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Old October 21st, 2013, 08:50 PM   #1
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First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Hey guys, I'm nearly done editing my first full-length video (whew ... took me several months to do! Way more work than I anticipated!)

Anyways. I've learend a lot doing this including some technical challenges. But a big one for me is the first dance and entrance of the B&G. The DJ claims he didn't have a line out for my recorder (a Tascam DR-05, which doesn't have XLR). He told me a lot of other videographers just placed the audio recorder on top of the speaker set he has in the middle, so I did that. Well, for a lot of the talking / etc. it sounds OK, but the first dance and entrance sound like total garbage. The bass from the speakers creates ridiculous distortion in the Tascam. It's possible I didn't have the tascam set correctly either but either way I need to figure out what to do now. The vibration during the bass hits is just horrible.

I was thinking of just muting out the audio for their first dance and putting in the original song they used for it, but it sounds too ... sterile. It's like I lose all of the room and the ambiance of the audience. Is there anything else I can do? Or do I have to make a choice between sterile + clean audio and the crappy audio I have?

PS I also had a shotgun mic and a camcorder mic going but those sound even worse. The tascam is my best audio.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 10:19 PM   #2
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Reception audio is almost an art and it took me a long time to figure out the best way for ME to capture good clean audio be it voice or bass driving music. At the very least the shotgun on your camera (if it's a real video camera and not a DSLR) should give you a decent enough track to work with if the setting are right in the camera. However on to your problem...first the TASCAM is a fine little machine...I own 1 but NEVER use it for anything but voice and only if I need a 3rd system for a wedding. I never use it at a reception. So you should have a left and right channel for your TASCAM and your shotgun or on board sound. Take the system that offers you the best sound on whatever channel even if it's only one channel, lay the WAV or MP3 sound track of the music down, drop the recorded track that you have with it, sync it up, drop the level of the 2 to give you some ambient sound from the one you recorded to play under the prerecorded track and you remove the sterile sound you otherwise have.
On the other note, you definitely have the TASCAM set wrong and I would never just put it on top of the speaker. First if it's the bass speaker you're in for a rumbling road so it needs to be nears the top speaker. Even with a JBL or other brand 15 inch speaker on a speaker stand keep in mind the 15 inch speaker is a bass and mid-range speaker and the tweeter is on the top of the box. That's where I find the best sound.
Sound is 70% of what you see so spend sometime working on it until you can say "it's perfect or at least 99.999% perfect. It's that important.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 10:24 PM   #3
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Well, here's two things you could try:

1. Source the original music, and use that, but mix in a little bit of on-camera sound to make it less sterile.

2. Source original music, and mix it in with foley to make it less sterile... As in, find some random crowd chatter/applause/etc (lots of free sound libraries online), and add that in.
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Old October 21st, 2013, 10:30 PM   #4
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Nick, there is an 85% chance the DJ was full of sh*t about the board output. Most mixers have an RCA output specifically for recording. For the future, go ahead and pick up a 1/4" to headphone so that you're covered. I don't think any mixers use XLR for the zone/recording output.

Don and Adrian are correct about how to get your audio.

For the future, to record from the speaker, you'll have to turn your Tascam's record level down. Pretty easy to do. Maybe use two of them, one set much lower than the other. This would cover you for the difference between casual microphone talk and the relative blasting of the introductions.
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 12:22 AM   #5
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

The above posts are right about mixing in the sterile song with another ambient mic source on low if you have it. We do that sometimes anyway since you're more likely to get a fuller sound from the original recording. I'd recommend always having these 3 cables... an XLR to 3.5mm, 1/4 to 3.5mm, and a RCA to 3.5mm for all occasions. The XLR is the least used for DJs, but every so often you'll hit a DJ who doesn't have a record out on their board or it may give you issues and you might be find a XLR OUTPUT port on the back of their speakers to use instead. The audio recorder on the speaker is the last choice for us anyway and definitely better than on-camera, and the earlier post is right about the middle speaker sometimes being the bass. Good to learn these things early.

Some DJ's know their stuff and some are clueless. Be prepared for both. I had a DJ tell me recently when I asked if I could patch into his board that "he had been doing this for 20 years and had never heard of anyone doing that" I asked him how to they normally record and he said "just off their camera's mic I guess" to which I said, well there's a difference between those that care about audio and those that don't. Plus, things have changed since 1993 :)

Good luck!
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 02:25 AM   #6
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

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Originally Posted by Robert Benda View Post
Maybe use two of them, one set much lower than the other. This would cover you for the difference between casual microphone talk and the relative blasting of the introductions.
He could get a dr40 that allows double recording to 2 different levels minimizing the risk of distortion.
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 03:14 AM   #7
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

I have a similar situation but through no fault of my own in recording the sound. I am just editing an African wedding where the sound at the venue was utter crap. It was done on the cheap and was turned up too loud so the music is horribly distorted especially for first couple of tracks where there is the entrance of the B&G. The DJ couldn't or wouldn't give me a line out from his desk so I was only able to record the sound as we all heard it in the hall & it was terrible. I am trying to rescue it by dubbing over a recording but then I am still left with the choice of either a very sterile audio track or mixing in some of the live sound with all the clapping & cheering but that is nearly drowned out by horrible teeth-gratingly distorted music over the PA. There is no good solution for this situation.
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 05:53 AM   #8
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

I got burned early on in my wedding career by having my Zoom H2 close to a speaker - the level was ok but the bass pushing air caused popping throughout - if you're going to use this technique then employ a windshield.

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Old October 22nd, 2013, 07:36 AM   #9
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

This may sound very amateur but I always switch my cams to auto audio on both channels during loud music ...never had an issue ...I did forget once and it was a live band too!!! The levels were totally blown out. For that I used Goldwave which drops the level drastically without losing too many peaks ...try getting the levels down to at least -12db first and then use your audio editor/NLE to kill as much as the bass as you can without making it sound too thin. If harmonic distortion is there then you and sunk..no way to get rid of that if the signal was grossly over modulated. Adrian's idea might be the best if you can't salvage the track even if you just dub the track as it is.

I think Nick really needs a solution for the crud he has to work with but advice for the future is always good too. I also think it's Don who uses a drum mic to record from speakers??

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Old October 22nd, 2013, 07:53 AM   #10
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Thanks guys this is all very very helpful. Going to try a few things now. This bride knew it was my first wedding and it was priced accordingly. I'm very happy with almost the entire shot but this one scene is bugging me haha.

I've been putting in some sterile audio (the tracks themselves) and it sounds OK. What's a good place to get sort of a continuous crowd sound effect? Or any other wedding effects, does anyone have recommendations?

It's funny because the editing process is actually pretty quick. It's resolving these technical issues that are eating up so many hours in post. I have two more weddings lined up for next year and I have already learned sooo much just from that one that I'm hoping my next shoot will be a little easier once the reception is done.
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 11:30 AM   #11
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

You could try a slow crossfade or fadeout of the ambient/room audio, then, with 15 seconds or so slowly fade the room back up. If its a subtle transition, the couple may not notice the switchover, or think it was done tastefully, but also you get the room sounds etc at the finish.

I know the the actual track may seem sterile to you, but the couple might be ok with it, or think it was done intentionally to preserve, or feel you tapped into the DJ board.
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 11:32 AM   #12
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Nick, I still think the best thing to do is to drop the native audio in and just bring the level down to get you the ambient noise from the room. Talking, clapping, general noise.
I DO use a Sennheiser Drum Mic on a small boom stand in front of the DJs speaker and I have a plugin transmitter going back to my camera along with a AKG Blueline Hypercaroid on the camera. Each goes to one channel and I also run my audio on AGC since the camera is faster and smarter than I am and frankly in all the time I've been doing that, I've never had a problem with my audio at receptions even when the DJ goes to 12 on the scale of 1 to 10. I also use my trusty old Sony 7605 headphones and watch the meters in the camera to make sure I'm getting what I want.
I hope it all works out for you. So now you have a lesson learned about audio. I bet you never have this happen again. ;-)
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Old October 22nd, 2013, 08:16 PM   #13
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

I use the Sennheiser Drum Mic (thanks to Don) plugged in to a Zoom H4n. I use a line in from the board for another channel. Then I have the stereo mics recording as well. I do a quick levels check when I first get there. I set the stereo mics to a good level for the current music, then tap it up a little hotter. I use this for ambient noise, clapping, laughing during speeches, etc. it can also be handy if the speeches are too soft. I set the line in lower because I know the DJ will crank the music up later during the dancing. I check back during the second or third dance. I have a shotgun on the camera closest to speeches and use smaller zooms as backup. The drum mic gives great sound right in front of the DJ speakers. For fixing problem audio during the dance, go with the track if you can get it. Add in a little noise from a recording if you need, but don't think of clean as bad. I spend quite a bit of setup time at the ceremony and reception with the goal of clean audio.
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Old October 23rd, 2013, 07:55 AM   #14
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

Just a reminder that having your record levels a little low is preferable to too high. Once it's distorted, there is no fixing it. If it's too low, you can always boost it.

If you're able to, you want to place your microphone in front of a speaker one meter/3 feet away, and centered vertically. This will help you catch the entire audio range. Avoid placing a microphone on the sides or back of a speaker because you'll get a lot more bass, which is omnidirectional.
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Old October 23rd, 2013, 09:35 AM   #15
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Re: First Dance Music / Blown Out Bass in recording

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Originally Posted by Robert Benda View Post
Just a reminder that having your record levels a little low is preferable to too high. Once it's distorted, there is no fixing it. If it's too low, you can always boost it.
Agreed & this is contrary to what we used to do with analogue equipment where the general idea was to get the highest possible sound level onto the tape for best possible S/N ratio. This generally involved letting the peaks go into the red. With digital this is a very bad idea. You can always boost digital audio in post without having to worry about tape hiss.
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