Choir/orchestra recording - opinions?

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by cdmack, Jun 12, 2008.

  1. cdmack

    cdmack Guest


    this is my first time recording anything of this scale and quality (80 strong choir, soloists and 25 strong orchestra, Bach programme) and I'd value feedback. Venue was large stone church, soloists in front of (and on either side of) conductor, then orchestra, then choir. Orchestra arranged in the nave with choir behind (on steps and risers, spreading out under the pillars into the aisles).

    I tried to capture the action with a main blumlein pair of ribbons at about 4m (12ft) up and 1m in front the soloists - needless to say the soloists were in the nulls while the orchestra sounded unacceptably distant, so I guess this is one situation where blumlein doesn't work. My safety ortf schoeps mounted on the same stand ended up as the main pickup

    Supplementing that were a high pair of schoeps hypers on a stereo bar pointing at the flanks of the choir ito bring them into focus, and a pair of omnis on the same line as the main pair, 4m either side (in line with the sides of the orchestra to keep them out of the audience's line of sight) and a bit lower down as I was out of high stands.

    As the 4 soloists were still at the periphery of the acceptance angle even of the ortf pair, each pair of soloists had a single akg451, probably about 1-1.5m away, to bring them in from the edges or the panorama.

    Comments welcome... (but be gentle!). I'll post more excerpts if folks are interested.

    Sound file here:
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I couldn't figure out how to audition your example? Click on your link. Went to the site. Didn't hear anything. Didn't see anything except the title?

    Geez..... This is precisely the reason why I like Middle/Side in these particular situations. It gives you that solid center image since your main middle microphone, is the one microphone that was used originally when that's all they had. It only makes perfect sense. You're just asking for more phased shift. It's not rocket science but maybe it is?

    Taking the middle ground in sound
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. cdmack

    cdmack Guest

    The link should be at the bottom of the page: "Click here to download"

    Not quite sure how MS would help in this situation: the acceptance angle isn't any greater for blumlein MS than it is for blumlein XY, so I'd still have had the same problem, no?

    I've uploaded a couple of the files with the soloists this time, to give a comparison between the ortf and blumlein pairs (all other mic levels are the same)

  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I can't download the link from where I am (not your fault - I'm on a cell-phone...) but, 4 meters (more like 14 feet) is a bit high for a blumlein pair. I would venture a guess that this is why it's too washed out.

    For blumlein (a DIFFICULT pattern to place correctly), you really only need to get so high as to have the microphone be able to see every body in the ensemble and then aim it so that as much of the ensemble as possible is on axis. Also, a lot of people will tell you that you need to have the ensemble inside the 90 degree pattern of the mics. I vehemently disagree. The ensemble should occupy 120-30 degrees of the front pick up pattern. Using these two formulas, it's usually pretty easy to get a blumlein to work in just about any scenario.

    I would also have gotten rid of the hypercardioids. On choir, they rarely mean anything good...

    Do you have pictures?

    Cheers -
  5. cdmack

    cdmack Guest

    View attachment 10644

    This is the view from behind the where the choir were sitting. You can make out the main pair in the distance; the closer pair are the choir hypers. You can just make out the soloists' risers on either side of the conductor's podium. As I say, that was the main limiting factor in how close I could get.

    Here's a closeup of the main pair (s)...

    View attachment 10645
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    In most situations I go for the "as tall as the microphone is back from the performers rule". Back 10 feet up 10 feet. Then I do some listening and have my associate move the microphones around until we get the best sound. We got a pair of very nice walkie talkies that were less than $50.00 and this allows us to communicate even in a big church or concert hall. We got the ones that have the earbud/microphone so we do not disturb the rehearsal.

    I personally think your microphones are way too high for the choir and the orchestra.

    I think I would have gone with a pair of crossed cardioids for the orchestra or M-S as RemyRad suggested and the same for the choir. Blumleins that high up are NOT, IMHO, going to give you a good sound in a venue with lots of reverb but that is just my opinion. Nice discussion of what a Blumlein is all about at

    Yes I listened to both. I like them both but I do think the Blumleins are a bit muddy compared to the ortf but I personally like a tighter sound. What ever floats your boat - do it.

    Best of luck!
  7. cdmack

    cdmack Guest

    Anybody listened to it yet? Or is this discussion all theoretical? IMO, the clip with the ortf pair sounded fine, slightly dryer than the ribbons. The main pairs were 12-13ft up and about 6 ft behind the conductor (sorry my ft-m conversions were slightly off...)
  8. Greener

    Greener Guest

    I listened to both, a few times. The Blumlein one sounds best to me. It's richer. I agree the ORTF sounds dryer.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I've listened now -

    The Blumleins, while a bit overly reverbarent, were much more exciting to listen to. The deep lows were much more visceral and the choir was much more fluid.

    I truly feel that, if you had lowered these mics a bit, you would have been better off for sure. However, I would still (personally) be quite pleased with the blumlein sound you got unless it were going to a label or for release.
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I listened to both of the selections twice. I personally like the ORTFs better but both recordings are OK. The balance in the ORTF sounds better and the orchestra in the BLUMLEIN sounds muddy and not part of the chorus like they are WAY behind them. I think if you put the Blumlein down closer they would sound a bit better. I use to use a Neumann SM-69 in M-S or crossed figure eights and I always thought that the crossed figure eights sounded good but I usually went with the M-S since a lot of my stuff was broadcast on radio and M-S sounds better in mono.
  11. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Sorry, I am in a nitpicking mood.

    Any sources outside the 90 deg viewing angle of Blumlein will be picked up out of phase. This is not something to agree or disagree with, its fact.

    MS or XY Blumlein with fig 8's will resolve perfectly to mono just as well as any "MS" pair. In the one case its a mono fig 8, in the other its a mono cardioid, but the resolution is complete and perfect.
  12. cdmack

    cdmack Guest

    Tom - did you use MS with the mid as fig8? Surely that's identical in practice to crossed 8's? Other than the LDC off-axis response issue.

    In any case - thanks for the comments. I concur with Tom's take on the ribbons, however, be aware that I did mix it for the cards (neither did I take time to align the track properly): perhaps a more telling comparison would be the two main pairs on their own without supporting mics.

    Cucco - next time I record in there (if they have me back, of course) I'll try a bit lower. Just thought that to manage that depth I'd have to get high: the entire ensemble was about 8-10m deep (although the choir were on risers).

    How would you guys address the problem of presenting the soloists when they're standing so far to the front that the optimum position for the main pair is on a level with or behind them? Would you just "paste them in" with spot mics?
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    This is not correct.

    Only if you are striking the two capsule (er ribbons) at the exact overlap of their patterns (eg. 180 degrees from center axis) will this phasing issue rear its ugly head since the intensity of the signal hitting the in-phase, forward facing capsule will be significantly greater than that hitting the rear facing out of phase capsule.

    At delta angles of incident between approximately 90 and 135 degrees the phasing issues will not be present and any that may be there are more likely to be caused by early reflections.

    We haven't even gotten to the influences of doppler effect on the differences between rear and front facing ribbons. (which, on higher frequencies can have a profound effect on the existence of phase cancellation.)

    The other component of this would be the distance. Since clearly sound is not a laser beam, it's quite unlikely that any sound made directly to the right or left of a blumlein pair will go directly to the ribbon and be out of phase. To suggest as much is absurd.
    Yes, if it's a trumpet bell aimed directly at the side of the pattern, you'll likely notice a problem. However, this or any similar scenario is highly unlikely.

    I've had lengthy conversations with Dave Royer on this very topic and he and I both agree that for a large sound source such as this choir, orchestra, etc... 90 degrees is too narrow.
  14. Greener

    Greener Guest

    How does the doppler effect influence things? Is either the mic or the orchestra moving? Is it windy in the church?
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    No I used a cardioid for the M and a figure eight for the side.

    Soloists are always a problem when they are not in the normal positions in front of the ensemble. I use spot microphones if I must but I would rather use the main pair since it is always hard to balance the soloists when you are wearing headphones (most of our stuff is direct to two track) also the use of spot microphones sometimes give the soloist a more "in your face" sound than the rest of the ensemble.

    I did a recording in the early 70's of Mozart's Requiem at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The orchestra was on the floor, the chorus behind them and the soloist were in the lectern and pulpit slightly behind the front of the orchestra. I had to use spot microphones to get the balance. I also was lucky in that I had two very large EMT stands that went up about 20 feet in the air and out about 20 feet. I used the Cathedral's API console feeding a Scully 280 at 15 ips and the recording came out GREAT! but I was in very unfamiliar territory and had to wing it with only one rehearsal to get the whole thing pulled together.

    I did another large recording of Benjamin Brittan's Requiem in Time of War at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland with the same kinds of problems and again had to use some spot microphones since the soloist were slightly behind the front of the orchestra. Again this was all done with one rehearsal and the concert. I guess I did something right as NPR picked up the live recording and played it 13 times in addition to the first airing.

    I think the whole idea is to preplan as much as you can, try and get to the venue for some rehearsals, dry record the dress rehearsal and hope for the best at the concert.

    Best of luck!
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I am not sure about the Doppler effect and recording

    Here is some info on the Doppler effect

    I can see standing waves or reflections off near by physical features but since neither the soloist or the microphone are moving I am not sure about how the Doppler effect is involved but would be interested in hearing Cucco's explanation.

    I know that a lot of problems exist that are caused by phase problems and that many times what we think is something else is actually a phase problem rearing its ugly head.

    I go so far as to carry an oscilloscope to some recording sessions just so I can look at the overall phase and it has saved my butt more than once.

    Cucco, I would be very interested in your Doppler explanation.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Okay...I knew I'd open a can of worms on that one... :wink:

    I was really throwing that in as a consideration only, but there has been quite a bit of research done on this in one of the programs that I've been supporting for the Army. On one of our platforms, we've been developing a system (the Boomerang) which will detect the sound of sniper fire and determine its origin. This system uses an array of sensitive microphones and the varying intensities and pitches can tell you from which direction, the approximate distance and the likely type of weapon being fired. There was one problem that they kept encountering and that was that mics facing away from the sound source (analogous to the rear facing portion of the ribbon) were receiving slightly different information than the front facing mics. This was creating anomolies. It was determined that sound moving away from the mic capsule had a different profile than sound moving towards it - particularly at very high frequencies. This is due to the movement of the air molecules themselves, not the source or the mics. At extremely high frequencies, it could even be caused by the movement of the diaphragm as well, but these were quite higher than the equipment needs to operate correctly.

    Again - I was really just throwing that in there to see who was paying attention. Doppler can cause anomolies, but the likelihood of the intensity being high enough to be a problem in *our* field is quite unlikely.
  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Just one interesting addition Tom -

    The wiki article was pretty good, but notice one of the items which can cause the effect is not just the movement of the source or the observer but the medium (the air molecules) as well.
  19. Greener

    Greener Guest

    "There was one problem that they kept encountering and that was that mics facing away from the sound source (analogous to the rear facing portion of the ribbon) were receiving slightly different information than the front facing mics."

    Can you draw a picture without getting in trouble.

    I'm thinking wave interference causing Doppler shift.
    My heads hurting.
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Hey, you can also do what one of my former bosses did for the Baltimore Symphony. He used to put up approximately 8 microphones hung over the orchestra. He would only use three. The others were there just to look good and look the part. And now since we have convenient portable multi-track recorders, you can record all of those and mix after-the-fact. Then you can do that through speakers and not headphones. It ain't 1980 anymore. So life is a lot more convenient.

    Yeah, the national Cathedral. The world's greatest reverb chamber. You can't understand what people are saying 10 feet away from you. You have to highlight Mike everything! Otherwise it's just a pool of reverb. So, yeah, I'll put out extra microphones at overly reverberant venues. I may be a minimalist when it comes to recording but not when it comes to brains. I don't believe in technical perfection. Just good sound.

    Perfectly imperfect
    Ms. Remy Ann David

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