Help with live orchestral performance

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by claying, Aug 3, 2010.

  1. claying

    claying Active Member

    At times, I have to record a live orchestra performance but the organiser of the concert refused to let me put up overhead mic stands on stage as they affect the view of the audience. Since I do not have any access to set up suspending microphone, up to now, what I would do is to place the mics at around performers' height, 3-4 in front of the orchestra and 2 in front of the woodwind section. (I have only 6 cardioid/omnis in hand.) This often ended up with an unbalanced sound - e.g. edgy 1st violins/cellos, loud flutes, soft violas and bass.

    Apart from the limitation with cost of acquiring more mics to get a better balance, I do not think adding in more mics is feasible for my production because I am recording these events as a "one-man-band" (I do not have the time to set up something bigger!). Does anyone have some suggestion / share your experience for me to tackle this problem?
  2. Laurend

    Laurend Active Member

    Maybe this link can give you ideas? SoundField: SPS200 Software Controlled Microphone
  3. JasonAlanJohnson

    JasonAlanJohnson Active Member

    Mic placement is not something you can skimp on, plain and simple. Why can't you suspend them? What kind of theater showcases live orchestras, and doesn't have a catwalk? I would go get some tieline from the hardware store, and I would hang those suckers.
  4. claying

    claying Active Member

    how do you suspend the mics in a hall that is not build in with such a system? I can't make a hole on the ceiling...
  5. JasonAlanJohnson

    JasonAlanJohnson Active Member

    Something like this works good for the tilt and eliminating wire or tie line. Although, if your mics are heavy, this would definitely be unsafe with adhesive hooks. It is quite the predicament. I hate giving up on the optimal mic placement. It is so detrimental.
    1 person likes this.
  6. claying

    claying Active Member

    No, I mean, it is impossible for me to hang those things up... On top of the orchestra is a ceiling that is something like 10m high, and the problem is, it is a plain surface, how can I fix the suspension cable on it!
  7. JasonAlanJohnson

    JasonAlanJohnson Active Member

    Well, that idea is shot then.

    I would get some serious, heavy-duty, studio booms to set off stage left and stage right, and I would make the concert organizer pay for them!
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Tell the orchestra conductor that if he or she wants the best possible recording then he or she is going to have to have at least one high microphone stand visible. If you use small condenser microphones on a black stand they are, for all intents and purposes, invisible to the audience. I never could understand the reasoning behind a conductor saying that they do not want a microphone stand visible and most audiences today are use to seeing them. It is part politics and part negotiation. Best of luck!
  9. claying

    claying Active Member

    Unfortunately, among those whom I worked with, not many conductors/players are really concern with the live recording.

    And you are right, it is so political. Especially when it comes to charity concert where VIP is going to give some never-ending talking before real music begins... and the organizer warns you "the mic stand just block our honorable guest, blah blah blah..."
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    So have the guest stand over to the side. I feel your pain.
  11. I am not sure this is of any help, but I have solved this problem by using small omnies (DPA 4060) that are hung from a thin thread that is is suspended across the orchestra. From any practical point of view this is an invisible solution. In my case I often use light stands on either side of the orchestra. Those stands needed to be there anyway, but in other cases I have also fastened the thread directly on the side walls of the concert hall. In this way I could bridge up to maybe 20 m across the orchestra and position my mics above it. It is clear that this technique needs light weight mics, the dpa 4060 are perfect in that regard. But maybe you find them less perfect (unsuitable?) for the recording, then just forget my post. If you want to try this make sure you set up your mics at a time, where you have the hall for yourself. A 20 m thread with mics dangling in half way up the middle of 30 musicians tuning their instruments or rehearsing, is a nightmare. I have been there.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Another thought here...

    He doesn't want ANY stands, or just a stand in the middle? In cases where the conductor didn't want the sight lines broken, I've been known to use a photo backdrop stand (think if it as a pair of large stands on either side of the orchestra with a bar between them that you can suspend mics on). This not only works for those performances where the center has to be visually uncluttered, but also when a group does a processional type entrance down the main aisle and you don't want feet mixing with mic stands!

    If that still doesn't work, consider your mic choices carefully and place the mics in the orchestra as you are. Try it this way instead -
    Set 3 mics up in the strings. The first mic should be oriented over the first violins in front of or just above the first desk.
    The second mic should be oriented over the middle (between violas/2nd violins if American setup or over Celli if European setup) also over the first desk.
    The third mic should be over the celli (American) or 2nd violins (European).

    All of the mics should be equal height - really strive for at least 6' to 8' if possible. If they're omnis, this would be even better. It's a mock Decca tree. I've done it quite a few times with success.

    If you must, you can still spot mic the woodwinds, but be careful to use only enough to make it work. Spot mics are like salt when you cook. If you don't use it, you may find it bland. If you use too much, you'll find it to be unpalatable. If you use just the right amount, it's a thing of beauty.

    FWIW, the DPA 4060s are great for this task. They should definitely be considered if adding $1800 worth of mics is feasible.

    Best of luck and do keep us posted.

  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    One other thing that a lot of folks are dancing around here -

    A lot of times, when I get this objection to stands, I tell the people that hired me -
    "It can look great or it can sound great, but you can't have both."
    Considering they paid me a pretty big sum of money to be there, I'd assume they want good sound.

  14. datiko

    datiko Active Member

    So similar for me too. Usually have to prove to television directors that those huge stands are for better audio to use for their video, but they are just stubborn.
    There is also one more solution I've made once. I hung a long thin but strong rope across the stage from left to right just above the conductor and hung microphones on it.
    If you can not do that too, I think, you will have no other choice, you will have to try to prove that no recording is available without mic stand.
    Good Luck!
  15. claying

    claying Active Member

    Right, I don't think suspending mic is my solution because most of the time the orchestra starts dress rehearsal at the same time when I can start doing set up. So I usually end up with the modified Decca tree plus woodwind spots as J. mentioned

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