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Old November 26th, 2014, 01:48 AM   #1
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Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

I've been struggling to improve my sound quality during speeches for some time now.

I had been using tabletop recorders for the first few years which simply wasn't doing the job well enough for my liking.

I started taping my little sony recorder and lav mic to the venus house mic. This worked a treat and bypassed any worries about the quality of the venues PA system. Honestly, the audio was near perfect.
Of course, there are times when a rogue father of the bride will say 'I don't think we need this mic, everyone can hear me ok can't you?' I feel like shouting 'Well maybe everyone apart from the video guys audio recorder which you've now set on the table!'.

Anyways, at a one specific venue in my area, I've had two managers very unhappy with my taping a recorder to the mic. So I feel i need to have a better method.

On the advice of a fellow videographer I bought an XLR splitter and XLR to stereo jack adapter in order to sneak a feed out of the venues wireless receiver whilst the feed was en route to their sound desk.

Problem is, I ask the venue managers about this and they generally have NO CLUE. They let me look myself, but next to the desk and amp there is no sign of the wireless mic receiver...
And that's as far as I'm comfortable digging into the sound system of a venue...

Any thoughts on this by the way?

Ultimately though...
Should I just bite the bullet and buy wireless setups and channel into their frequency?

And what does this involve? Are there potential difficulties or issues?
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Old November 26th, 2014, 02:33 AM   #2
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

It sounds like where you are at, there typically is not a DJ or some other sound tech who is able to help you out at the receptions. I'm in Charlottesville, VA and I've found that for 95% of the receptions there is either a DJ or a sound tech who knows exactly where I can plug in my Tascam DR40 recorder. Usually they'll have either 1/4 inch or RCA output (sometimes XLR) so I just bring my adaptors and plug in. Since the DR40 has a safety track which records at a lower level, it's not really necessary for me to monitor the audio as long as I do a test before the reception begins. I also always make sure to have a shotgun mic on my camera and try to get fairly close to the speaker so that I have two sources.

If you don't think plugging into the sound system with a portable recorder will work, another option is to use a mic stand to place a shotgun mic near one of the speakers and then run an XLR cable to a portable recorder (preferably one with a safety track as most of the Tascam recorders have now). This could work well as long as you test the audio and set the levels ahead of time. You may still want to have another source (such as a camera mounted shotgun mic) just to be safe.

Personally, I don't know that I would depend on being able to channel into the wireless frequency because there are variables that could cause problems (interference, poor reception, the chance that you show up and for some reason aren't able to connect to the wireless signal from their system). I feel like whenever I have the opportunity to go wired or wireless, it's best to choose the wired connection because far fewer things can go wrong and the quality is often better.

As far as the person putting the mic down, I'm not sure there's much you can do besides placing a lav mic on each person giving a speech (this would be very tedious and expensive). I've had that happen a couple times and I just didn't use the speech audio in the highlights video. For the long form video they didn't seem to mind that the audio was not great because they could understand everything that was said and they probably knew that there wasn't much else I could do without the microphone being used.
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Old November 26th, 2014, 04:40 AM   #3
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

Its actually pretty straightforward to do. However the opportunities to use it are quite rare.

That is because there are a large number of older technically illegal systems still in use. If the venue has a newish system it is likely to be the Sennheiser G3. The RECEIVER they use will look like a small amp with a couple of aerials sticking out the top rather than look similar to the cigarette box size belt / pocket held transmitter.

The frequency they are using will be displayed on the microphone itself and on the receivers front panel. If its displayed as an actual frequency then obviously all you have to do is dial those figures into your own receiver. If it is displayed as a channel number within a bank of frequencies then you have the option to select the same on your own receiver - or you could press the receivers display button to change the reading from bank to frequency. You can also scan using your receiver to find the frequency being used.

If they are using that sort of system - or very similar using the same frequency bands - there are two groups of frequencies that are usable. One requires a license and the other does not. 606-614 (to 648 on some pricier versions of the G3 kit) is known as Channel 38 and requires a license. 863-865 is known as Channel 70 and does not. They are most likely to have the 863-865 version so that is the kit you would get first for your specific purpose.

As you've found they are unlikely to know anything about it and they subcontract their audio requirements to a specialist. You may like to get in touch with the venue a few days beforehand and get the specialists contact details so you can obtain the spec. straight from the horses mouth. An evening DJ using wireless is much more likely to be clued up and in that scenario its also much more likely that you can get a feed from their deck straight into your wireless TRANSMITTER then you to pick that up with your wireless RECEIVER attached to your camera or audio recorder.

The one extra bit of kit you then may need if plugging into a deck is a PAD cable which makes the signal into the transmitter less hot. You can reduce the levels on the transmitter but its easier to just leave it set at your most used level e.g. minus 12dB for regular speech and add a pad cable instead. There is a peaking warning light on the transmitter.

The talk of interference, mobile phone conflicts etc that you hear is probably out of date now with the arrival of the G3, certainly in my experience with 3 kits. It has a number of clever tricks including diversity
antenna which means you can have the transmitter and receiver in any orientation without ill-effect with the sort of distances we are talking about.

Much of the above relates to UK only inc. N Ireland.

Pete
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Old November 26th, 2014, 04:49 AM   #4
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

I find that less than 50% of weddings here use a PA microphone, but the speeches are all usually from the head table. I use a splitter and a pair of mics on long leads to cover the head table, sometimes even using a double splitter with 4 mics, all going to a small recorder.

For venues that I know don't have a PA, I have a small, very portable system that I can set up in a couple of minutes which I can record straight from, plus it earns brownie points from the speakers.

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Old November 26th, 2014, 06:23 AM   #5
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

Peter,

As much as I appreciate your advice, you may have inadvertently scared me off a little! I'm just not an audio tech in the slightest!

The venue in question did not have the box with antennae which I was looking for. A friend suggested to me that their wireless receivers might be built into the ceilings at various points around the room and lobby. and so the only evidence at the point of PA would be a lead coming out from the wall or down from the ceiling.

Whilst I was looking with the manager, another member of staff said something like 'I wouldn't pull that out if I were you, the cables will all come out'. That was enough for me to give up on my investigations...

Thing is, this venue is one of the most popular in my country. It has capability on their grounds to host three (soon to be four) weddings in a day. They are basically telling me I can't use my lo-fi method, and are unable to aid me in figuring out a more techie solution.

They simply want me to put recorders on tabletops and in so doing, reduce the quality of my product, whilst ensuring they still look the unblemished in it all.

With regard to the recorder on the mic, one manager said that it was just not fitting with the standard the venue held itself too!


I'm going to get in touch with them and go up some day to figure out how to access their wireless feed into the desk. Hope they corporate.
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Old November 26th, 2014, 07:04 AM   #6
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

For the same amount of money, you could afford enough wireless mics or pocket recorders for each potential speaker, instead.

The trouble with trying to snag the wireless signal is the sheer number of possibilities, which is a positive for the microphones since they are less likely to get interference. Different companies get different parts of the spectrum, then they divide it between their products.

For instance, when I bought my mics, all the same kind, I still had to make sure the mics and receivers all matched frequencies, usually a number/letter code. So I bought the Shure PG58 mic, which works with the Shure BLX288 receiver, but I had to make sure both were 'frequency J10' and not 'K12' or 'H8'
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Old November 26th, 2014, 07:20 AM   #7
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

If money was no object, a handful of these would work nicely. No pricing available yet

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Old November 26th, 2014, 07:27 AM   #8
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

Last wedding I did I was able to plug in my dr40 into the soundsystem of the dj, we tested and it all worked until the groom started his openingsspeech, when I went to my dr40 to check the signal nothing was coming in, when I asked the DJ all I got was him shrugging his shoulders. There I had a backup on a lightstand with a zoom h1 pointed towards a soundspeaker and that I will be using now instead.

The problem with several venues though is they have the soundspeakers build into the ceiling and they are too high to reach, if I cannot secure a good backup I prefer to strap my yamaha c24 onto the mike handle if I have no other choice.
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Old November 26th, 2014, 07:39 AM   #9
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

Those look good Art! I particularly like the audio bracketing feature. Are they really any better though that the little Sony recorders I already have? Who knows.

They would need to be somehwere between 50 and 100 to tempt me. Shouldn;t they be quite cheap though? I mean its jack input ONLY recording. That's fairly limiting.


But yea, maybe putting a lav mic on each speaker with their own pocket recorder is the answer. But generally that part of the day is when the manager is trying to get everybody to hurry up - so it might be more stress than it's worth!
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Old November 26th, 2014, 08:18 AM   #10
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

As much as I appreciate your advice, you may have inadvertently scared me off a little!

I can relate to that! When I got my first wireless kit is was ages before I risked using it in the heat of battle. But it really is very straightforward indeed.

Once you've set your default values on each kit you almost never would need to change them, other than in your case allocating the same frequency to your own receiver as the venue is using on its transmitter. You'd have default levels of probably -12dB on your transmitter (which you wouldn't be using anyway in your scenario) and just change that via a rocker switch if you connect direct to a hot deck signal (or put a PAD cable inline just as you might if going direct from the deck into an audio recorder that doesn't like line-level and expects mic-level).

I have my receivers on -12dB as well. It really is a beautiful sight to have on your camera the shotgun going into one channel and the wireless receiver going into the other and being able to adjust either of them on the fly :- )

If you wind up with several wireless kits you might have one going into the camera and others going into an audio recorder. Sometimes I set mine set up with a Zoom H4n and have a wireless receiver going into each of its two XLR inputs and a third receiver going into the H4n's rear 3.5mm socket. I can see all three of the levels during recording on the H4n's screen and adjust each of the levels according - but in practice they seldom need changing on the fly for speech. Sometimes I attach all this to a t-bar and that to my tripod leg using a superclamp. Othertimes I just leave it sitting somewhere accessible.

You can get the G3 kit you need easily 2nd hand on ebay at around 400. Its easy to check people's credentials when they are sellers of this sort of kit. And if decide its not for you there is a queue of people eager to buy it off you. Two of my three kits were 2nd hand off ebay - one came from a video guy in Northern Ireland actually who had clearly bought a boatload of kit thinking he was going to do better than he actually did and then shifted a lot of it on ebay. The other was from a college lecturer who found he didn't need it as the colleges always had their own set up he could use.

Sounds like you do need to get to the bottom of it at that particular venue as it is in high demand. You can be sure other videographers will be doing likewise and so you risk getting left behind audio quality wise. Might be best to speak with their actual PA engineer rather than the event staff.

I've also had objections to taping a recorder to a mic, but on the grounds it will degrade the mics surface.

I tend to put a recorder close to a venue speaker as others have suggested but I don't like to rely on that because the quality of an individual speaker can be horrible. Had that at a recent wedding where both speakers were terrible - I felt for the guests. The feed I had out of the DJs deck (DJ supplied the mic and deck but not the speakers on that occasion) to my wireless system though was perfect :- )

My go-to solution is still H1's on the tables near to the people making the speeches though. I like the H1's pickup pattern for speeches and its auto-levels performance in that scenario. But if the top table is round rather than long and rectangular, or if its an ethnic wedding with lots of unscripted speeches from guests popping up all over the place then I prefer the venue mic route.

As we all know you do need backups of backups not only to allow for equipment failure but for the talent not doing what they are expected to do.

Pete
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Old November 26th, 2014, 10:16 AM   #11
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

We recently had a wedding where we didn't have access to the feed and it was impossible to record from the speakers since they were installed into the ceiling. The microphone in use was set up on a stand. Our solution was to tape a wireless lapel with black gaffer to the mic and stick the transmitter body with the mic's stand. Needless to say this worked out perfectly since we had a direct feed into the camera and the mic itself was barely visible.

In the case that speeches are done whilst sitting down and have the mic passed from one speaker to the next, a tabletop mic stand would come in really handy for this method.
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Old November 26th, 2014, 12:30 PM   #12
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

What works really well for me, when all else fails, is to take an extra camera with a shotgun microphone and aim it at any speakers where the sound is coming from. If the sound is coming from the ceiling, no problem. Just aim the camera at the ceiling. If it's cominig from PA speakers, just put the camera somewhere not too close to the speakers and aim the camera toward the speakers. Very simple and effective.
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Old November 26th, 2014, 01:32 PM   #13
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

I prefer to be 100% independent of "house" sound.

Even with 3 sennheiser G3 wireless mics, I also use a wired $20 audio technical mic into a Tascam DR05 that I place in the main ministers pocket as a safety audio track.

I use a Tascam DR40 and a ME/66 K6 to cover other audio as needed.

My second shooter and third shooter has another DR05 and zoom H4, so we've got lots of options for musicians and other speakers etc.
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Old November 26th, 2014, 01:40 PM   #14
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

Kyle, I think Clive wanted ideas for reception speeches unless I misunderstood.
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Old November 30th, 2014, 02:21 AM   #15
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Re: Sound - Should I just go down the wireless route?

I've toyed with the idea of building a fold up lectern for the speeches if the venue doesn't have one - built in recorder and you're good to go.

I have one venue where I got the owner to agree to me going in during the day and taking a line out of the amp which is connected to the wireless receiver. I leave the cable there with a tag attached - Line out for videographer - courtesy Relive The Day wedding films. good for me and anyone else who works there.

I have another venue that won't let me anywhere near the comms cabinet and so I tape a sony recorder to the lectern (most venues here use them)

If I have an obnoxious coordinator who won't let me "tape a mike here or put a light there" I simply say - "ohh - okay I'll check with the bride " sometimes they back down straight away and if not, I've mentioned it to the bride and she can sort it out or live with it. I also mention in one of my emails that venue systems are usually poor and advise them to use the DJ's mike for the best quality sound.

Most coordinators & staff know absolutely nothing about the systems, we're lucky if they know where the mike is and how to switch it on.
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