Fun in Oklahoma

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by FifthCircle, Jun 26, 2005.

  1. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Well... In a few other posts here recently, I alluded to being in Oklahoma for work. While there, I kept a log of sorts about what I did for the various concerts. In the spirit of sharing gig reports, here it is (I also posted this in the Remote section of Gearslutz and there are photos there- I couldn't get my photos to show up here):


    Recording the OK Mozart Festival- A Gig Report

    I was recently contracted to go to the thriving metropolis of Bartlesville, OK to record what is actually one of the major Mozart festivals in the US. For roughly a week in June, this town of about 35,000 people hosts a slew of world class musicians from all over the US, but mostly from the New York City area. The two resident ensembles are the Solisti Orchestra of New York and many of the musicians of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. My job there was to record all of the performances in the main hall of the festival. In all, there are probably a dozen or so venues that host chamber music performances, the large ensemble concerts, and other various lectures and demonstrations. The purpose of my being there was to record for broadcast… NPR’s Performance today will be broadcasting a number of these recordings and everything I record will likely be broadcast on the various NPR stations in Oklahoma as a series.

    The main hall this year the festival has 2 orchestra concerts with Solisti (the third concert was outside and I got to play in it- more later), a kid’s concert with the Bartlesville Symphony, a fully-staged performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado,” a bluegrass and country swing concert (hey it is Oklahoma) and a large chamber music show with the Lincoln Center musicians.

    I arrived at the hall first thing Friday morning seeing it for the very first time (see the photo below for the outside of the hall). I had to fly out all of my equipment from Los Angeles so I could do this gig… I managed to condense the rig into 4 cases. 2 cases of preamps and conversion, 1 case of my computer DAW, and 1 case of cables.

    I decided that all of my concerts would be recorded directly to my Sequoia rig at 24 bit, 44.1 KHz. The console would be left at home (thank goodness- I hate carrying it) and I would use the mixer in the DAW. With version 8.2 finally out, software effects monitoring is finally stable enough that I can trust all of my mixing to happen inside the box. In addition to the Sequoia rig, I also had a Sony CD Recorder which I used for backup so I could give artists reference CDs as soon as the concert finished.

    Monitoring was though a Benchmark DAC-1, Sony MDR-V700DJ headphones, and Genelec 1030’s with an A Designs ATTY for level control. The room that I set up to record in was directly beneath the stage. It was completely made of cement with very little diffusion. There was a cement floor and ceiling and cinder blocks on the walls. It was quite loud and live so I borrowed a couple thick comforters and hung them over mic stands as room treatment. One blanket was hung directly behind the speakers and a second blanket was hung directly behind my chair. It wasn’t a perfect situation (when is it ever on location), but it worked quite well when combined with nearfield monitoring.

    A hint for anybody traveling with gear- Most airlines have a “media” rate for extra baggage. It covers all radio, film and TV equipment. When I checked in, I told them that I was traveling with recording gear and the reason why is because I was going to be recording for National Public Radio. Check with the airline, but in most cases, it means that it only costs $50 per bag for extra baggage. You get a higher allowance for number, size and weight of bags at that same cost. In my case, it probably saved me about $80 per bag (close to $500 for the trip).

    I decided that for aesthetic reasons, my main array of mics would be be flown from the fly loft above the proscenium of the stage. I flew my AKG 426 as my main pickup and a pair of B&K 4006 omnis as flanking mics. This would serve as the main recording mics for all of the concerts. Additional spots would be used as needed for the various shows…

    Saturday night was my first performance to record… It was the Mikado performance. For that one, I had the orchestra in the pit and as I told that there wasn’t space down there for my microphones. That meant no mics for either the orchestra or for the actors on stage. I flew my mics out far over the pit to pick up the orchestra. But what about the singers/actors? As I was setting up, I head the rehearsals going on and I heard a wonderfully clear sound on the backstage com system. As it turns out, the hall had 3 Shure MX202 microphones hanging over the lip of the stage for show feed. I was able to split those between the house system and my system. The little shures were a bit noisy, but in the end, everything worked out quite well for my recording. I started with my new preamps that I was demoing for the festival. I used an A Designs MP-2R as my main mic’s preamp and I used the new A Designs Pacifica prototype as my flank mic preamp. It was a great combination of warm but natural in the center and clear and transient as my flanks. Made for a heck of a sound.

    Sunday was a performance of a kids show with the Bartlesville Symphony and 2 actors. The program was about Mozart (of course, it is a Mozart festival). For this one, I just moved the overhead mics back into a reasonable position for recording an orchestra on stage and I had 2 Countryman Isomax microphones with wireless packs. A pretty simple setup overall…. Just make sure though that you don’t let the actors wire themselves up. They placed the mics on their heads backwards so my sound was rather muted and as they began to sweat, my sound broke up a bit… Live and learn, I suppose… The sound was still good, but not quite like the rehearsals had been.

    Sunday afternoon, we had a big thunder storm here. Now, understand, I’m from Los Angeles. I’ve lived elsewhere, but most of my time has been spent in LA. In LA, the only thing we usually have in the air there is smog. Certainly not that wet stuff that comes out of the clouds (ok well, this winter was a bit different, but I digress) and certainly not big ol’ flashes of lightning. About 10 minutes after I had gone downstairs to unplug my rig, the storm went directly overhead and it struck within a block of the theater. I about jumped out of my skin. So that is what those big splotches of red in the center of the country are on the weather maps.

    Monday was officially dark. Meant I finally had a chance to catch up on some of my post work. It was also a rehearsal day for the Solisti orchestra (more on their setups later). It was my first chance to hear them in the room. It was a treat to hear them… The members of this chamber orchestra are freelance musicians out of New York. They play in groups that range from the American Symphony Orchestra to the American Ballet Theater to the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and numerous Broadway shows.

    Tuesday was chamber music day. Solisti rehearsed in the morning and the chamber musicians had the afternoon. That evening, they performed (and what a spectacular performance it was. To think I’m paid to listen to this stuff). I just used the hanging array of mics for this recording. I used the main mic for the majority of my pickup and then augmented the sound with my flanking mics. For this show, I switched preamps. I use the Pacifica as my main mic (AKG 426) preamp and this time I complimented it with my Grace Lunatec powering my flanks.

    Wednesday was back to the orchestra. The Wednesday concert was 3 Mozart Piano concertos. They were well played by Anne Marie McDermott on the piano and the Solisti Orchestra. My setup was the 3 flown mics for the orchestra with 2 Microtech Gefell M930’s on the woodwinds and a Royer SF-24 microphone on the piano. I added to the setup from the Chamber Concert by using the MP2R on my soloist. Spots were taken care of by my trusty Panasonic/Ramsa WZ-AD96M.

    Thursday was my day from hell… We had 2 orchestra rehearsals (different setups each) and the evening was a bluegrass concert. Of course, the bluegrass band was scheduled to do their sound check the moment the orchestra was finished. Needless to say, we got it up and running and it went well…. The setup was as follows- Drums (a 4 or 5 piece kit)- Royer SF24 in Mid Side through the Ramsa pres, Bones, Microtech M930 through the Lunatec, Bass- KM 184 through the Lunatec, Banjo- M930 through the Pacifica, Guitar direct off his pickup through the Pacifica, Fiddle- KM184 through the MP2, Fiddle/vocal lead (one mic) AKG C535 through an MP2, Mandolin- TLM 103 through the Ramsa, 2 other vocals- Audix OM5 through the Ramsa Pres. Audience, 2 SM-81’s through the Ramsa pres. I would have taken photos if I had the time, but needless to say it was just one of those hectic days and the camera was pretty low on the list of priorities.

    Friday- Friday was a pretty easy day in the scheme of things here. I had to do no official recordings. The concert Friday was held at Woolaroc, the former home/ranch of Frank Phillips (of Phillips Petroleum). It is a huge ranch that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There were large animals there (Water Buffalo, longhorn cattle, ostriches, etc…) and the drive to the concert location was probably a good couple miles from the road-all of this private land. He had his ranch as a country home and a place where he could entertain his clients from out of town. The concert was in a pavilion that was out by the lake and there was a natural amphitheater where people picnicked and listened to the orchestra. For this show, I was able to actually go back to my first love- performing. I played bass clarinet in the orchestra and watched everybody else work that day. :D In the break between the morning rehearsal and the evening concert, it was time to do more post. I spent the afternoon editing Wednesday’s performance to prepare it for broadcast.

    Saturday- Last day of the festival… Today, our soloist has a no-record clause in his contract so unfortunately I wasn’t able to record him. However, the rest of the concert was recorded and will go to broadcast. The set up for this concert is similar to the others- my 426 and B&K’s are the front array. The 426 went through the Pacifica again and the 4006’s went through the Lunatec. Spots for this concert were M930’s on the woodwinds (2 spaced mics as before, in front of the section between principal and second players of the oboes and flutes). Harp was spotted with a Beyer 160 ribbon, Piano got a 4006 and celeste got a KM 184. Like the other concert, all spots went through the Ramsa.

    Sunday- Time to pack up. The day was spent burning CD’s, editing and getting stuff ready for the broadcasts that are right away. The rest of the day was spent making my gear flight-worthy again so hopefully our friendly baggage handlers and the inspectors in the TSA don’t destroy anything. The gear survived just fine, but my luggage wasn’t so lucky. I guess that is the important part.

    That’s it. I had a heck of a fun time. Got to record amazing musicians and got to play with good gear. What more could a person want?
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Thanx for a very nice review of the festival and your fun and games.It was especially fulfilling for me as I grew up in the Bartlesville.I know all of these landmarks you mentioned well.I hope that you were treated to the good old hometown kindness that most Okies possess and that your stay was a welcome change from LA-LA Land. Hope you had fun!

    R.O. Rec.Studio mod.
  3. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Yeah- the folks there were incredibly nice. I had a very good time there and I hope to get to go back.

  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Sounds like a dream gig, Ben!

    Just curious about the broadcasts.....are they done already, or still to come? (The NPR station probably has webcasting, and many of us would love to hear some of it, I'm sure!)

    Also, did you do the VOs and editing of each show, or do you hand off the musical segments to a third party for editing/broadcasting later?
  5. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I believe that some of them have already gone out on Performance Today, although I'm not sure (I know a couple concerts were submitted right away).

    There will be a broadcast throughout Oklahoma that is being handled by the radio station out of Tulsa. It will include the chamber music I didn't record as well as extensive interviews, etc... I think it will be a total of 30 hours of broadcasts going out over the entire state. That broadcast isn't anywhere close to being done. I'm sure you can imagine the mountain of post that needs to happen. I've gotten most of it done, but I still have one concert left to mix (the biggest one- the Bluegrass show) and then I can start delivering material to those that need it.

  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Nicely done. We need more of these SUCCESS stories.

    Glad it all worked out.

    I use to read an English magazine called Studio Sound and one of the great things they did was have stories in them exactly like the one you related. It was and is always a fun read. Thanks again.
  7. Glad to hear you got to have some fun in Oklahoma! I thought the part about the thunderstorm was funny... you should be here during a tornado. I've got a new co-worker from LA that cringes everytime she hears the word tornado and calls us crazy for standing out on the patio with one about a quarter-mile away once... but anyway....

    I find stuff like this very interesting to read. I don't get to do much on-location classical music work. This kind of stuff is a big help at figuring out where to start. Keep posting more!
  8. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I agree with Tom. They are a valuable resource. Even more valuable (IMO) are those that had unforeseen problems that the engineer solved in time to save it. Early on we had a thread on that, and I picked up some tips to help me avoid the same problems.

    I would like to suggest to our esteemed moderators that we establish some permanent topics at the top of the forum that can be appended, such as these success stories (and the disasters), as well as threads (or FAQs) on micpres, mic stands, etc so we don't have to slog through those topics anew every few months.

    Consider that pilots don't read about flight that went great-- they read about flights that went WRONG!

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