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Old March 5th, 2013, 05:00 AM   #1
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Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

Continuing a discussion from another thread...

I usually allow at least 30 minutes for sound setup at ceremony and reception. Can be done in 10-15, but you're more prone to mistakes when you're running around.

Admittedly, most things I do are overkill, but I'm quite curious how long it takes other people to set up...

When I started doing weddings, I'd just slap a lapel mic on the groom, and Bob's your uncle. But over time the setup has got more baroque as I've encountered this or that problem. I currently use four sound recorders (two Yamaha C24s, two Tascam DR-100s), and on-camera sound when absolutely necessary; and, even then, despite the backups, I not infrequently walk away from weddings with less perfect sound than I would have liked. People too soft or too loud, sound systems giving me weird hissing, grooms dislodging their microphones when they remove their jackets before the ceremony, etc.

Where does that 30 minutes go? Well, example from last week's ceremony:

-- couple of minutes just thinking about where best to place things (the more gear, the more confused you get by it all...)
-- 5 minutes: putting radio microphones on priest and groom. Setting up recorder with external battery for receivers. Testing levels.
-- 5-10 minutes: approaching priest, waiting for a chance to speak to him, asking about the sound system, realising he didn't speak English too well, searching for sound system in the cupboards of the sacristry, examing how it worked, fiddling with cables and adapters to plug a recorder in, adjusting levels, doing a sound check.
-- 5 minutes: putting a lavaliere on the lectern that people would be doing readings from and running it into a sound recorder, testing levels.
-- 5-10 minutes: fiddling with two microphone stands, to run two dynamic microphones into a fourth recorder with an external battery -- one microphone pointed at some musicians, the other microphone pointed at the church's speakers. Chaining XLR cables to get it to work. Doing sound checks.

Now, I don't see that 30 minutes improving signficantly without cutting down on the complexity of the setup. But I can also see the situation getting worse over time rather than better, if I'm really trying to cover my butt and get great sound. For instance, I did an Armenian wedding a month ago where there were five priests, each of whom had something to say. I wish I had enough microphones and recording channels to wire them all up.
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Old March 5th, 2013, 06:29 AM   #2
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

If I took 30 minutes to set up a wedding ceremony, I would probably stick a fork in my eye.
In 30 minutes I have 2 to 3 cameras setup, B footage of the church (or venue) have already set up my wireless for the musicians and pulpit wired the groom with the lav, gotten a personal message from the groom and the bride (if they requested it) gotten some footage of guests entering the church an have spent 5 minutes talking with the photographer (with whom I've probably already shot 30 or more weddings) about the season, the day, the big game and the weather.
I'm sorry but unless you're shooting a wedding that's being done for TV IMO 30 minutes is about 20 minutes too long.
HOWEVER having said that, we are different, run 2 different models in 2 very different countrys and produce 2 different types of work so if 30 minutes works for you, then keep doing it. Personally it would never work for me and maybe it's my background of sports and news and MoS interviews where it's "slap a lav on the guy" and Bobs your uncle but just because someone works fast doesn't mean there are going to be problems and conversely, when someone an inordinate amount of time to set up that doesn't mean there won't.
I'm a simple guy so the complexity of your setup baffles me but if it works for you then keep going with it but also remember that a wedding is a LIVE event that is very fluid and can and does change at the last minute and we are almost never included in those changes so you can only do the best you can under the circumstances.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old March 5th, 2013, 04:56 PM   #3
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

For years and years, we used a pair of Samon UM32 wireless lavs with Sony ECM 44 mics. They did a great job and we never had any interference issues.

Now, due to the FCC frequency band changes in America, I'm using a Sennheiser G3 System, and find myself having to scan for channels every time I go to a venue to make sure I get a clear one. Even then, sometimes, I still get audio hiss and spikes that come in intermittently sometimes.

Anyways, since I'm now scanning and checking frequencies, it does take me an additional 10-15 minutes to get that all configured.

And of course, after all is said and done... if someone happens to have an iPhone or Smartphone on, that could spoil the whole pot. (Based on what I've read online about newer cell phones causing wireless mic disruptions).

Having said all that, I now state to couples that, while I do use a wireless mic, I make no guarntee of the audio due to potential interference.

It sounds like your set up is quite complex, and I can see how it would take 30 minutes.
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Old March 5th, 2013, 05:32 PM   #4
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

Hi Adrian

That certainly is complex so I could see how that might easily be able to take the best part of 30 mins!!
For outdoor ceremonies I simply put a single lav and transmitter on the groom and I'm done (apart from a little test to make sure that frequencies don't clash) ... We have nice celebrants here and they normally will stand behind the couple to do the ceremony so a single lav is more than adequate.

At Churches it takes a few minutes longer as I put an extra mic/transmitter on the reading lectern as well.

30 mins is no big deal..you just have to make sure you get to the Church 30 mins earlier!

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Old March 5th, 2013, 09:38 PM   #5
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

I'm in between Don and Adrian but much closer to Don!

I don't do it all at once. Depends on the circumstance. I'd say I spend 10 minutes, all tolled, on audio set-up/break-down during ceremony, and another 5-10 at reception.

Church ceremonies: groom lav, lectern recorder (placed at the top of lectern), and possibly another digital recorder close to the musicians.

Outdoors -- lavaliere on groom AND officiant/or tapped into DJs system if there's an outdoor mic. And digital recorder near the musicians.

If there's a reading or two outdoors, depends. If they read into a supplied mic, hopefully I'm tapped into that system. If not, I do my best (maybe even the camera's shotgun mic -- and I get as close as possible.) I'll do anything that's needed for readers outdoors (even put a recorder on "auto gain" right up close to one of the small outdoor speaker units -- works well usually).
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Old March 5th, 2013, 10:12 PM   #6
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

Firstly I take all gear with me - separate case for all audio stuff (every lead imaginable).

Think hard about what is going to go where - DURING the drive to the church. 0 seconds.
Gaffer tape iRiver mic to podium mic - all settings are pre-set at home - 27 seconds.
Sennheiser G3 wireless on celebrant always at -10Db (male 26 seconds, female 1min15secs, catholic minister 2mins15secs)
Sennheiser G3 wireless on groom - 22 seconds.
Zoom H4n in middle of quartet or singers podium - preset levels - 28 seconds.

22 years - no complaints. Love my audio. You're mucking around man!
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Old March 12th, 2013, 12:16 AM   #7
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

Hi Adrian,

You are starting to think like an audio engineer. Keep it up. Half-hour ain't bad.

Think critically. Think creatively. Compromise when appropriate.

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Old March 21st, 2013, 11:06 PM   #8
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

We take 15min usually.
5min for the groom, 10min for the church mixer. We do not have a habit to mic the Priest here in Singapore.
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 09:34 AM   #9
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

I think 30 minutes is fine depending on your situation. Over the years we've trimmed our setup time from 2 hours to around 40 minutes. In my area, we have to often tread lightly in churches, find out the rules, with a multi-camera set up work out are angles. And I've never seen a worse place for audio frequencies. I scan every venue, even then, have interference problems. We are putting mics on readers, special musicians. And then there's finding the groom and minister for their mics who appear late a lot. As for photographers, it's a crap shoot. Working out a plan with them is possible most of the time but occasionally we run into those who just give us the death stare.

Audio is half of video, so to me it's just as important as actually shooting to plan for good audio. I've never been late, never failed to deliver on a wedding. I like to keep it that way. Keep up the good work, if it works for you.
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Old March 25th, 2013, 05:53 PM   #10
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Re: Time for sound setup -- is 30 minutes ridiculous?

It doesn't take me 30 minutes to set up audio for our Wedding Videography biz but I do take it seriously and am a big believer in redundancy.

I typically put a wireless lapel mic on both the minister and the groom so I have redundancy unless there are others speaking during the ceremony in which case I take the lapel mic off the groom and put it on the other speaker or if multiple speakers use a wireless hand held in a mic stand.

Yesterday had a heart stopping experience at an outdoor wedding. Wedding had a sister speaking a few words so had the handhelf wireless set up for that and the other wireless on the preacher (lapel mic). Should have been easy but the guy doing the music (keyboad & siniger) wondered if we could give him a feed to run the sound from our wireless microphones through his board. This was 30 minutes before the wedding and I did so. We tested it quickly and it worked. However in the process somewhow the RF mute got turned on my sennheiser wireless on the minister.

I realized something was wrong when all I got was interfernece from his mic 5 minutes before the wedding (we had obvously tested it when setting up the cameras but before things had been turned on and off dealing with getting the house sound guy that last minute feed). I had my asst. rush and put my second wireless lapel mic on the preacher which meant I had to turn off the hand held mic I had been going to use with that system.

All I could hear in my headphone was the horrible loud interference from the wireless with the RF muted so thought that for some reason the second wireless system was not workiig either. Got home and listened to the audio from the Rode NTG-2 on the camera up front to see if it was usable and it was going to be bear because of a lot of wind noise. Then something dawned on me and I checked the audio from the camera that had the two wireless setups running through it. Turns out the second wireless system did work but the sound in my headphones had just been covered up by the others systems issues. Once in Sony Vegas Pro I could pull down the one channel and hear that the other one was fine! Whew!!!

My new rule is no last minute changes to our audio setup!!!!!!
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