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Old November 24th, 2014, 09:55 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Sydney, Australia
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Things that can go wrong with sound

So, each potential sound source can have issues. DJ line out can be dirty, lav mics can rub against clothing or be dislodged by grooms, recorders taped to microphones can have handling noise, etc. Once I had a priest drop my recorder after removing it from himself; the batteries fell out; the recording stopped halfway; the sound file corrupted, and I could only recover part of it.

But all these things are in some sense blaming the world, or things you can't control.

Just for fun, here's a list of some more basic things that have gone wrong for me that were my fault, or issues that had me scratching my head for a while:

1. Couldn't get sound from a lav mic. Everything's turned on. What's wrong? Turned out there was a switch on the transmitter -- mic/line level.
2. Only got occasional sound from a lav mic. What? Turns out the antenna of the transmitter wasn't screwed in all the way, so there was sometimes a connection and sometimes wasn't.
3. No sound from dynamic mic. Turned the levels up to maximum and got something. Realised there was a mic/line level setting on the recorder itself.
4. Plugged into DJ speakers and got awful screeching. Realised later that I had left 48V phantom power turned on.
5. No levels on recorder. Tried everything. Then finally tried switching the XLR cable, and that solved the issue.
6. No levels on recorder. Tried everything. Then tried switching the XLR cable, and found I couldn't: there's a lock on the XLR connection that had somehow jammed, leaving the cable neither fully in nor fully out. Got my technically-minded friend to take the recorder apart to fix.

And more prosaic things that have gone wrong:

-- Battery died 5 hours into reception. I'd neglected to keep checking it. Ever since, I tend to carry big external batteries to make sure they stay on.
-- Big external battery has a fuse that somehow trips off. Recorder goes off after 5 hours anyway.
-- Second shooter plugged in shotgun and 48V, not realising how quickly this drains the recorder. It was dead in 15.
-- Left on standby mode instead of record.
-- Forgot to turn power on.
-- Forgot to press record.
-- Yamaha C24 stopping recording after 2 minutes for no explicable reason. After reformatting the card, everything works properly.
-- SD card apparently corrupted; recorder refuses to write to it.
-- I forget to load an SD card in the first place.
-- Forgot to change microphone "input power" to "on" on recorder, and didn't do a sound check before putting it on groom.
-- I forget to bring an XLR cable.
-- Attached microphone to wrong lectern (as a rule, I now whack one on every lectern in sight).
-- Forgot to turn Rode VMP on after putting on camera (now, we tend to leave these things on the entire day -- no chance of running out of battery, but high chance of forgetting to turn back on).
-- Rode VMP discovered to be turned off. Reason: there's three settings, off, on and low cut. But you can also slide the switch in between those settings, in which case the microphone just goes off.
-- Rode VMP apparently won't turn on, despite fresh batteries. We keep jiggling it, and eventually it works. Suspected reason: we use gaffer tape on the top of our 9V so they don't accidentally connect and explode in the bag, but perhaps gaffer tape remnants had transferred to the microphone and prevented a connection.

Not sure what the exact point is of making this list. I suppose it's partly because one of these issues (mic/line level on recorder) happened to me on Sunday. But also because I met up with a couple last night who asked why they shouldn't get a $500 film student from Gumtree rather than a professional videographer. I did say that a lot of things can go wrong at weddings, and experience does make a difference, but I think that maybe they'd be horrified if they knew just how many things can go wrong -- most of the issues above I think I could only have learned from experience.
Adrian Tan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 25th, 2014, 02:05 AM   #2
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Re: Things that can go wrong with sound

We are only human, but never tell a bride that, she has to think you are superman :) When you work solo like me and operate multiple camera and audio recorders on your own mistakes are bound to happen, especially if you work with different type of camera/recorders.

Last wedding my tascam dr05 gave a me a "card full" warning in church eventhough I had deleted the files on it (I only format once in a while, otherwise always just delete the files), not sure what happened but I knew I had to format the card to get it working again, I only was under too much timepressure as the ceremony just had started and that dr05 was supposed to be the main source of my audio that I could not think clear and could not remember which buttons to press and where exactly to access the format options. So here I just took my tascam dr40 which was left unused in my bag and used that one instead :)

I have 5 audio recorders with me at every wedding and I always secure backup, only at the last wedding I hardly had any setup time in the church and opted for a recorder at a soundspeaker only, once I had that issue with my dr05 and after I replaced it with the dr40 I got so worried I added my zoom h1 to the lightstand as well in front of that soundspeaker during the ceremony because I was too worried that if my dr40 would mess up I"d end up with no usable audio.
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Old December 10th, 2014, 04:26 PM   #3
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Re: Things that can go wrong with sound

Here's two more dodgy things:

-- Thought I was getting sound from lav mic. Nice levels. Didn't check with headphones. Realised later that the switch for omni/uni/xlr on Tascam had been moved accidentally, and it was just sound from onboard microphones rather than XLR. (Happened recently...)

-- Just doing a sound test, rather than at a wedding -- wondering why there's no data on microSD from Yamaha C24 when I stick it in my computer. I record again and again, and still get no data. Realised that Yamaha was recording to 2gb internal card rather than 32gb microSD card. How did the settings switch? Still a mystery. Possibly to do with card door not being closed properly the first time it was switched on, and Yamaha automatically defaulting to, and staying with, internal memory.
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Old December 10th, 2014, 05:16 PM   #4
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Re: Things that can go wrong with sound

I came here to post a similar thing, Adrian.

During the ceremony, the priest reached under his robes to mute his own wireless mic, and accidentally yanked the cord/mic for me off his collar. It ran along the carpet, under his feet, the rest of the ceremony. Fortunately, this was during communion (Catholic wedding) and so all the most important things were already done.

From that same wedding, I couldn't find the file from the groom's pocket recorder. I eventually figured out it, too, like yours, had saved to internal memory instead of a memory card.

This weekend, we're doing a joint DJ/video package. I'm bringing a third person, a DJ, since we also have to do the ceremony sound. If I can't get good sound for this one, I'm quitting both jobs :)
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Old December 10th, 2014, 05:30 PM   #5
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Re: Things that can go wrong with sound


This may be more on the side of "how to prevent things from going wrong", but I just ordered a Tascam DR-05 and I will be placing it on the podium where several readers will be speaking during a Catholic ceremony this Saturday. I own a Tascam DR-40 but I've always just used it to plug into a PA system or place on the officiant, so I've never placed it (or any other portable recorder) on a podium for speakers.

My question is, do you typically place your DR-05 on the podium itself? Or do you place it on a mic stand or light stand near it? The reason I ask is that I don't think this church will allow me to place any stands in that area and I want to make sure that the audio from the readers sounds good. If you do place the DR-05 on the podium, do you have any recommendations for the settings on the recorder? (i.e. do you use the limiter, peak reduction, set levels very low then raise them in post, etc).

With the DR-40 I usually use the Dual Channel recording so that I have backup track in case the audio gets too loud. However, I don't think the DR-05 has this feature so I'm concerned that one of the speakers will be speaking really loudly and the audio will clip and be distorted.
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Old December 11th, 2014, 02:13 AM   #6
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Re: Things that can go wrong with sound

Once when the couple were kneeling down just prior to the final blessing the groom decided to get a handkerchief out to blow his nose, upon putting it back he dislodged his lav mic, looked at it curiously and then put it in his inside pocket.

Unfortunately for me (and ultimately the couple) the speakers were up way high near the roof so inaccessible, the PA had no line out and the priest wouldn't wear one of my recorders (worried about interference) so I had to switch the audio to a H1 hidden in some flowers - not ideal but if they had complained, I had the proof in glorious HD!

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Old December 11th, 2014, 07:54 AM   #7
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Re: Things that can go wrong with sound


I know I just set the pocket recorder on the lectern. We use 3, and usually its one on the groom, one on the lectern, and the 3rd might be by the singer, or stashed somewhere else, if I think I'll need it.

Lessons learned about auto levels. Never again. Instead, I test it, set it as best I can, safely, but not too low, because if you have to raise the volume in post too much, you'll get noise again. I always assume that people will be *slightly* louder than my tests. I find adding in +6dB to +9dB is pretty easy without additional noise. The person you're recording being too loud is pretty much unfixable.

My Tascam DR40 will be used back by my safety cam to combine the pastor's wireless mic or church feed, and an external mic, then run into the camera.
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