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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old June 23rd, 2010, 10:45 PM   #1
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Taking an audio feed from the PA

People in this forum regularly suggest taking an audio feed from the PA at events. Until a couple of days ago I always avoided it unless I could have my own sound engineer taking split feeds from every microphone and doing a separate mix for the video recording, But this time my hand was forced and it proved the wisdom of never doing it unless one absolutely has to do so.

The event was a memorial "concert" for a local broadcaster, actor, voice-over artiste, universally adored and respected, who died very suddenly - at a business meeting in fact. It was organised by his lady partner of 30 years and held in a marquee in a field, conveniently erected for a wedding (which we didn't do) last Saturday.

There was a nominal stage, about 10 inches tall and 8ft square, The PA consisted of a well aged mixer/amp feeding a couple of equally aged EV speakers on columns with inputs from one dynamic microphone and a CD on which backing tracks were played in for a sax player and a singer. Once "set" the PA was left unattended.

Ideally we'd have stuck miniature radio mics on each "speaker/performer" but there was no rehearsal, changes were quite rapid and one performer only arrived just in time to do his piece. There were up to four people in each piece.

Instead I'd put up our AT 825 stereo slightly behind the PA mic - ie to the audience side of the PA mic so people wouldn't be tempted to grasp it - and ran the outputs to two radio channels and thence back to receivers on one of the three Z1s we were using to shoot the pictures. We had AT897 short guns on the other two cameras for ambient/security.

Since the performers were mainly media types or media technicians I was fairly happy, however, I decided to feed the post fade line out from the mixer into out Zoom H4 hoping that the mix of the backing CD/singer/sax might be better than the front-of-house AT825.

It wasn't. It was practically unusable, despite the Zoom's limiters which are pretty useless. An instance when one's instinct and training were right.
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Old June 24th, 2010, 03:10 AM   #2
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Hi Philip

Nice to know you can use a convential mic!!!

I rather like the idea (I think Don uses it???) of using a drum microphone on the PA speaker. It's designed to take loud closeup sound and survive and give you a workable signal from speakers that usually blow our shotguns out at 50 yards!!! Even a fair way from the PA speakers and with -20db attenuation on the mic's XLR channel some PA's still give my Rode's a hard time!!!

Worth looking into and nice to have as a backup???

Chris
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Old June 24th, 2010, 03:33 AM   #3
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Chris, not only use but own conventional microphones!

Actually I recently sold almost all my sound recording kit which I've been using to record brass bands and orchestras - my 24 bit digital recorders were a bit long in the tooth and I couldn't justify investment in new recorders. In that lot I had two AT drum mic kits but frankly they're designed specifically for the job and although they have high SPLs that's not the only quality that matters.

More importantly (and this is where the Zoom H4 is a let down) the H4 limiters are all but useless and you certainly can rely on them as most of us rely on the ones in our cameras. For instance the limiters on the z1s are so silent it's easy to forget they're there - a huge difference compared to my old BVW 507 on which the limiter breathed so hard I was often tempted to let it breathe for me on heavy days!

I like the H4 but unlike others who obviously feel differently to me I would NEVER rely on an H4 recording as my top or only line of recording.

Finally I didn't add to my previous because it wasn't relevant but I also installed two AT4040 large condenser mics, feeding the PA and covering the moments when four people were trying to gather round one single PA mic.
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Old June 28th, 2010, 12:57 AM   #4
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I use external -25dB PAD for the H4n to work. So far it has worked most of the time.
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Old June 29th, 2010, 03:07 AM   #5
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Actually Sean what I was referring to was the unpredictability of the recording you get by taking a feed from the DJ/PA. Not only are the levels uncontrollably variable according to how the mixer is driven but the bonus "extras" when the levels gets pushed so high the mics feedback etc.

I'm not doubting your advice about the pad, and I can't speak for the H4n. However the H4 has line input levels with three preset gains (plus a pretty useless limiter) and, if all else fails, a manual gain adjustable independently for both channels.

I'd wonder if your DJ was feeding you line level or some other level eg headphone if you still need a -25dB pad. But then, whatever works for you is right.
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Old June 30th, 2010, 01:54 AM   #6
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Hi Philip

I would say in some cases totally un-reliable!! I did a wedding on Saturday and the civil celebrant totally messed up the entrance music and then switched constantly from a handheld mic (which she thought was an icecream cone) to her headset. It would have been a disaster if I had fed from her PA.

The speeches were even worse!!! The guests either heard no audio as mics were frantically changed, to totally blown out howling feedback. Again I had a tiny lav and the transmitter on a stand in front of the lectern which saved the audio apart from the odd comment like "Is thing thing working, Can you hear me?" as they struggled with the PA. One would think that a professional DJ would be a bit better organised!!!

Chris
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Old June 30th, 2010, 02:17 AM   #7
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Chris, in my crusty, wizened view "professional DJ" is invariably an oxymoron.
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