton; December 8th, 2008 at 08:13 PM. Reason: Hit the button a bit early!
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Old December 8th, 2008, 09:00 PM   #20
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If you get a chance and if it still around, try to look at a Film Australia doco titled "Mum. How Do They Spell Gorbatroff". It may well be available from Film Australia archives. It would be a good template for your project if you don't get a doco crew aboard. I think Channel Nine also did a 60 minutes spot on the Qantas Choir's world trip to make the " I Still Call Australia Home" advertisements, again worth a look if you did not see the broadcast.

In your instance, it is likely a doco crew would search for and home in on distinctive personalities within the group, among the kids and among the leaders and chaperones.

They may divert into mini biographies, with the perfomances as underscore and blend these with the performances which may not be entire, just closing finales or significant soloes within a performance.

Their antennae will be twitching for glitches and mini-crises to happen, reactions and how these are resolved, you know, lost luggage, heartbreak over a broken instrument, homesickness, crisis of confidence. They will be on the lookout for internal feuding, brawling and clash of personalities and how these are or are not resolved. That is the nature of reality TV these days and it is neither pretty nor comfortable for those in front of the lens.

Camera-in-face examination of these things is not all that pleasurable and a real distraction from the primary task. The course of such a documentary and the final story it tells is neither in your control nor does it necessarily distill into a form of your liking.

That is the downside to my suggestion.

Whatever, documentary or no, the adventure itself is bound to be a good gig. Enjoy.

Last edited by Bob Hart; December 8th, 2008 at 09:10 PM. Reason: error
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Old December 10th, 2008, 04:30 PM   #21
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Breaking news: It looks like they'll get a gig to sing in Notre Dame . . .

This is getting cooler and cooler. All the more reason to do it right.

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Old December 15th, 2008, 09:21 AM   #22
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Hey Neil,
I'm a resident of the "Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead" and live about 7 miles from the castle. If you need an extra cam at the castle let drop me a line, would happily give up a few hours to film there, it's a magic place!


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Old December 28th, 2008, 08:48 PM   #23
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Rob said: I'm a resident of the "Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead" and live about 7 miles from the castle. If you need an extra cam at the castle let drop me a line, would happily give up a few hours to film there, it's a magic place!

Just got your message, Rob. Thanks for the offer of an extra cam - I'll certainly keep you in the loop and probably take you up on it.

Where I am up to:

I'm going to get the audio right, and it seems that it is easier than I thought.

As for the video - um, I think I need a new toy - a Canon 5d Mk 2. I know it can't shoot for longer than 12 minutes or something, but it might be the "quality" cam, if not the A cam.

I'll send more info later, plus the reasons for doing it. Needless to say there's been about fifty hours of serious research so far . . .

Now the tough job is to get the story for the documentary. I Googled "How to make a documentary" and it's not something I can learn in half an hour. Damn. But it's the only way anyone will watch it.

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Old December 28th, 2008, 10:12 PM   #24
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Hi again.....................


I may be preaching to the converted here or just blowing hot air, but..........if you need help with this, why not ask?

There's some pretty serious talent lined up here on the boards (most huddled indoors using their pc's for warmth in the Northern weather), and I cannot believe that if the case was put and the parameters were outlined, you couldn't get some serious help with this.

I do realise that with every additional "talent", the level of difficulty rises by X percent just on an organizational level, but it would appear on the surface that you're taking on one heck of a production, and from the feedback I've seen so far here, on your own.

Now, that could be complete hogwash.

Your query re "documentary" is a case in point tho' - why not ask on DVinfo?

Heck, if you can't get chapter and verse here, where the farout are you going to get it?

Do yourself a favour - get back on board the DVinfo raft and let's see what we can do.

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Old January 5th, 2009, 05:54 PM   #25
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Chris said:

"Do yourself a favour - get back on board the DVinfo raft and let's see what we can do."

I'm back. A bit of a break for Christmas.

"Your query re "documentary" is a case in point tho' - why not ask on DVinfo? Heck, if you can't get chapter and verse here, where the farout are you going to get it?"

OK, I think I've got the technology sorted. But, just like my owning some very nice guitars and not doing them justice, until I learn how to use it it's going to painful for people to listen.

Next question:

Where's the best "How to make a documentary" info? I do know that's a VERY big ask, but there's this thing called the Internet that makes stuff very accessible.

As for this being a hell of a project - um, yes, that tends to be the way I do things. Take a big bite and chew like crazy.

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Old January 5th, 2009, 07:34 PM   #26
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Those Zoom things you are intending to record sound on, you will need to try-try-try and practice when your players are in rehearsal.

At least once when you have a full house of beating hearts with bodies attached on seats soaking up all the echoes. This is to enable you a sense of how much human mass will affect the rercordings.

On the tour you may not have the luxury of time to do a full test in the venues you play at.

Auto gain in musical recording sucks bigtime, the pumping effect where background ambiences rises and fall behind a constant primary source.

Camera audio can sends ears people like me insane but layering of multiple camera-audio sources can sometimes bring something back when a primary source fails, so don't throw out camera audio or neglect the audio settings in the cameras as sync tracks only. POV ambiences laid at almost subaudible levels can be a powerful subliminal tool.

You may find an "apparent" sync failure in audio between several cameras. There are two things at play here. The main one being the time it takes for the sound to travel to a distant camera versus a closer one. The other of course is the reverbrances within a building.

You may find if you layer the camera audios in a desperate recovery attempt for a critical moment, you may achieve a sweeter result if you slip some of the audio tracks one frame or another forward or back. If you have a decent sound software, you can do this even more effectively with dynamic effects of delays, reverbs and crossing channels back on each other.

Sometimes an unpleasant reverb or echo to one camera may be dimininshed in its presence with another source laid over.

This is mostly after-the-event stuff to consider. I am not practiced in these things myself, just done one or two gigs multicamera.

One last donkey trap. - If you are taking a mixer feed into any of your cameras, say an EX1 if you get hold of one, bung on a set of headphones or watch the level meters, then tap the on-camera mike to make sure the external source has been selected. It is so easy to think the internal mike is not on when in fact it is.

If your cameras have infra-red remotes, unless you are actually using the remotes to control the cameras, select this function off in menu. There may be somebody else at the gig doing the same thing as you. They button-on their camera with their remote and yours buttons off.

Maybe do a bit of sleuthing to see if others are videoing the gig, especially if your own group is only part of a larger presentation. Who knows, you might help each other.

It might be worthwhile enquiring about any domestic media coverage of any of these events as an additional source of coverage.

Sometimes a host organisation or venue imposes a "we get a copy of your footage and we get to later use the footage for free" clause as a condition of media access to a closed event. It may be possible to negotiate an extention for your documentary. You will need to to do this well beforehand and you may yourself find your own footage similarly treated.

Last edited by Bob Hart; January 5th, 2009 at 07:41 PM. Reason: error
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Old January 11th, 2009, 05:09 PM   #27
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Capturing good choral sound on the run

Originally Posted by Neil Bolton View Post
What gear should I get? I'm thinking two cameras
Others have addressed the cameras. Too bad the Sony TCR-900 isn't around anymore. That is my go-to camera for lightweight portable use in low-light conditions.

Originally Posted by Neil Bolton View Post
and two mikes on booms in front of the choir - but they'd need to be wireless because we can't run wires back to a camera - or can we? Or do we record to a time-coded recorder sitting between the mikes? We can't just run a mike on the camera, or can we?
Two mics on tall stands might be nice, but when I am on the road and quick and simple setup is desirable (to say nothing of minimal visual impact) I prefer using one tall stand and a stereo microphone. My favorite is my Sony ECM-MS5, but close second is the Rode NT4. Note that using a co-incident stereo microphone preserves monaural compatibility for viewers watching your DVD on their old tellys.

You want to get the mic up high enough to "see" each row of singers directly (without being blocked by the row in front). This means at least 10-12 feet (3m). I typically use a tall "lighting stand" because it is lightweight and folds up compactly for travel. There are various ways of adapting the mic clip to the light stand depending on exactly what kind you have.

Position the stand at a distance away from the choir that grabs the best-sounding mix of direct (singers) and indirect (venue reverberation). Too close and you might as well have recorded it in a dead classroom back home. Too far and it will sound like they are singing in a big cave, etc. Have the sound person wear a good set of closed headphones to judge this sound. This is the most critical sound "setting" and it typically arrived at by moving the mic stand forward and back during rehearsal to understand the ambiance of the venue.

You are probably correct that stringing mic cables likely isn't a good thing for this sort of "run-n-gun" kind of production. You can get adapters which allow connecting professional XLR mic cables to cameras with only mini-phone mic inputs. But regardless of whether the camera has XLR or mini-phone inputs, you must be able to TURN OFF THE AUTO-LEVEL. The automatic recording level on cameras may be OK for dialog, but it is DEATH TO MUSIC, particularly"classical" music.

Avoid wireless mics completely. The good ones (that cost as much as your camera) are tolerable when absolutely necessary, but they are generally a pain and a major source of potential and actual problems. Not to mention that even the very best aren't that good at handling wide dynamic range classical music.

In any case, I prefer to use a separate digital recorder. If it is small enough you can attach it directly to the mic stand and have no cables for people to trip over. Likely any of the current crop of small digital music recorders would do well for this application.

Modern equipment (even consumer-grade) has crystal clocks running everything that are good enough to maintain reasonable sync for at least ~10 minutes, and it seems unlikely that the group will perform anything that is longer than that (longer works tend to be broken up into movements or other sections, etc.)

If the audio and video recordings DO drift, there are many easy and seamless ways of fixing it during editing. You can always "pull-up" the sync in between songs, during applause, etc. And if you are shooting multiple cameras, every time you switch between cameras is annother seamless point to pull up the sync. You would use your digital audio recording during editing as the "master track" and slip the camera video to sync with the master audio track.

Use the built-in mics on the cameras to record a "reference track" so you know how to sync them up. Of course you are correct that the built-in camera microphones are NOT useful for this kind of shooting (or for much of ANY kind of shooting, for that matter.) Assuming you have someone who recognizes the music, it isn't really even mandatory that you keep either the audio or the video recordings running continuously. It is easier to sync the video to the (master) audio track than you think. I do it frequently and it is easier to do than it is to explain.

I came from a background in location recording classical music before taking up video production. I started working in video originally to try to reverse the dreadful trend of audio I was hearing on television. I will be doing virtually exactly what I have just described for a men's chorus (OAMC) of well over 100 voices (combined with the local singers) when our choir travels to Romania in April. I'm planning on taking 2-3 (empty) sand-bags and filling them in-country to use as "ballast" to keep the tall stand stable, even if someone runs into it. I'm also taking bright yellow gaffers tape to secure the stand to the floor and to "paint" a guard band so that people can avoid the legs, etc.

Last edited by Richard Crowley; January 11th, 2009 at 05:23 PM. Reason: Covered a couple of additional points.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 01:15 AM   #28
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Awesome post. (Not to denigrate any of the other posts in any way!)

I'm reading and planning.

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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:27 PM   #29
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Where we are up to:

Next Friday I'm to record a demo of the choir to send to Notre Dame, so now the rubber hits the road. Thursday is practise, Friday is recording.

I have bought:

Two Zoom H4s
A pair of Rode NT5s
A Sennheiser Freeport transmitter and receiver
A Rode video mike.

After initial testing at home all I can say is: THANKS for the advice, guys!

The Rode NT5s seem to be sensational, and I'm really proud of an Aussie company making gear this good. The Zoom H4s take a bit of learning, and I'm going to have to write a Quick Start guide (a manual for people who don't read 'em) because this kit will be used by people other than myself. But the quality of the recording so far is exceptional.

I bought the NT5s instead of an NT4 because in a couple of gigs the choir is has a gap in the middle. (La Madeline is one, I think, and the acoustics there are very good - good enough to try really hard to record it really well.) The NT4 would have made it a little simpler, the NT5s give me a bit more flexibility - and a bigger chance of stuffing it up, so I'll have to make sure I do it right.

The Sennheiser wireless kit was on the recommendation of the bloke who owned the shop, and it turns out that his son is in the choir and I never knew, so I got a fabulous deal on all of this. I think I got it at almost cost. Anyhow, the Sennheiser just works, really well. And the solo track isn't crucial, just a nice-to-have, so if it breaks in the field we'll still have the main audio.

What I'll be doing:

Mounting the NT5s on tall stands (thanks Richard) and recording that to one of the H4s.

Having the soloist wear the Sennheiser and recording that to the second H4.

Filming it with the Sony HDR SR1 with the Rode video mike and using the camera's soundtrack as the sync track.

I'll report back (and hopefully post the result somewhere if I think it will pass muster!) after Friday.

As I have learned from you guys even doing it this simply takes a fair bit of gear!

And as I have realised, this is an audio exercise more than a video one, so we are addressing that side of it first.

If I can afford it I may buy a Canon 5D Mk2 and use it as the run and gun camera, particularly as it's also a damn good still camera. But we're going to get the audio recording sorted first.

(If I'm proud of the result I'll post it and start a new thread to show off!)

One thing: the Sony HDRSR1's shoe is too small - the shoe on the Rode video mike is a standard camera shoe, and the one on the Sony is smaller. I'm sure there's an easy answer somewhere . . .

Thanks guys

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Old January 24th, 2009, 12:01 AM   #30
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Two options, there is a cold shoe adapter available for the Sony proprietary shoe, OR my preference is to use a flash bracket with a cold shoe (some have two) on it - which is also helpful when shooting handheld - provides a better grip to stabilize - I use two, like a mini fig rig...
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