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


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Old July 12th, 2006, 08:39 AM   #1
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A wedding audio observation

I've been trying to understand why loud receptions often sounds slightly distorted when played back in post. It's not bad but just not as clean as I'd like. I always keep my audio levels at safe levels and I depend on audio from 2 cameras with one channel coming from a boom-mounted Shure omni transmitting near a source speaker.

Well, it finally hit me at the last wedding we covered that it wasn't my equipment at all but the DJ's who crank up the music to ear splitting levels. I actually listened to the music and it was distorted to begin with. So loud that it often sounded like noise especially when we had to work close to the source.

This is just an observation but from now on I'm done experimenting with different mics. It's the DJs, their equipment and their habit of placing their mics practically in their mouths when speaking.
Bob
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Old July 12th, 2006, 10:01 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Harotunian
Well, it finally hit me at the last wedding we covered that it wasn't my equipment at all but the DJ's who crank up the music to ear splitting levels.
This has been a common problem for decades anywhere that people want music to be loud, including professional rock concerts. There's a sad lack of understanding that music sounds better slightly below the distortion threshold than above that point, and wedding DJs are not immune to this weakness.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 10:09 AM   #3
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It could be the microphone

You need a microphone that is designed for high SPL (sound pressure level.)
You can blow up an SM 58 by sticking it in the bass drum of a rock band.
Ask for help at you local music store.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 12:58 PM   #4
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It's more than just the volume, there's something about going from source->speaker->mic->recorder that just about guarantees distortion no matter what the levels. Try it in your own living room with your stereo and you'll find it's almost impossible to get a good clean recording no matter where you put the speakers and mics or at what level you set the playback.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 01:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Shaw
This has been a common problem for decades anywhere that people want music to be loud, including professional rock concerts. There's a sad lack of understanding that music sounds better slightly below the distortion threshold than above that point, and wedding DJs are not immune to this weakness.
Did an audio mix for a Bangra dance group a while back and the source CD they gave me of the music they wanted was so clipped that every waveform was as flat-topped as a 50's rockers haircut. Profile of the waveform looked like a profile of the mesas in the Badlands.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 05:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
It's more than just the volume, there's something about going from source->speaker->mic->recorder that just about guarantees distortion no matter what the levels.
I basically see that many DJ's simply do not move their fat arses from behind the sound board to actually listen to what their guests are hearing. Or their speakers are over/under sized for the venue.

People are having good luck with instrument mics rated to take high sound pressures. I just ordered one of these to place next the DJ's stack. We'll see.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search
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Old July 12th, 2006, 05:06 PM   #7
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What fred has said is prolly the closest to what you need to work around this issue...

irrespective of what level you have ur mic set to, and even though your meters are showing that ur "safe" this dont mean jack if your overdriving the mic capsule.
Once your mic is being overdriven at the preamp level, your gone.
Most shotguns have 2 areas to be aware of, the Mic capsule, which physically picks up the sound, then the mic preamp, which is the interface between the capsule and the connection to the camera.
THEN theres the camera preamp (or attenuator.. whatever u wanna call it) which processed the audio before it hits tape. Now u can set the the camera to whatever u feel like at the input level, but if either of the mic's variables are overdriven, then it wont matter what u do.

SPL in any environment play one of the largest roles in audio quaility, which is where baffling, diffusing, clever mic placement come into play.
Also in loud environments, do not be afraid to use AGC on an onboard cameras microphone.
You will be surprised at how much these mics can handle, and being "inferior" to a shotgun theyre not as sensitive or "hot" so you can get away with afew things youd never sneak by if using a shotgun
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Old July 12th, 2006, 09:37 PM   #8
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Many DJ's don't set their EQ's properly, which compounds the problem. No bass, no treble, and screaming midrange makes for a most unpleasant listening experience, and it sounds like garbage on the camcorder mic. Since I am also a DJ, I know what I want it to sound like, and the way to go is strong bass, crisp (but not screaming) highs, and mids below zero, just enough to fill the hole in the music. Set it this way, and you'll get clean, powerful audio right up to your amp's max output. I use a set of powered JBL Eon speakers (15" woofer, titanium mid/tweeter, bi-amped and liquid cooled), which give 180w RMS of clean power per side, more than enough for any reception hall, and it actually sounds pretty good through most camcorder mics.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 09:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Harmon
Many DJ's don't set their EQ's properly, which compounds the problem. No bass, no treble, and screaming midrange makes for a most unpleasant listening experience, and it sounds like garbage on the camcorder mic. Since I am also a DJ, I know what I want it to sound like, and the way to go is strong bass, crisp (but not screaming) highs, and mids below zero, just enough to fill the hole in the music. Set it this way, and you'll get clean, powerful audio right up to your amp's max output. I use a set of powered JBL Eon speakers (15" woofer, titanium mid/tweeter, bi-amped and liquid cooled), which give 180w RMS of clean power per side, more than enough for any reception hall, and it actually sounds pretty good through most camcorder mics.
Thats another big problem! Most DJ's don't deserve that title. It takes more to be a DJ then to just play a few songs. But people don't seem to understand that. Its about ensuring the sound is there and creating a unique mood. And those eons are nice, wish I had a pair!
James
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Old July 12th, 2006, 10:44 PM   #10
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Here ya go, James:

http://www.guitarcenter.com/shop/pro..._sku=100270996

I got mine for $50/ea. less than that price, but it was 5 years ago. You can actually plug a mic directly into one of these and have a self-contained PA system, a feature I've had to use a time or two at wedding ceremonies. A good DJ, videographer, or, for that matter, virtually any occupation can figure out a way to give the customer what he/she wants with what they have on hand.

If you think it's just about playing music, you'd be better off jacking an iPod into a sound system and calling it good. I've actually seen people do this, and it really isn't as bad as you think - better than a bad DJ. You have to be able to turn on a dime, read the crowd and take an educated guess at what you should play, deal with adversity/technical problems, and, most important, keep the show moving with no dead air.

Care to see me in action as a DJ? Click here if you dare:

http://www.starshowz.com/djdemo_harmon.wmv
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Old July 13th, 2006, 12:32 AM   #11
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DUDE! Look at 1:08 on the clip, the EON is on fire!

Seriously, those EONs are pretty smokin'.
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Old July 13th, 2006, 01:06 PM   #12
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John, I got the chance to use the EON's during a show and they were awesome! Very loud and clear! The video was great, the only thing I thought that was missing was a shot of you behind the board! Still seems like you have a great career going! I've had a bit of experince as a DJ for my school and it was fun! And it does take alot of talent and you've gotta have fun at doing it! I'd like to see the ipod being used as you've said, the only problem I see though is the gap between each song. But it must be better then a bad DJ!

James
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Old July 13th, 2006, 02:32 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Tims
You need a microphone that is designed for high SPL (sound pressure level.)
You can blow up an SM 58 by sticking it in the bass drum of a rock band.
Ask for help at you local music store.
After consulting with Shure, I bought a PG81. I'm no audio engineer so I had to rely on their tech telling me this mic had the SPL I needed for loud environments. Again, I don't think the mic was overloading since, for once, I actually listened to what was filling the ballroom and it wasn't pretty.
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Old July 13th, 2006, 02:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
It's more than just the volume, there's something about going from source->speaker->mic->recorder that just about guarantees distortion no matter what the levels. Try it in your own living room with your stereo and you'll find it's almost impossible to get a good clean recording no matter where you put the speakers and mics or at what level you set the playback.
Steve, I have to disagree a bit with you on that. I have tested every mic I've used in my home by cranking up the volume with the mic directly in front of the speaker and at different locations. By just keeping the audio levels safe on the camera, the music always sounds clean in post. I don't know why, but I have much more success recording live music while DJ music is often problematical.
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Old July 13th, 2006, 05:26 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Bob Harotunian
Steve, I have to disagree a bit with you on that. I have tested every mic I've used in my home by cranking up the volume with the mic directly in front of the speaker and at different locations. By just keeping the audio levels safe on the camera, the music always sounds clean in post. I don't know why, but I have much more success recording live music while DJ music is often problematical.
To my ears, re-recording from a speaker always sounds "tainted" even if there's not any actual distortion, sort of like the generational loss associated with copying an analog tape. I want the "is it live or is it memorex" moment where I can't tell the difference.
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