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


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Old March 25th, 2011, 01:15 AM   #1
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wedding sound

Just a question I've had for a very long time and never asked, everyone says how crucial audio is, which I 100 percent agree. I also hear and read how important good audio is for a wedding. Other than a lav on the groom and/or marrying official and maybe a mic for the toasts, EVERY wedding video I have ever seen and done myself has had no audio other than an overlayed audio track. Hear a lot of recommendations for rode video mic for weddings and I just don't see it's place. Anyone have some input?
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Old March 25th, 2011, 02:49 AM   #2
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Re: wedding sound

Good point. I've never been a great fan of weddings films where the audio is mainly a selection of popular music of whatever genre. Music which is part of the event is fair enough but I have to say I require to watch many well crafted films linked here with the sound off, as I might as well be listening to random music from the radio. It is a question of style and judgement in the end, but to my mind it would be about as about as logical to include audio selections from a play which the happy couple happened to like but which was not any part of the event. Why not footage of the Grand Canyon while we're at it, if they both have an ambition to visit it some day?

From which you may just infer that I tend toward a more documentary style on the admittedly rare occasions that I film weddings now.

Disagree - I know many here will, but as a musician, the use and abuse of music is very important to me. Hail St Cecilia! - and death to muzak in all its insidious guises.

EDIT: On reflection, it is probably the case that Luke and I have been watching mainly highlight videos, so the full wedding films may well contain big chunks of ceremony audio, and that's where all the debate about the best methods of audio acquisition come in. Still stick by the above, though.

Last edited by Colin McDonald; March 25th, 2011 at 03:08 AM. Reason: Added a caveat
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Old March 25th, 2011, 03:32 AM   #3
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Re: wedding sound

Hi Colin

I actually get brides tell me that they chose me because I use live audio ...according to them if they want a music video they will ask for one!! Rode mic??? Absolutely Luke!! I have one on each camera BUT not for the ceremony!! I mic the groom and usually the lectern where readings are done. One of my trademark features are interviews with the guests at pre-dinner drinks and a lav here is too cumbersome so the Rodes are very important. With speeches I'm back to either a boundary mic on the lectern or a lav mic strapped to the lectern mic. However I still depend on the Rode's for good audio everywhere else!!

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Old March 25th, 2011, 08:20 AM   #4
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Re: wedding sound


In this highlight example I started with music and clip montage until 1:22 with a few word from the priest and at 1:36 is live singing from the party and then speakers from the reception. I got a feed from the house mixer in to my wireless sennheiser transmitter. Is all in Icelandic but i thought this would illustrate the importance of a good soundrecording. In Icelandic wedding there are usually no wows from BG only "yes I do" so that makes things easy for me.
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Old March 27th, 2011, 10:41 PM   #5
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Re: wedding sound

I use an omni lav with 9V preamp/iRiver H120 combo in their side pocket to capture the groom/bridge/officiant speech. This will capture just about anything said at an audible level within 15-20' of the groom. I will amplify some pieces a bit in post if need be. The bride's vows are pretty much always lower than the groom's because she's trying not to cry.

If there is any speech going through a sound system I will also grab a feed from the mixer on another portable recorder. This ensures that all speech is captured correctly.

For the reception I usually just use the camera's audio (with an external mic on the camera of course). If they have toasts I make sure I'm in an appropriate position where the speech can be clearly heard but I don't worry so much about mixer feeds at the reception.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 02:37 AM   #6
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Re: wedding sound

A lot of wedding guys just slap on music because their location sound is so bad or they can't be bothered editing it properly (it does take more effort than it's worth sometimes I admit). But if they chose you because you do a documentary style, they expect some nat sound. If they have a duo or quartet playing at the ceremony, chuck a Zoom in front of them and let it roll. Use this under all the congrats etc to give a continuous track.

Omni radio mic on the groom and positioned lower than normal so you can up the gain to pick up the bride & celebrant more evenly. Backup recorder (iriver or Zoom2) into celebrant's PA or worn on celebrant.

At reception I put lapel on the mic clip so it is not too close to the guests' mouths. Because PA mics are usually dynamic and have the gain down to avoid feedback I find if you patch into the PA or DJ system you often get a noisy (hiss) low level signal, especially from guests who don't use the mic correctly.

A nice omni condenser mic, like the ones with typical wireless systems, pick up a much bigger area and you have more control over it. Always run a backup even if it is just a camera mic.

I always have a dead cat on the camera mic and the Zoom has one two. Even on the lapels if the wedding is outside. You can get black, white or grey fur to match their clothes. Search for Rycote Overcovers.

Just my tips.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 04:47 AM   #7
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Re: wedding sound

I find the use of 'slapped on music' (as Mark puts it) allows me to be frame perfect as regards picture editing. With a gentle mix of music and live sound it hardly matters that I chop the beginning or the end of the sentence, and if I was always worrying abut keeping complete sentences my edit would take 4x as long.

Of course you can't do this chopping to laughter or clapping, but the continuation of the music track does mean there's some forgiveness in the live sound track.

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Old April 1st, 2011, 09:36 AM   #8
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Re: wedding sound

I think many of these comments are missing the point of great audio. First, if a highlight doesn't use any natural audio (it only has a music bed), then the editing should follow the beats and tempo of the music. In this case the audio is still important. Perhaps this seems like a "music video" to some, but this is a stylistic choice. When the visuals don't follow the music, then in my opinion, it isn't a well crafted film.

More often even highlights will include natural audio from either the bridal prep, the ceremony, or toasts at the reception. This will add significant production value to a film. But only if recorded well. For bridal prep, using a Rode mic on the camera is often the best way to capture audio clips. In my opinion, recording this way at a reception will not provide great audio. Not only are these mics directional, but there is so much room noise and reverberation which muddles the recording. In this case a direct feed from the DJ/Band should be used, whether it goes to the camera or to a separate recorder and sync'd in post. We ALWAYS get a direct feed when possible.

The same goes for using the music played at the reception in the film. You certainly should try to mix the ambient audio of the room and guests having fun, but the mix should be mostly from the direct feed. If you ever watch some of the reality shows on TV that try to record natural audio in a bar, you will notice how hard it is to hear the voices. And the music sounds like crap. Then watch a "real" show or movie with a bar scene and you will hear them both clearly, because they mix both separately.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 12:58 PM   #9
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Re: wedding sound

Personally speaking this is most likely the most overlooked part of video.

What I fail to understand is why should one struggle to make someones wedding day something that it wasn't. The couple has given you an entire playlist for the day, from their ceremony down to the reception.

For a wedding video 95% of the audio that I use is actual live audio. The only canned audio songs that might be used are for the video opening, bridge form ceremony to reception and the highlight video.

I go to great lengths to capture the best audio that I can. And I will tell you that 1 or 2 Rode mics on a camera will most likely NOT do the job. Get the mics off of your camera, except for ambient or impromptu interview audio. If your main audio is on camera, your audio source will constantly change, hence you're not getting a consistent audio feed.

Capture your audio off camera, getting your audio capture as close to the source as possible. This way you're assured of getting good consistent audio which can be mixed in post. The more sources of audio you have to work with, the more flexibility you have to work with in post.

I try to mic sources individually and not rely on someone else's feeds for my audio, as I don't have control of them. I also always monitor my audio (at least 1 main source) while I am shooting.

This is my normal setup for a wedding shoot. As nothings a given, some things can change and my kit might get bigger or smaller. Essentially, wherever there's an audio source, there's a mic/recorder.

Ceremony
• Wireless mic on groom and/or officiant
• Zoom H4n or H2 recording musicians (use onboard mics)
• Marantz PMD620 on lectern recoding readings

Reception
Double mic PA stacks
• Rode M3 mic with wireless plug in transmitter going to my camera.
• Zoom H4n ( a pair of Shure SM57 mics, one on speaker horn, one on speaker woofer)
• Zoom H4n (onboard mics recording ambient crowd audio.)

• Marantz PMD620 into the board to take a feed. (It's nice but not necessary to get a clean feed if possible for mix in post.) I use this mainly only for toast or spoken audio through the system. As a simple board feed is too sterile and needs ambient audio for a live mix.

All of this is mounted on one mic stand and some mic stand clamps, placed in front of the PA stack. The Zoom H4n records in 4-channel mode, and faces outwards toward the crowd. This way I can individually mic the PA stacks and use the onboard mics to record ambient crowd audio.
(You don't need a 4-channel recorder to get decent audio. If you like you could use a decent audio recorder and use the onboard mics to mic the PA stack, as well as send a wireless feed to your camera.)

The Rode M3 is used as backup reference audio to the camera. This makes it very easy to mix and sync in post.

All of this audio is taken into FCP and mixed into my edit. Just for the record I don't deliver super long form edits, as my main edits are generally 60 minutes in length, total. But 95% of the actual edit is using live captured audio.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 02:14 PM   #10
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Re: wedding sound

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Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
What I fail to understand is why should one struggle to make someones wedding day something that it wasn't. The couple has given you an entire playlist for the day, from their ceremony down to the reception.
From this comment and others above, it sounds like you don't deliver a stylized edit with either a short-form or highlight film for your wedding clients. The shorter version is not "something that it wasn't" but rather a nice way to review the day, especially with friends and family. The full day edit is important as a documentary, especially for children & grandchildren, but it won't be watched nearly as often as a shorter version.

There are two different types of video being produced. One is a documentary record of the day which has the "real" audio, and the other is the stylized shorter version of the day which is edited like a movie with a soundtrack and sometimes spoken word from the day to give it impact. I agree that the long-form should have great audio captured from the event itself, but the stylized edit is crafted with just excerpts of the day and different music is used, and the edit flows with this music.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 03:14 PM   #11
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Re: wedding sound

Actually Jim, my videos are stylized and not completely documentary, and all of my clients get a highlight video. This is generally set to their first or last dance song.
I use this song as they chose the music so it's important to them, and also either of these moments tend to be one of the more emotional moments of the day.

The main base for the highlight might be the dance with the day build around it, or maybe the ceremony with the reception and prep built around it.
The clip might start out with the couple being introduced for their first dance and then flash back to the beginning and bounce back and forth from the dance to other elements of the day, ending with the DJ wishing the couple the best as they depart. Similar to a cinematic highlight, but the only difference is that the live audio is used as a base instead of pre recorded music. I'm usually able to pull of the mix of live audio and toast audio. Sometimes it doesn't work, as it might be too noisy, but the majority of times, at least for me it does.

As for the main edit itself, It's not as definitely not as heavily compressed and stylized the way that a short form would be. But it is stylized and compressed down enough to about 60 minutes in length for the main edit. No way I would ever deliver a main video that's 2 hours or so in length or spans 2 disks. That to me is just simply mind numbing.
The style is definitely more documentary by nature. But it's documentary style done using some light timshifting and creative editing to make the story tighter in nature and hopefully more enjoyable to watch than traditional documentary long form work.

I generally use the live audio to remix it with additional live audio and various video clips to tell the story.
What I usually won;t d though is mix 2 live music elements together. I just pick one element as the base and build around it. An example is using the couples first dance with the live audio as it happened and mixing it with the cake cutting, garter/bouquet toss, and maybe even/or a toast. Or, maybe a Father daughter dance with the fathers toast, or the fathers toast with the bride walking down the aisle.

BTW, here's an example from a bride of elements being mixed together from one bride.

Quote:
I was just thinking about our wedding video on Thanksgiving and thought I’d drop you a note to say thanks again for doing such an amazing job.
I know it’s over 3 years later, but this year I lost both of my grandparents, the year before Dan lost his grandmother, and his grandfather only has a few months to live. I’m sorry for the sad tone there.
But we are so glad that we have them captured on our wedding video . . . especially the cool part where you did the cuts of me and Dan and Dan’s grandparents dancing to the same song. We are grateful they were there to witness that day with us, and also that you captured it so we’d be able to keep it.
This clip was edited to the actual audio that the grandparents danced to, but was intercut to the tempo with the couple who were dancing to another song. So it looked like they both were dancing to the same song.

Just so yo know, I enjoy a well put together short form very much. It's the music video style, edits with canned music and no real story that I don't like.
Especially, in regards to the reception, where I have seen many delivered videos where the couple hired a band and the entire reception had canned music.
I mean besides the misrepresentation of the reception it looks entirely stupid to see a band playing and an entirely different song being played.

I know a lot of people who deliver short form, and they also might deliver a long form edit of the ceremony and maybe even the reception.
This seems to make everyone happy, especially mom who usually wants to see as much as she can form the day.

If so, all I ask is that hopefully the audio is good from this.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 04:03 PM   #12
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Re: wedding sound

Micheal, thanks for the details. Sounds like you create a great long-form edit for your clients and are sure to capture great audio. And from viewing a few of your wedding highlights on your website it looks like you do use some natural audio to add impact, very nice. I guess after all that, I'm just not sure where the issue is.

You absolutely deliver a product that your client wants, as evident from the bride's quote. Your highlights may use a song that the client used during their day, but it is still primarily images with an "overlayed audio track" as stated in the original poster's question.

So I still don't understand your statement of "why should one struggle to make someones wedding day something that it wasn't". Is the issue that the song in other people's highlight might not be one that was played by the DJ?
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Old April 1st, 2011, 04:49 PM   #13
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Re: wedding sound

Quote:
So I still don't understand your statement of "why should one struggle to make someones wedding day something that it wasn't". Is the issue that the song in other people's highlight might not be one that was played by the DJ?
Jim, I should probably have stated that differently.

In a way, as soon as we take some creative license and change something about the day, then it's no longer the day exactly as it happened. Even I fall into that category.

I don't have issue with a highlight being set to pre recorded music. As long as some of the actual audio of the day is also incorporated in. But, if one simply delivers a clip that's pre recorded music with various video clips and no natural audio (this could simply be the vows, a speech, ambient crowd audio), then I see this as a misrepresentation of the wedding day itself.

Now, as a professional, unless you are delivering a creative short form edit (which uses pre recorded audio along with natural audio for the storyline), which I don't, then I see no reason why one should not have good live audio in the video itself.

And relying on pre-recorded music for the edit instead of the live audio, to me is portraying the day as it wasn't.

BTW, sorry for the rants here and there on audio. My background is originally in audio engineering which for me as a videographer is a definite bonus and puts me ahead of many in my field. The reason is that so many video producers only focus on the eye candy and latest and greatest equipment. That they forget that 60% of what we perceive is audio.

If every video professional worked as hard on capturing good audio as much as capturing the best video, then video might be perceived differently in comparison to photography.
And while audio is another craft in which to learn, it's one of the main things that separates film from photography.

You can take a $1,900 Schoeps mic and place it on your camera, and the audio will sound poor.
Now take a $200 Rode mic with a wireless plug on transmitter and place it close to your audio source, send it to your camera, and it will blow the doors off of the Schoeps mic.

Hell, even use an audio recorder with the built in mics close to your audio source, and your audio will improve immensely.

Now there's more to audio than just putting a mic near the source, as there's proper mic position, padding to prevent overload, knowing the difference between what mics to use when (dynamic, cardioid, hyper-cardioid etc.).

But it still is all about taking the time and learning some of the basics.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 07:53 PM   #14
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Re: wedding sound

BTW, sorry for the long posts.
I can be long winded in my writing sometimes. =)
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Old April 1st, 2011, 08:40 PM   #15
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Re: wedding sound

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
BTW, sorry for the long posts.
I can be long winded in my writing sometimes. =)
hey Michael. I enjoyed the long posts. But as a one man crew, is it possible to spend all that time on audio setup?
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