Chamber orchestra recording for film

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by Ampo, Apr 13, 2005.

  1. Ampo

    Ampo Guest

    Hi anyone!

    I have to record a small chamber orchestra for a film, that includes string trio, woodwind trio, 3 horns and a harp. I have a live room for about 4 musicians, so I will record them in trios sync to the movie.
    Does anyone have suggestion on miking and panning? It has to sound like a chamber orchestra recorded together. My idea is record the trios in ORTF technic with additional mics on each instruments, but I am not really sure about is. The full stereo image might be chaotic in this way. Any opinion or help would be appreciated.
  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    I would find a place you can record them all at the same time.

    From your post it appears you are going to try and record them 4 musicians at a time and then try and combine them as a small chamber orchestra and make it sound like a chamber orchestra. What you will wind up with is the old "musicians standing on each other's shouders sound" where everyone will sound like they are playing in the first row. Better to find a good acoustical space and do the recording of the whole orchestra at one time. There must be a church or auditorium around where you can record them all together. Most symphony people are not use to wearing headphones and recording without hearing all the other musicians.

    MTCW and FWIW
  3. o2x

    o2x Active Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    I agree - record them together with several mics so you can mess around with stereo imagaing later.
  4. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    it should be cheaper and easier in the long run to do them all together. (They'll tell you that as well, I"m sure.....)

    As Tom already pointed out, you'll NEVER get the blend and sound of a real ensemble doing it a piece at a time. Sonically AND musicially, it'll work much better doing it all at once: all the little nuances, intonation and blending happen that way, esp with classical/acoustic musicians in a chamber orchestra. The interaction between the players is what you're after; that's as critical to the sound as any mic choices.

    If you're using top-notch players, they'll prefer it that way too.
  5. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I agree with all the above-- it will never sound best unless you record it all together. It is hard enough for them to play and hit the cues with the picture ONE time, forget three times!

    You did not mention whether you have multi-track options, but if you do, I suggest a a track for each mic-- main array (either spaced omnis or ORTF cardioids depending on room and mics available) and then spot each section to be able to bring out solos etc as the director needs.

    And you did not say if this is to real film or videotape, or if it is shot to film and then edited with videotape. You will need to know so that you can "stripe with SMPTE" if needed. 48k is probably fine.

    Ben Maas has done scoring work and can advise on the details.

  6. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2001
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    As the others have said, overdubbing a few ensembles will not make a chamber orchestra sound. For that matter, 3 strings are not going to give you a string section sound- even if you double or tripple track them... Part of the sound of an orchestra is created by the way different instrument's overtones match up and combine with each other.

    A film score's sound is created by a combination of distant micing (which provides the ensemble sound and image) and close micing to get the detail and mix control that is needed.

    The issue you'll be running into with your small space recording will be overall image and the slop in the sound (for lack of a better term) from multiple passes with room mics. However, individual micing isn't going to give you any sort of ensemble sound. Hence the need for a larger space to record everybody at once.

    If you can't go into a different space, I would record each ensemble with a ortf-type stereo pair and individual spots on each instrument. If you do multiple passes with any one section, record only the spots. With a bit of luck, your room mics will be enough to blend it together. Mix with enough reverb and you'll likely be ok.

    You'll need to have good headphones (likely single ear cans) for your musicians and you'll have to feed them click and whatever the pre-records are (including their earlier takes that they are overdubbing). The pre-records are important as they will give the musicians the pitch reference needed.

    Find out what sample rate the dub will happen at- it will likely be 48K. Record at that rate. If you are going to picture, find out how it will be delivered to you- if it is on a standard VHS tape, have them stripe the audio tracks with SMPTE and lock your recorders to that. Otherwise, with ProTools, Nuendo, Samplitude/Sequoia, Digital Performer, and others you can play the movie out of the workstation and you can use that for your picture. The session will have all of your parts locked to picture. Export an OMF or AES-31 session to the dub house and you should be set...

  7. Ampo

    Ampo Guest

    Thanks everyone!!
    I am new to this forum and I am very honored to have so many help so quick.
    This case is very difficult. The whole movie was shot using a midi arrangement and now I have to replace the digital samples with real musicians. Unfortunately I could not convince the director that he should have using the real orchestra recording before he started to edit. Now I have to sync everything to the moive that I received as mov format digital file. I am using Pro-Tools and sync is not a problem, but we have only about 12 m2 live area to record. The arrangement is fine as we are not targeting the Hollywood sound and it is contemporary music with unique sound.
    I was thinking to record somewhere else, but I need studio envoirment becuase of the picture. (I have to check every scene, because there are singers on the screen with lipsync.)
    We do not have state of art recording facilites over here that I could trust and the budget is very tight. I have to solve this problem out by myself, but I don't have to much time to think at the session, because we have only two days to record.
    I understood that you all think that I have to record them together. I think I can record the strings and the woodwinds together if 1 step backwards from the orchestra is enough for the stereo mic stand.
    Does anyone every try to put a strereo pair so close to the orchestra?
    I can put extra spot mics on the instruments as well.
  8. o2x

    o2x Active Member

    Mar 17, 2005
    If your little room sounds nice try lifting the mics up a bit to get more of an overhead feel. That way you can put the mics closer to the players without having a dominant sound.

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