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Old June 10th, 2010, 09:16 AM   #1
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Dealing with speeches audio

As everyone who films weddings will know, during the reception speeches we are recording each speaker and also the applause/laughter etc of the guests.

But with the audio recording set manually at a level to ideally capture the sound of the speaker's voice, each burst of applause/laughter comes in too loud - clipping even to the point of distortion.

An audio compressor in post-production can of course level out the speeches soundtrack by raising the loudness of the speakers' voices and reducing that of the applause/laughter... but if the noises by the guests have been clipping upon capture, the distortion is always going to be there regardless.

So, are you setting your audio record levels to lower that you ideally should to record each speaker's voice so that the applause/laughter comes in without clipping? This is an option, but it is unfortunate that it doesn't feel right in knowing that you are recording the voices 'too low' just for the sake of the bursts of noise from the guests, and will have to filter more background hiss etc during editing.

I have experiemented with 'auto' audio settings on the camera (XH-A1S), which performs a kind of 'live' compression as it captures. The results are not too bad, with the speakers' voices automatically raised and the 'intrusive' applause etc dulled by the camera - though with the camera raising the quieter moments itself, there is the matter of rather uneven background noise/hiss to consider throughout as well as the issue of not having a 'clean' audio capture to play around with.

You could take the audio of correctly-levelled speakers but with clipped guests and mix it with a different channel of low speakers but correctly-levelled guests... but this means tending to the audio track and mixing channels every time the guests come in, which for some large receptions could be a time-consuming nightmare.
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Old June 10th, 2010, 02:27 PM   #2
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Our solution for this is to record separate sound sources.

So we will mic the DJ's speaker's to pick up the toast audio, and then have audio from the mic's on our cameras to mix in the audience audio.

Michael Liebergot also pointed out to me a genuis idea the other day that we are considering. Essentially, you would take your Zoom H4n and have two external mics attached to it and aimed at the DJ's speaker (one at the tweeter and one at the woofer), and then have the onboard Zoom mics directed towards the audience. Then you'd have a multi-channel sound source that has a bit of everything. Pretty smart, although it does take a bit more setup and equipment.

Good luck.
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Old June 10th, 2010, 02:49 PM   #3
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Hi Travis,

I have an H4N but haven't used it an event yet. Any advice on levels? I'd be surprised if the auto level control worked as it should but I'd also love to be surprised that it does the job. Mic'ing really hot sources like speakers seems to be a hit or miss proposition because you can never be quite sure if they'll change the output.
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Old June 10th, 2010, 03:03 PM   #4
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The Auto Level control is not your normal Auto; it kicks levels down -- and keeps them there -- but not up. I've discovered it isn't really suitable for actual recording, but works fine if you activate it in standby mode during the sound check. Then you manually set the H4n to whatever level the Auto has specified. Works great that way. Just make sure you activate the Limiter or the Compressor, your choice.

Otherwise you will have your levels ratcheting down all night until by the end you have nothing... Your waveform on the timeline will look like a descending staircase.
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Old June 10th, 2010, 05:21 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Joel Peregrine View Post
Hi Travis,

I have an H4N but haven't used it an event yet. Any advice on levels? I'd be surprised if the auto level control worked as it should but I'd also love to be surprised that it does the job. Mic'ing really hot sources like speakers seems to be a hit or miss proposition because you can never be quite sure if they'll change the output.
Joel, I've only used the H4n for 3 weddings so far, and hadn't had a chance to jump into the manual (doing that this weekend, though). What we've been doing is just activating the standby record mode, then using the 'rec level' buttons on the side and watching the level meters on the Zoom display to set our levels. We've set them slightly lower so far just in case the DJ pumps the volume.

The problem we've had is we were used to setting a DVR on top of the speaker to pick up the sound, but the H4n's onboard mics are directional so we've been getting 'muddy' sound. For some additional info, check this other thread:

Muddy Zoom H4n Audio - Ideas?
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Old June 10th, 2010, 06:40 PM   #6
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Hi Rob

I make a point of convincing the bride to have speeches done from one central point on a lectern and usually position it pretty much away from any DJ speakers and zap a radio mic on the lectern mic itself.

This runs to XLR channel 1 which is on manual so I can control the level nicely and being usually behind or out of "line of sight" of the DJ's often poor audio levels you can get fairly good speaker audio. I use just a RodeVM on the camera on XLR2 for the ambient audio and that is attenuated by -20db so the loud sounds are not blown away. I found that the problem with dropping a mic near (or aimed at ) the DJ's speakers is that one speech maker will virtually swallow the mic (especially the now half intoxicated best man) and the timid bridesmaid will hold the mic around 24" or more from her mouth so you hear virtually nothing. With the lav on the lectern at least I can get a fairly uniform mic to mouth distance and get decent audio.

In post it's then easy to control the ambient audio on Channel 2 and not much gets picked up by the lav on Channel 1 (I also record audio on camera two but that's just used for sync for cutaway shots)

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Old June 10th, 2010, 07:21 PM   #7
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Things must be different 'down under'. d;-)

I've never seen a lectern at a reception. Do you bring your own or do the venues in Oz usually have one around?
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Old June 10th, 2010, 07:53 PM   #8
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Usually if I'm in a close proximity to the toasts I can use the audio from the camera and leave it on auto. I know ... not the "professional" thing to do but it does seem to work quite well. About the only thing I have to watch is for the loud applause or laughter. I might have to bring the volume down in those places but my camera mic has never allowed over modulating or clipping.

Put me in the camp with those that mic the speakers. I set up Yamaha Pocketrak CX at a 45 degree angle of the tweeter on a light stand, sensitivity on low and ALC turned on. I've yet to have a DJ blow it out.

I had a 4 piece combo playing the other night during dinner and I used my H4n on them and it was fine, but I've never put one near a speaker.
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Old June 10th, 2010, 08:35 PM   #9
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What we do...

We use a H4N connected to the DJ and record the laughter and applause on our Rhode mics on the camera. If the sound is distorted then we use a sound effect of people clapping and laughing or we find a laugh or clap that was done durning the ceremony etc. to use.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 06:24 AM   #10
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Hi Travis

All function centres have a lectern ..usually with a built-in mic wired into the house PA system too. I have probably shot at less than two venues that didn't have one...most are commercially made with the venue's name on the front , a sloping stand to rest your papers and often a small light too.

Makes life a lot easier for speeches...some of our winery venues use a wooden wine barrel upended as the "lectern" but I would say that 99% have one!! At worst, we might have to ask the DJ to bring over a mic stand if the venue's lectern is not fitted with a mic.

You mean the venues in the USA don't have them...are speeches done from where the person is seated???

Chris
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Old June 11th, 2010, 09:20 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Travis

All function centres have a lectern ..usually with a built-in mic wired into the house PA system too. I have probably shot at less than two venues that didn't have one...most are commercially made with the venue's name on the front , a sloping stand to rest your papers and often a small light too.

Makes life a lot easier for speeches...some of our winery venues use a wooden wine barrel upended as the "lectern" but I would say that 99% have one!! At worst, we might have to ask the DJ to bring over a mic stand if the venue's lectern is not fitted with a mic.

You mean the venues in the USA don't have them...are speeches done from where the person is seated???

Chris
Speeches are typcially done with the Best Man/Maid of Honor standing directly behind, over the shoulder of the seated bride and groom. Sometimes the MC will just have them stand anywhere. They end up wandering and holding the microphone near their belt buckle. Sometimes a well placed mirror or window is situated perfectly behind the Best Man so we can shoot into them.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 10:31 AM   #12
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As Michael said, the toasters are usually standing behind the head table, or perhaps out on the dance floor with the bride and groom standing nearby. Sometimes the mic will be passed around the room to the father of the bride and others, although we usually try to prevent this from happening by chatting with the DJ/coordinator/B&G before the toasts. It's much better to have everyone who is toasting in the same area.

But yeah, I've never had a wedding reception with a lectern present, and I can't even remember seeing a toast from a lectern in anyone else's video. You've got a good thing going! Especially since you don't have to worry about the crazy best man who paces around the room like a caged tiger, or the maid of honor who walks around with the mic like it's a purse or something (funny how people forget that you have to talk INTO the mic, not just hold it). d;-)
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Old June 11th, 2010, 06:10 PM   #13
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We do, however still have the odd issue!! I had a nervous groom who ripped both the lav and handheld mic from it's mounting and proceeded to pace nervously around the room, often disappearing from view. I chased him with the B-Roll camera but it wasn't easy.

I normally have a single CFL softbox on a stand to light the "speaker area" which is also convenient. Maybe you guys need to make a nice lightweight lectern and take it to venues???? Even where we have no lectern, the people making speeches are instructed to make them from a fixed point (we put the DJ mic on a stand to stop them from wandering around) Almost all comply which makes fixed lighting very practical and it also means I can leave the main camera on it's tripod and just let it roll cos the subject isn't going to move.

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Old June 13th, 2010, 07:19 PM   #14
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(snipped)

You mean the venues in the USA don't have them...are speeches done from where the person is seated???

Chris
Same in the UK Chris - although in most cases they actually try to stand up in the place they were seated.

One thing we have to be aware of is when the men in the wedding party have slipped their morning dress coats off and have eaten in waistcoat order )(sorry I can't recall what American's call waistcoats). Morning dress is invariably rented, thus rarely lightweight and in summer can be very hot. The problem to avoid is recording the speeches from a radio microphone clipped to a coat that's now closer to the speakers' fundament than his mouth.
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Old June 14th, 2010, 01:00 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Joel Peregrine View Post
Hi Travis,

I have an H4N but haven't used it an event yet. Any advice on levels? I'd be surprised if the auto level control worked as it should but I'd also love to be surprised that it does the job. Mic'ing really hot sources like speakers seems to be a hit or miss proposition because you can never be quite sure if they'll change the output.
Joel, we if we are only using the onboard mics, then my input level will usually be around 4-8 on the H4ns recording input level. I also have the onboard limiter set to concert, which works pretty well. This is for very loud environments. For average environments we are anywhere from 12-20 on the level input. This is how I used the recorder this past weekend. Also, if I use this recorder only method, I will also place a mic with a plug in transmitter attached to it to mic the same source, and send it to my camera for redundant backup/sync audio. In this case I like to use a Rode M3 mic which has a built in 3 position pad 0/-10/-20 built into it. Between the built in pad and the attenuation setting in the plug in transmitter, I don't distort.

The recorder is away form the PA stack at around a 45 degree angle.

If I am using the method that I mentioned to Travis, where I am feeding 2 mics into the XLR inputs and micing the PAs tweeter/woofer separately, and using onboard mics for crowd reaction, then the onboard mics are set hotter to around 20-24 and the XLR mics (Usually Shure SM57 drum mics) are also set to around 18-22. The reason that the XLR mics can be set hotter than the onboard is that I use Shure Sm57 dynamic drum mics. These mics thrive on sound pressure, and are great for micing loud sources, like a concert or even a JET ENGINE. =)
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