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Old March 28th, 2008, 12:26 PM   #1
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Help with audio at Dance/School Play

I have been around for months and tried to do a lot of searches, but the answer still seems to elude me.

I am looking for a good solution for getting audio when filming a stage play, dance recital, school play type of setting.

I have two cameras that i use (Sony Z1u and A1u) each with a shotgun mic attached. The sound comes out ok, but I would like better. On some occassions I can get a feed directly from the sound board into one of the cameras. The problem is that I am the only person, so I am unable to be fiddling with a sound mixer during the performance.

Is there a better way to get good sound using a digital recorder or set of wireless mics?

Thanks for any help
Brian
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Old March 28th, 2008, 02:08 PM   #2
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Getting a feed from the sound board is critical for plays as the house sound is so unpredictable, plus with house sound you have to deal with audience noises (coughing, talking, doors, chairs moving). I have tried a wireless mic near the stage but it didn't help very much as I found that unless you use a number of them, you won't have enough coverage. Even then, performers can turn away from the audience and you will lose them, so you need the board or other house sound anyway (assuming the performers are mic'd).

If I only have house sound its usually with three cameras placed in different locations, so the coverage is okay, but the mixing in post can be very time consuming.

For dance recitals I don't bother with a board feed. I put a wireless mic right at stage level (mostly for tap numbers) and get house sound with the other camera. Before I leave I make sure I get a copy of the music that was used, usually by downloading from the CDs to my laptop or just borrowing the CDs to download into my editing computer. Again, mixing to taste in post.

Mike.
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Old March 28th, 2008, 02:14 PM   #3
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Brian,

There is a lot of good information on this topic in the "All things audio" forum. You could do a search there for sound board, dance, school or similar.

One of the most important rules for sound is to get the mic close to the talent. Really, really close. Mic on camera is about as bad as it gets, because you are far away from the talent AND close to the camera motor. And: most camcorders don't have good mic pre-amps, D/A converters etc.

For really good sound, I would suggest to go dual system. With a good multitrack system, you could set things up before the show starts (during the sound check), recording from a combination of the sound board and audience/ambience mics. Ideally, capture individual channels (pre-fader/pre-effects) from the sound board to give you flexibility in post production.

If you could reconsider having a sound person for the shoot, that has the potential to boost your quality quite a bit!

- Martin
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Old March 28th, 2008, 03:08 PM   #4
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Brian -
It's worth a shot to see if the venue has a recorder (CD preferably, casettes suck) and can provide you with a recording of the house mix. That or have a small digital recorder and typical interconnect adapters and see if the sound guy will let you tap into a post mix output. You'll be stuck with whatever the sound guy does, for better or worse, but you'll have a secondary audio source for post.
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Old March 28th, 2008, 03:34 PM   #5
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Audio

Thanks guys, this all seems to help. The times with the sound board is much better in overall quality. I just wondered if there was a better way when a school play is involved (no sound board).

In those situations, the kids are all on stage and simple say there lines in the play. The school has several overhead mics that go out into a very basic PA system. (No way for me to tap into that). In that case is there a good type of mic or way of doing it other than using shotgun mics on each of the cameras? (I don't have the ability to have several overhead wireless mics where the kids are standing)

Thanks
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Old March 28th, 2008, 03:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Jacobsen View Post
The school has several overhead mics that go out into a very basic PA system. (No way for me to tap into that).
And why is that? The school won't let you do it, or are there technical obstacles? Given that they already have overhead mics installed, that sounds like half the solution.

- Martin
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Old March 28th, 2008, 03:55 PM   #7
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School play

No, just "technical difficulties". The problem is that even with all the overhead mics in place the sound system is just an amp hooked up to a couple of hanging speakers. There is no way to attached an XLR or other type of cord to the "sound system" and take the audio feed into the camera. (Not at our school yet)

I just wondered in those type of settings if the shotgun mic on the cameras is the best that can be done, or is there some type of mic that could be set on or near the stage that would allow me to get a better sound from the kids. The stage itself is nearly 40 feet deep by 100 feet wide and there are typically about 30 kids on stage at a time reciting there various speeches all over the floor.

I thought about a lavilier mic but don't you have to be fairly close (within a foot) of the mic to be any good? I need one or something (if there is something) that would allow the kids to be within about 10-20 feet of a mic and still have it pick up the sound. (Like I say, maybe the shotgun mic is the best way to to this, I just wondered if that is correct).

Thanks
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Old March 28th, 2008, 04:07 PM   #8
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A shotgun on the camera is not a good solution unless you're shooting fairly close to the talent. I'm assuming you're shooting like most stage events, behind the audience or off to the side. That's not good placement for any mic, shotgun or otherwise.

How about a PZM/boundary mic connected to a digital recorder placed on the stage at the front?
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Old March 28th, 2008, 04:39 PM   #9
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How about putting a mic in front of the loud speakers the overhead mics feed?
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Old March 28th, 2008, 04:45 PM   #10
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Maybe a boundary mic right would be a good solution. They are often placed on a conference table, or - like in your case - the floor of a stage.

Some examples:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/shop/8546/Boundary.html

As said before, shotgun on the camera will not be a good solution.

- Martin
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Old March 28th, 2008, 04:48 PM   #11
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See also this post:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=66566
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Old March 28th, 2008, 06:11 PM   #12
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Audio

Thanks,

That is what I was looking for. Can you explain about the boundry mic. Is it one that can be placed on the floor and then pick up sounds say 10-20 around it in a semi circle?

Thanks Brian
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Old June 11th, 2008, 01:04 PM   #13
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Hi Brian,

This may be a little late but I've just come across a solution that seems acceptable. I usually use a Ederol A/D converter going into my laptop to record all sounds I can get from a board or mics. I recently was asked to shoot and produce a DVD for my son's small second grade musical play and was asked to do it at the lowest cost so I didn't want to go through the two hour set up for sound etc. I got Sony PCM-D50 and took two Rode M3 mics into my Ederol (needed it for phantom power) then into the PCM-D50. Very compact and yielded increadible sound. I just placed the two mics on the sides of the stage about 4' above the heads kids.

I also shoot a lot of dance recitals and used the PCM-D50 this last weekend placed at the front of the stage to pick up the tap noises. I was blown away at by the internal mics. I have to say that this may be one of the best investments I made.
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