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Old March 25th, 2017, 02:15 AM   #1
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Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

Hi Guys

Had a tricky one today at an Arts Festival where we had 13 kids on stage reading from scripts (they attended a theatre workshop 30 minutes prior to going on stage) so it was basically whispers and heads down and no voice projection at all. The venue decided not to supply any audio so it was up to us to try and capture audio from all these kids (speaking in turn)

I decided eventually to use two AKG boundary mics mounted about 6" in from the front edge of the stage and spaced about 15' apart but the audio was OK but not brilliant ... Would you have done it any other way? The kids were around 15' from the front of the stage so I felt that shotguns left and right wouldn't have been any better.

Any hints from those who have had no desk feed and had to provide their own audio capture??
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Old March 25th, 2017, 06:41 AM   #2
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

What pickup pattern were the AKG boundary mics?

Did the kids move left and right a lot or stay centered on the stage?

I have used my cardioid AT boundary mics in a slightly narrow 60-degree "coincident" (mounted almost touching each other) XY pair. It gives strong central coverage without phasing and enough coverage left and right if they move around but without having such wide coverage that you pick up too much of the audience or leave a deep central weak spot in the back center of the stage.

Since the mics aren't going to any PA system, you have a lot of latitude in boosting the gain with no feedback. So I would also consider using my very clean and sensitive AT4021 cardioid mounted like a boundary layer mic, taped down on two small neoprene pads under the front body and the XLR connector.
This mic has very low off-axis coloration and very low self-noise. If you have a clean preamp it can be boosted a lot!

Was this a portable stage or a permanent stage?

Do you stream a stereo signal?
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Old March 25th, 2017, 11:48 AM   #3
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

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Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Guys

Had a tricky one today at an Arts Festival where we had 13 kids on stage reading from scripts (they attended a theatre workshop 30 minutes prior to going on stage) so it was basically whispers and heads down and no voice projection at all. The venue decided not to supply any audio so it was up to us to try and capture audio from all these kids (speaking in turn)

I decided eventually to use two AKG boundary mics mounted about 6" in from the front edge of the stage and spaced about 15' apart but the audio was OK but not brilliant ... Would you have done it any other way? The kids were around 15' from the front of the stage so I felt that shotguns left and right wouldn't have been any better.

Any hints from those who have had no desk feed and had to provide their own audio capture??
Unless the kids were in exactly the same spot taking turns speaking, I would have set up exactly the same as you did.
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Old March 25th, 2017, 07:06 PM   #4
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

Thanks Jay

To be honest I have no idea what the pickup pattern is on both mics They are AKG C400BL units and are neat due to their size (really tiny at about 1.5" x 3/4") This was a permanent timber stage and the kids were basically spread out in a rectangle around the centre but did move around and come on and off stage frequently. I just used a layer of my cloth gaffer tape between the mic and floor and it seemed to soften the footsteps pretty well. I was wondering if a boundary mic would work better with equal floor area them? I had them quite close to the front edge of the stage and was wondering if they would have been more effective if I had moved then say 3' from the front edge of the stage instead of 6"

Yep I was broadcasting out with one mic to left channel and one to right via transmitters and thru my XLR 2 channel mixer and then HDMI from camera to my LiveStream Broadcaster which was being used as a wireless remote camera to the switcher.

If you are placing mics into two audio channels is it best to have them spread over the width of the stage or close together??
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Old March 25th, 2017, 10:04 PM   #5
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

It depends on the width of the stage, the number of mics and their pattern, and whether you are live mixing the mics.

If it's an unusually large spread side to side, and you are live mixing the mics, then I might consider spreading them out especially if I could go Left, Center and Right with 3 mics instead of 2 (and a larger mixer with enough inputs). Also if the mics are omni instead of cardioid I'd spread them out. The AKG website says your mics are hypercardioid.

For just 2 cardioid mics like mine, at the size of activity on stage I'm picturing in your situation, broadcasting in stereo, and with the possibility I might have my hands too full to also concentrate on live mixing, I'd likely pick a coincident placement, at least as close to coincident as you can mount two boundary layer mics. I'd tailor the angle between the two mics based on how wide a spread of activity and how close the audience is to the front of the stage.

I think mounting close to the edge of the stage is preferred. The mics get less reception from the nearest boundary edge, at least that's what I've read. Plus they are less likely to get stepped on.
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Old March 25th, 2017, 10:52 PM   #6
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

Awesome Jay - Thanks

The stage wasn't that big around 30' wide and 15' deep so I had each mic about 1/3rd of the way in from each end so they were probably 20' apart. The only mistake I made was I should have pinned them in position using a strip of cloth tape just over the cable and on one I accidentally ran the tape over the top which muffled the output on the left hand mic. How do you keep yours in position without them moving around on the floor? I most definately had a much lower output from the left hand mic!
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Old March 26th, 2017, 06:23 AM   #7
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

All of my Audio-Technica and Crown boundary mics have some flat surface near the edge of the body to apply a thin strip of gaffers tape to hold them to the surface. I don't have any round or curved boundary mics like your AKG.
The supercardioid and omni Crown's are especially easy as they have totally flat plates as their bases. (I forgot about my first mics, two classic Radio Shack PZM's licensed from a Crown design. They also have flat plates and are fairly heavy as I had one fall off a wall that had heavily textured wallpaper that wouldn't hold tape very well. Yes, you can put boundary mics on vertical surfaces if the angle and mic pattern are aimed at your source and that's your only choice.)
The AT's are a little harder since the edge is narrow, but it's enough as long as nobody kicks one.
Attached Thumbnails
Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play-at851-cardioid-boundary-mic.jpg   Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play-pcc-160-supercardioid-boundary-mic.jpg  

Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play-crown-pzm-30d-omni-boundary.jpg   Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play-radio-shack-pzm-omni-boundary.jpg  


Last edited by Jay Massengill; March 26th, 2017 at 07:19 AM.
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Old March 26th, 2017, 01:43 PM   #8
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

I think I would have done the same too - with these things, the audio you got was probably the best you could have!
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Old March 26th, 2017, 05:05 PM   #9
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

For school plays with no PA, I usually use a pair of Boundary layer mics on the scenery behind or either side if it's a small stage. I had a larger stage a few weeks ago with most of the action in the centre and simply suspended a Zoom H1 from a roof beam over the centre of the stage at about 6 ft over their heads to keep it out of shot. I turned it on about 30 minutes before the show.

To get the zoom up there, I attached it to some fishing line with a weight on the other end, threw the weight up over the beam, then stood on a stepladder to pull the mic to the right height, tie the other end to the zoom, and cut off the weight and surplus. It worked remarkably well and was very easy to set up.

Roger
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Old March 26th, 2017, 07:09 PM   #10
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

Thanks Guys

All the comments are appreciated. Yeah the C400's are tiny but effective ,,, I'm wondering if I should give each of them a small aluminium plate so I can tape them down using a base plate ..I really messed up on one mic on Saturday when tape covered the unit so maybe a neat plate glued to the underside will be an idea and provide easy fixing in future. You can see how tiny the AKG units are. They look like a tiny computer mouse actually but no lip around the housing at all to tape it down unless of course I just apply a strip of double sided tape to the base prior to leaving and then just "peel 'n stick"
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Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play-boundary.jpg  
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Old March 27th, 2017, 04:52 AM   #11
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

Hi Chris,

For sticking down your mic, to floor, walls or anything else, I would recommend BLACK TAK. Sticks like s**t to a blanket and you can remove it easily afterwards to reuse. You can get it from Amazon in 1" wide strips to peel off.

Roger
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Old March 27th, 2017, 05:02 AM   #12
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

Thanks Roger

I like that cos it also provides a cushioning between the mic and the floor so it won't pick up so much noise caused by heavy foot stomping. I used a couple of layers of cloth gaffer tape as the cushion but on the one mic I made the mistake of covering some of the vents on top which attentuated the audio somewhat so I had to use the left hand channel only. We some something quite similar here in the hardware store but I have a feeling it won't come off as cleanly as the Black Tak! I wonder if mirror mounting tape would work too? That has a foam layer with adhesive either side ...using mainly for mirror mounting ... the foam does start to fall to bits over years but it's only going to be stuck on the underside of the mic for a few hours and would provide a buffer layer for floor mounted mics.
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Old March 27th, 2017, 04:50 PM   #13
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

My wife's church has the Bartlett stage mic, which is similar to the Crown.

Great solution. It's rugged, out of the sight line, well-positioned for small people who look down, and you can crank the gain pretty far without unacceptable noise. It's used for live re-enforcement in our situation, and we're feedback, rather than noise, limited.

The first year we used it for "Kids Drama Camp", the play was a western. The director brought in bales of hay - and put hay on the stage. Wrong choice. All we heard was "crunch, crunch, crunch" when the kids walked. This past summer, the stage was clean and the mic (we use one) worked quite well.

Our stage is solid cement with linoleum tiles, so it works pretty well. A soft, rubber surface on top would be even better. A floating wooden stage would be problematic. "Clomp, clomp, clomp."

BTW, for live use, we plug it into a cheap Behringer mixer and play it through 15" (or are they 12s?) low-end Mackie powered monitors. The noise from the monitors and the feedback dominate. For recording purposes, I'd want better preamps, but for live, the Behringer isn't the weakest link in the chain.
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Old March 27th, 2017, 06:48 PM   #14
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

The appropriate way to capture quiet kids is a mic on a stand that they are with in 1ft or a hand held dynamic mic that's a few inches away. There is no way getting around the fact the mic needs to be really close to a quiet source.

I was part of an educational program that had the same problem basically stage frightened kid who can't project their voice. We solved it by filming them a day/week before in an intimate environment with a lav. Then playback their readings as video for the final performance. This might not work for you particular circumstance but sometimes you have to think out side the box.
The approach is often more important than the equipment. Staged performances of younger non professionals is always fraught with these sort of issues

Last edited by Pete Cofrancesco; March 27th, 2017 at 07:54 PM.
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Old March 27th, 2017, 07:13 PM   #15
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Re: Audio for a Kiddies Stage Play

With 13 kids onstage at one time all spread out over a at least a 20' x 10' area any handheld mics would have been totally impractical. (I don't own that many handheld mics plus they would have looked ugly) The theatre does have much more acceptable headsets that are flesh coloured but didn't offer them for such a short performance (20 mins) I suppose one could have hidden mics in the stage scenery but they would have still been too far away.

The boundary mics worked pretty well considering the distance so I would use them again if it was a group shoot!
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