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


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Old October 17th, 2010, 01:46 PM   #1
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Sound recording at weddings

Hello all,

Looking for a bit of advise. I'm looking into doing weddings and I was wondering how do you record good quality sound, when there are so many sound sources. How do you do it?

I am more use to filming extreme sports events, documentaries and promos. But for weddings is a whole new game. I've got to keep my kit basic and light, so I can work quick. As you know only 2 audio XLRs to play with.

Any Advice - Thanks for your time.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 02:22 PM   #2
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Here's my audio workflow:

PREP:

Zoom H4n on camera hotshoe, mostly. If possible, I will place on the H4n on a table top tripod and put it near the source if I know ahead of time what is happening. A good time to use it is during makeup.

CEREMONY:

A wireless lav from the officiant is fed to an XLR input on the H4n, with the unit itself positioned near the front of the church to grab ambience, audience reactions and speaker reverberations from its on-board mic. If there is a harpist, quartet or any live music, I will place the H4n in a location that is ideal to get the proper level from the music as well as crowd sounds. Placement of the H4n's mic is very important — a use of a boom stand (or any mounting that achieves correct placement) is likely a necessity.

Another wireless (or preferably wired) lav is put on the groom, both to record the vows, plus acts as a backup in case the wireless lav audio on the officiant drops out or flat out fails.

If possible, another H4n, or what I use, a Zoom H1, gets a feed from the house PA or mixing board. And again, I will also place another H1/lav combo on the podium if there are any readings.

RECEPTION:

A Zoom H4n configuration as used at the ceremony is used for the reception. I also plug an H1 into the DJ mixing board, if possible. You've got to monitor the levels carefully and make sure you are not clipping or mixing between pro and consumer levels without the appropriate connectors/pads. A small box with various XLR/TRS 1/4" 1/8" connectors are helpful. If you can't plug into a mixing board, you can place a wireless lav near the speakers, nearer the treble, or tape the lav on the podium mic or handheld mic that is used for the toasts. You should consult with the MC and all the people giving the toasts ahead of time whether they stay planted or move around during the toasts.

For general walk arounds, a camera-mounted H4n does the job nicely. I don't do table interviews, but some do so a good wireless dynamic cardiod handheld will come in handy.


In a nutshell, you can do a great job with just one H4n (or any portable recorder), a wireless set, and an extra portable recorder. For myself, I use two H4ns, two H1s, and a Sennheiser wireless system. I sync in post.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 02:37 PM   #3
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Everyone has their own technique and what works for one doesn't always work for another but this works for me.
For the ceremony I place a lav mic on groom's lapel connected to a transmitter in his pocket - receiver on one camera. *On board shotgun mic used to second xlr but hardly ever use the audio from that. Shotgun mic at front of church connected to radio transmitter to camera 2 for ambience. If there's a band/orchestra etc I'll use a solid state recorder (Edirol R09).
For speeches I''ll put a lav mic on each speaker (some might think this overkill but hey ho) which will be connected to either a wireless transmitter or solid state recorder - plus shotgun for ambience. *If they're using a house mic I'll also put a mic close to house speaker.
For evening I always use the Edirol for the band using onboard as guide for sync.

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Old October 17th, 2010, 03:50 PM   #4
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Ian & Ian
Thanks for the insight, its good to see how people solve the challenges of weddings. Hope a few more people come forward.

I like the idea a solid state recorder, think its going to be a must. I was just expecting 3 people to mic, but band/orchestra too. I'm going to need to research handheld multi-track recorders and get more radio mics.

With the solid state recorders do you set them to match the frame rate of the camera to ensure frame accurate sync in post?
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Old October 17th, 2010, 04:16 PM   #5
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They can drift out of sync over time but I doubt you'd notice for a typical ceremony or speech. If you break it into chunks on your timeline so you only have the bits you need then the drift will be even less noticeable. If you must have a huge section then sync the beginning and then, on your timeline, timestretch the end point so it ends where you want it to - any change in pitch won't be noticed.
Not sure if I'd get into multitrack recorders - one more thing to think about - strategic placing of recorders should do the job. Also some people now use recorders even for the groom - no chance of radio interference but also no assurance what you're recording.

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Old October 17th, 2010, 05:31 PM   #6
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The Ians are right.

I would add that you can't go wrong starting out with a wireless lav, an XLR shotgun, and a digital audio recorder. Add as you need to.

You seem worried about directly miking each participant and area. This may not be necessary. (Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not). If you are working a wedding with an orchestra or band, you do not necessarily need to mike them directly. Bands and orchestras are often loud enough that the sound gets picked up fine without miking them directly. Putting a mike or recorder close to a loudspeaker also can work and sometimes gives you better audio that the weird mix you'd get when taking a feed from the house sound. That can avoid the need to separately record each participant and group of participants.

Room accoustics vary so widely that there is no single formula for good audio. Getting mikes close is a good starting point but not always the right answer. For example, in several of our local churches, I've found that I get the best sound with a single lavalier on the officiant (and the groom if I can get him to wear one) plus a couple of shotguns on tall stands in the back of the room. The lavalier gets the vows and whispered asides while the shotguns get the music and readers. In other venues, I have to do things differently.

It helps if you can preview the room before you have to shoot it although that is not always possible.

Frankly, if you do much of this, you'll find that you will eventually accumulate different kinds of tools to use in the differing situations you encounter. You can go broke trying to anticipate everything at the outset.

In the 17 years I've been shooting weddings for money, my kit has grown and changed. Currently, I've got three shotguns, 2 wireless lavs, a wireless XLR transmitter, a couple of Studio One XLR adapters (like a Beachtek, these can accept both line and mike level feeds to XLR or 3.5mm mini plugs; Juiced Link is another such device), and a couple of tiny but old mp3 recorders with built-in mikes and line-in plugs. I've got seven mike stands. Some of them just fell into my hands, but there have been a couple of times when I used all of them and fed the signal via a Mackie mixer. I'm considering replacing the old mp3 thingies with an H4 and an H1. Since I've been at this for a while, I've also got several older DV cameras that I can deploy. Fed a audio proper signal, they record eminently usable audio and they have the video track to provide easy synch with the HD tracks I'm using.

Do you need to get all of this at once? No. As suggested at the outset, start with a decent UHF wireless lav, get a shotgun mike, and get one or two of the Zoom units. The little H1 units should be fine for picking up speech from a podium and might be attached to a music stand to pick up a vocalist or choir. The H1 units are not expensive as video gear goes. Over here, they are less than $100 apiece. Since you are using DSLRs, something like a Zoom H4 seems like a good idea, as well.

As has been pointed out, synching the audio from separate recorders can be an issue. Not always, but often enough to be time consuming and annoying. The issue arises because audio recorders use different clocks than cameras do. So, the recordings can and do drift out of synch with each other. With my older mp3 recorders, the drift starts getting noticeable at around 7 minutes. From what I've read, the Zoom units do a bit better. Time-stretching or shortening is sometimes sufficient (and several NLE's allow you to do this while keeping the pitch the same). Sometimes it is not. Ian Briscoe's suggestion of using shorter clips is usually the way I work with this issue.

Plural Eyes software can help synching up sound from audio recorders. I believe it works with Vegas, PPro and FCP and it may work with other programs. I tried the downloadable demo about a month ago and found it worked well with one project (a panel discussion in a quiet room) but did not seem to help with another (a ceremony in a very large church with the accoustics of an airport lavatory.) The problem in the latter case is that the various audio tracks were all different enough that Plural Eyes seemed to have trouble sorting things to whatever I picked as a reference track.

Finally, I agree with Ian Briscoe's suggestion to skip multi-track recorders. If you are shooting weddings by yourself with a couple of cameras and several mikes/recording devices, a multi-track recorder and a mixing board is just too much to keep track of. I've only done multi-track recording when I've had somebody else to run a mixer and keep track of the audio side.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 06:01 PM   #7
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I've always tried to keep it simple since I'm basically a solo operator running 2 to 3 cameras for a ceremony.
First of all if I do prep I generally don't use much of that audio anyway but I do run a Blueline Hypercaroid, not a shotgun. At the church I DO run a shotgun (AT897) on my B camera but only use that for the music which is almost always loud enough to be picked up and recorded nicely with that type of mic. Shotguns are not generally the best for indoors but it depends on lots of variable so it's not a written law of audio IMO. I mic the groom with a lav and also place a lav on the lectern where the readers will be and the officiant in most also uses that lectern for the gospel and homily. Anyway I run an Audio Tchnica dual channel so I run the 2 body paks back to my A camera and kill off my hypercaroid, I don't want all the background noise and the 2 lavs do a really good job of picking up everything that's said. I'm old scholl so I need to monitor my audio with headphones. If I can't hear it how do I know if there's a problem? Of course IF there were to be a problem I probably couldn't fix it anyway (during the ceremony) but at least I would know about it. For the reception I use the hypercaroid in combination with a Sennhesier E604 drum mic hooked up to the plugin transmitter back to the camera. I place that in front of the DJs speakers (one of them and NOT the bass speaker) this way I get room noise, which I want at the reception, and a clean audio track from the mic in front of the speaker. In combination it sounds great.
Now having said all of this, keep in mind thereare many ways to accomplish the same thing. This just happens to be how I do it
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Old October 17th, 2010, 08:15 PM   #8
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I do a lot of one man jobs, and in those situations, I run one camera with both a ME66 shotgun and G3 lav connected (groom), and run another camera with just ambient audio. That way in case something happens, I at least have -some- audio for the ceremony.

When we get up into the 3 or 4 camera shoots, we use an additional G3 wireless on the minister and of course, have other ambient mics as well for backup.

I've looked into getting something like a H4n for placing on stage, but just never have done it.

I tried something new at a wedding this Saturday, and that was, leaving the wireless on the groom the entire day. Normally, we just mic him for the ceremony, but in this case, I just left it on, and I was really impressed how everything turned out. It actually made the audio a whole lot better than just using the typical shotgun mic. That may become the new norm for me!
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Old October 18th, 2010, 08:39 AM   #9
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"I tried something new at a wedding this Saturday, and that was, leaving the wireless on the groom the entire day. Normally, we just mic him for the ceremony, but in this case, I just left it on, and I was really impressed how everything turned out. It actually made the audio a whole lot better than just using the typical shotgun mic. That may become the new norm for me!"


Personally I would find this unappealing, since the 'main' voice on the live atmosphere soundtrack in the video would be the Groom's - and from experience it's not just his talking dominating the audio, but those little mumbles, clearing of throat, sudden booming laughter etc. that would unbalance the audio track for me.

Not sure how many Grooms would like all their conversations from the day recorded either - and what about trips to the toilet? :O
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Old October 18th, 2010, 10:16 AM   #10
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(1) it's not like I don't edit the reception audio... Plus I still had the ME66 running as well.

(2) they only had me for 3 hours, andby the time the reception started, we had 1 hour of time left. So the 5 major reception events were all done back to back in quick fashion. There wasn't much down time for the couple... No breaks!
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Old October 20th, 2010, 07:19 PM   #11
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I'm going to add another "Ian" to the reply list

My setup:
Prep- Shotgun's only. And I make sure they turn the sound down on any TV's or Audio devices in the room
Ceremony- 3 Yamaha Pocketrack's Groom/Officiant or board/ Podium. All Squids for Lavaliers.
Reception- 1 Yamaha Pocketrack plugged into DJ system via line out or mic'd speaker with sennheiser e604 drum mic.
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Old October 20th, 2010, 10:10 PM   #12
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The choices you have with a single camera shoot are limited but my recommendation would always be to record to the camera whenever you can, simply because it will save you work in some quantity in post - ie the sound's in sync right through.

Secondly, sound should generally (critics please note the word, generally) match the picture. That means that a close up shot will be best with close up sound - best achieved in weddings with a miniature radio. On the other hand, a close-mic sound when the subject's in a wide or especially a long shot will sound more natural with some ambiance.

That's why we generally put a short guns/hypercardiod on the second camera channel - so that in the mix the level of ambiance in the sound can be varied.

Because we shoot with three cameras our timelines will typically have six sync tracks, one or two stereo music tracks and possibly a stereo H4 track also.

H4 recorders are not really professional - their timing circuits are not accurate enough hence they drift even if you set the sample rate to the same as your camera's - but the sound quality is more than adequate and the price is right for recording groups, small ensembles etc. but I would personally avoid using them for sync sound.
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