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

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Old August 16th, 2014, 05:30 AM   #1
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Belgium
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Using your own pa system

My last wedding the ceremony was at the venue, the venue has soundspeakers attached against a very high ceiling so it's impossible place a audio recorder in front of those, they have xlr connectors for the mics build into the walls and the mixer is located on the other side of the venue, almost 60-70 meter further to the back. Their system has been set up that they just need to power up their mixer and once you plug in a microphone in that xlr socket the volume is already preset and it all works. When teh ceremony starts there is also no DJ present or anyone that has any knowledge about their soundsystem, they just need to turn the power on and the thing works.

Only for me this is a nightmare to capture clear sound, their mixer is completely build in and you don't see any line output to attach a recorder to and I can't ask anyone because they don't know how it works, luckily at the wedding friends from the couple where going to perform live and they had their own portable pa system with them, it had 2 wireless microphones and I suggested they would use their own system for the speeches as well because then I could attach my tascam dr40. I discussed this with the groom and they where all ok, so now I do have good quality audio from the speeches.

This got me thinking as I do quite a few of these ceremonies in a venue and there are often issues with the sound recording, in a church I attach a mike to the lectern and place one in front of a soundspeaker as backup but for ceremonies in venues they often use wireless mics and the speakers don't get some kind of lectern but get to stand where they want to speak to the couple.

So I think, why not invest in my own portable pa system as they are not that expensive so I at least get to control the sound, at a venue I"m also always time pressured as I need to shoot the bride prep and find the time inbetween to be there during soundcheck when they set up everything to see what the possibilities are to record my audio. Often I need to improvise to deal with my soundrecordings.

If I would bring my own portable pa system with 2 wireless mics, set that up as soon as I arrive, attach my dr40 and leave it there until the ceremony starts that would be one big stress factor out of the way, are there any here that ever considered doing it in this way?
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Old August 16th, 2014, 07:46 AM   #2
Inner Circle
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
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Re: Using your own pa system

Hey Noa

For me that's more to set up, big fights with the celebrant who wants to use their own PA and much more..I actually prefer ceremonies with NO PA ..what a joy!!! I have my lav and transmitter on the groom which gives me perfect recording until the celebrant's PA adds to the levels with echo ridden audio and even distortion.

I must admit that IF they insist on a PA and you can convince the venue that your PA will be used, then at least if the audio is crappy it's your fault and yours alone. Do you seriously have enough time to setup PA systems etc etc before the ceremony ?? Sometimes it's enough rush to just get the cameras set up ... I think it's a good idea as long as you have a really top quality PA, with a CD player and someone on the mixer during the ceremony to keep levels perfect (both yours and the speakers) BUT can you afford to have an audio engineer at the ceremony for each wedding?

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Old August 16th, 2014, 08:16 AM   #3
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Re: Using your own pa system

I"m getting more weddings where everything happens at the venue, so when I arrive I first go to the location where the ceremony will be, set up my tripods and camera's but I can't do anything for audio yet as the priest or whoever secures the audio is not there yet, sometimes they have a pianist and singer performing live and they bring a extra wireless mike for the spÍeches so everything will run through their system but they have not arrived at that moment.

Then I go to the bride where I start shooting brideprep like when they do their hair, the make-up, then I visit the groom and film him getting ready and then I have to go back to the bride who will put on her weddingdress.

Here is when the stress starts to build, I need to go back to the ceremony before the bride puts here dress on to secure my audio, it has happened that the singer and piano player where late so I have to wait to connect my dr40 to their system and check levels while they do a sound check, at that moment guests start to arrive so it's often just attaching my dr40 and not even have the time to check anything, then back to the bride, film her putting the dress on and go back to the ceremony to start up my camera's, start up my audio recorders and wait for the ceremony to start. Using no pa is out of the question, there are often 50 to 100 people present and the ones sitting at the back would not hear anything.

The groom always has a lav mic but that one picks up the sounds from the soundspeakers as well and that doesn't sound that good and then I still don't have any audio from the guests that come to speak so I need to place seperate recorders depending on the situation.

If I would have my own portable pa with me I could first set up my tripods and camera and then set up the audio part when I arrive, I don't expect to check any levels as once they have been set right they should be ok for every wedding I do and I do check my levels while recording anyway at the beginning of the ceremony. After that I don't have to rush anymore and I have full control of the audio.

During such a ceremony I have 3 unmanned camera's rolling (two cx730's and one ax100) which give me time to check up on my audio recording and I use my rx10 to shoot manually.

It was just a thought about the pa system, now I often have to rely on luck and one day my luck might run out :)
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Old August 16th, 2014, 05:16 PM   #4
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Re: Using your own pa system

Hey Noa, here's some thoughts:

Bringing your own sound speakers to wedding?
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Old August 17th, 2014, 12:30 AM   #5
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Location: New Jersey USA
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Re: Using your own pa system

Bringing in a PA system ? You gotta be kidding.
More stuff to drag along eh ?
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Old August 17th, 2014, 02:27 AM   #6
Inner Circle
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Location: Belgium
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Re: Using your own pa system

I was thinking of something in the likes of this: and to only use it in very specific cases, when the ceremony is in the venue. In those cases there often is no soundsystem in place and the couple either brings their own or they ask the musicians who play live to get a extra microphone.

Thx for that link Adrian, I totally forgot about that one :) I am a bit of a controll freak and while one part of me says, take it as it comes another part wants to take control. If I have to shoot in a church I don't have any choice, there is no time to set something like this up but I do have plenty of time when the ceremony is at the venue. It's just that especially this year I have had several weddings at a venue with audio issues which made me reconsider my options. It still wouldn't work for speeches in a large venue because the room would be too large and they wouldn't allow me to bypass their system but it could work for ceremonies only.

It's the same as those guys that bring their own lights to the venue to use during speeches or first dance, I wanted to order such a light that can be remotely controlled but have been holding it off, I can shoot candle light venues but it would look better if there would be some extra white light. Only here it does fit the mood of the moment, the couple chose to have it that dark and why spoil it by adding light?

With audio however a ceremony can sound horrible if I have to use the camera onboard audio and if I listen to what my other camera's recorded from my last wedding you often don't understand what is being said. A few weddings ago I had the same issue where I was lucky to get the sound from a recorder placed in front of a speaker, my dr40 was connected to a mixer but for some unclear reason halfway the ceremony the mixer stopped sending sound and the sound technician said afterwards to me they had a crappy soundsystem. If I could have used my own system for the speeches only there would not be a issue.

I"m still thinking out loud here :) I consider sound the most important part when shooting weddings and I don't like to rely on luck or have to tell the client it's not my fault they choose a venue that has a crappy soundsystem. They choose me based on my work I show them and those have clear sound. It's what separates me from most of my competitors.
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Old August 17th, 2014, 12:10 PM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
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Re: Using your own pa system

in those situations I use a recorder attached to the wireless or wired mike - at least I know I'm getting good sound. If they have xlr connectors you could use a Y connector to get sound (I think)
Cheers - Paul M. :
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Old August 17th, 2014, 12:40 PM   #8
Inner Circle
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Location: Belgium
Posts: 9,068
Re: Using your own pa system

I use that option to but it's not always possible to attach it to the handle when the mike is also placed in a mike stand holder as it won't fit with a extra recorder attached. I think I"ll have to keep on using different recorders for different situations.
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