HS Band recording workflow and direct to CD??

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by BobRogers, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    I recorded the local HS band's winter concert and donated CDs for the performers. (It's my daughter's senior year.) So the director liked the CD a lot and asked my daughter if I would be willing to record the district band festival in March. This would be several dozen bands doing three pieces each. It takes place over three days. It's not really a competition, but it is a judged performance.

    I've never done anything on this scale before, and I'd be inclined to say no if it weren't for the fact that I feel that my recordings are better than the local people that have been hired in the past. (And VT is on spring break so if I kick butt on my book over the next month I can take the time. And I could buy a new pre with the proceeds.)

    Anyway, the biggest technical hurdle is that the expectation is that the band director for each band is to be given a CD or cassette tape the same day as the performance - I guess in under an hour. They basically have been getting a quick and dirty mix - I assume all recorded as a single CD-track, i.e. without any song breaks. Not the way I'd like to do it but... Since it is basically like mixing live sound, I'm comfortable with the direct-to-two-track aspect, but I'm concerned with work flow, equipment, backup, and similar issues.

    Has anyone done something like this? Any pointers or suggestions? I've got some ideas on how to do this with my existing equipment, but I'd like to hear how someone does it "right" before I say yes or no.
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I've done this the past several years with the local district chorus.

    It's a *fun* thing to sit there for 10-12 hours a day working and working and listening over and over. However, I agree, it's better to do it than to have the local hacks take a whack at it.

    For the sessions that I've done, here's how my workflow has been-

    Work entirely at 16 bit / 44.1.

    I'll record directly into 2 tracks in Sequoia.

    Each school gets their own file and since it's always set up like-

    Group A (3 songs)
    Group B (3 Songs)
    Group A (3 Songs)

    (likely different for band - most schools have many choirs...male choir, female choir, select choir, etc. For band, it's probably 2 at most...concert band/wind ensemble or whatever they use for terminology)

    But usually, you won't have a school with both ensembles back to back, there's almost always a break between them.

    In this case, what I've done is again set up a file for each school and when that school gets up to sing, I drop the cursor at the next point in the DAW and hit record.

    Since there's always a few minutes to tear down and set up from one school to the next, this gives me time to do a basic trim of silence between tracks and assign track numbers. When the school's ensembles have completely finished, I quickly burn to CD (which I've preprinted with their school names for a personal touch).

    The burn takes maybe 2 minutes but there's usually a good 3 to 5 between schools.

    This is seeming pretty confusing so far, if you need clarification on any points, jump right in.

    Also, I know that Sequoia is kind of unique in being able to assign track markers and burn from within the program (which makes this process tons easier!) Is it possible for you to get the cheap version of Samplitude? This should have the same feature.

    Anyway - the trick is efficient file management. Create all of the files before you get there. Get a schedule of the daily activities and make sure you find out what changes will occur (there will be changes- I promise!) Make sure the school kids that are acting as "runners" know your process and how quickly they'll need to come back and pick up CDs.

    I always run a back up on these events but fortunately (knock on wood) I've never had to use one.

    One antecdote I can share -
    I've done this for 3 years now and will be doing my 4th one this year. Every single year without fail, some kid has puked either on-stage (the first year it was twice, in the same spot 2 hours apart and both under one of my mics!!) or comes running back stage and pukes in the trashcan behind my mix position.

    I don't know if it's flu season at that time of the year or if the kids just get nervous. I don't ever recall anyone puking when I was in school doing this stuff.

    Anyway - sorry if I'm rambling...I just got home from a 4 hour rehearsal for Tchaik 5...

  3. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Jeremy - Great info.
    Vegas does this as well.
  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    As does Wavelab.

    For most live concerts, we give CD's to the artists straight after the performance, but we do this by running a digitally fed CD recorder in real time. The signal the CD recorder gets fed with is slightly compressed, EQ'd, soft limited (in case we get the gain wrong, never happens!) and dithered all from within the TC Gold Channel, we use for just this purpose.

    The final CD tracks are not nicely faded in and out, but they are marked accurately for index points. The sound quality is excellent, and the compression is required because usually the artist judges your work by going straight outside and playing the disc in the car.

    There is usually no time to be topping and tailing and then post burning the CD, the artists, agents, are usually at the reception or on their way to the airport. For some school bands we have done this for there is time, but we are usually too busy setting up the next act to be worrying about post production.
  5. hummel

    hummel Guest

    For my son's high school band competition, the recording is set-up with a separate mic/channel for the adjudicator. She/he can provide a running commentary about the performance. The bands are recorded in stereo. They are given two versions of their performance - one with commentary and one without.
  6. srs

    srs Guest

    I do a number of these events each spring. I don't know about your part of the country, but in Texas, the directors from the large schools take these events very seriously. The recordings from these events are used as auditions for honor band and choir, other festivals, etc. As Jeremy mentioned, you should make sure your backup plan is foolproof. I only buy Taiyo-Yuden CDRs, and even then, I get bad disks now and then. I record direct to CDR, and to DVD for archive, and to hard disk for emergency. That way, when I get a clinker disk, I can do a quick burn from my laptop. (I use Adobe Audition.)

    Good luck!
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for the replies. I'll post later on today to with some reactions and questions, but first I have to say this....

    Jeremy you jinxed us!!!

    I just got back from the Virginia Tech Honor Band where my daughter played bari sax. Of course, in the first band (middle schoolers) someone pukes on stage. Lots of fun cleaning up between bands. The student wielding the mop was a VT Math/Music major that was in my advanced calc class last year. They relayed his comment - "Four years of college and this is how I end up" - to the audience.

    I'll post on topic after I've had a drink.

    UPDATE: Further posts will have to wait until after the game - or maybe tomorrow. I made the mistake of inventing the Hokie Negronie

    1 oz. gin
    1 oz. sweet vermouth
    1 oz. Campari
    (at this point the drink is maroon)
    1/4 oz. orange bitters (this is for Stirlings Blood Orange - others may take less)
    Serve with a twist of orange on the rocks.

    It's sweeter than I'd really like it. If I could get a more bitter bitters (maybe from the department of redundancy department) I could reduce the Campari or maybe a less sweet red vermouth. By the time I get this right I may not be able to post for a week.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Again, many thanks for the replies.

    What I had done in the past in recording the HS concerts is record to my HD24; take it home and edit and mix in Pro Tools LE (I have the 002 rack); burn with Nero.

    The workflow Jeremy describes (and which others are doing with variations of software and equipment) is the way I'd like to do it. But I can't do it that way with existing equipment. I'm reluctant to buy gear just for this purpose. The PT/Digi002 set up is serving my needs in the studio. If it were gone tomorrow in a disaster, I'd get something different. But I can't justify the cost of upgrading at this time. With that said, the $300 version of Sequoia would give me a better tool for finalizing and burning my studio mixes, so I can see buying that. But that leaves the problem of an interface. I would only want to buy something that genuinely improves my existing equipment. Is there a good converter that would interface directly with the computer but could also go into the digi via lightpipe or spdif?

    If something like that does not pan out, I was thinking about doing it close to the way that David describes. I'd send out an eq'd, soft limited stereo mix directly to a cd recorder while recording the tracks directly to PT. (I'd use 4 tracks - ortf as a center pair flanked by omnis.) The PT recording would act as my backup and as the source of a better mix for those who wanted it.

    I think this is the type of product they have been getting in the past. In fact, I think that a few years ago they were getting something recorded directly on cassette tapes. The adjudicators still use hand-held cassette recorders for their comments. I have the advantages of having recorded four concerts in the room and not being stone cold deaf (unlike some of the people who record around here).
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I've been using the Konnect 24 in my home studio rig for the past few weeks. It has 4 lin inputs and ADAT outputs. You can route these inputs to the ADAT outputs and use the unit as a standalone 4 channel AD converter (or at least you can in principle. I've yet to try this or do it...)

    In any case, I've been adequately impressed by the unit. The mix interface is a bit quirky (IMO) but serves its purpose well. The mic pres are fine up to a point (don't do ribbons or dynamics, you won't be happy).

    Have you considered selling the 002 and getting something else? That would mean "goodbye ProTools" (which would suck if you have a lot of mixes you haven't archived as raw wave files) but it might give you the money to replace it with something that will do what you're looking for.

  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Bob, I've been looking at the Mackie 1200F for this sort of function. It's got all the right specs, but does not seem to be freely available yet in the UK, so I haven't managed to get my hands on one.

    There are plenty of S/PDIF-only boxes, but don't forget S/PDIF is only 2-channel.
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Buying the Mackie 1200F and selling my Focurite Octopre would probably be a good idea. I've had some buyers remorse about the octo vs. the mackie onyx series since shortly after I bought it, but I've been avoiding the idea of chasing the best pres in this general price range. But since the 1200f would double as a standalone interface that would be a big advantage that might be worth the hit I'd take selling the octo.

    I can't see selling the Digi002R. It won't bring in enough money to make worth giving up PT cold turkey for a piece of software that I've never used. As I say, this is the first time that I've found PT to be a major drawback, and I don't see this situation as being something that I'm going to encounter a lot. The other areas where PT is weak - like mastering and midi - aren't places I am going to go at this time. I'm not wedded to PT. I just don't see a reason to give it up until I'm ready to invest in substantially better conversion and pres. My plan has been to do this gradually while using the Digi002R. At some point I would expect that the 002R will either become obsolete or a bottleneck for better equipment and at that point I plan to move to different software while perhaps keeping the 002R as legacy equipment. I don't see a reason to do that as yet - but I'm definitely considering the getting 1200f and and the $300 version of Samplitude. The 1200f doesn't seem available yet (Sweetwater says "the week of 2/10), and I probably ought to research the various versions of Samplitude.)
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The 1200F just might be your bridge to a new world without PT. You could use it for your current work going ADAT into the 002R with PT (at least, you could get 8 channels in that way), all the while dreaming up projects you could do using the FireWire interface and Samplitude.
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    That has definitely occurred to me. If I went with Samplitude I'd go with the straight V10 version ($500) rather than the master ($300) or professional ($1,000). The master version restricts you to two tracks (though it does throw in the "repair" software). I don't see myself using the high track counts, etc. provided in the professional version. I guess I should do some research on vegas, audition, wavelabs, et. al. Anybody have a link to a good discussion of this? It gets discussed a lot around here, but...the quality of the discussion varies.
  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Just thought I'd post a follow up. Two things cased the project to crash and burn. My mother was scheduled for cataract surgery on the first day of the festival, and I found out their budget for recording was $250. Since that works out to almost $10 an hour, I guess that's not ridiculous for someone who is just running a cassette deck and a couple of mics. Anyway, I'm going to go to the hospital with mom, and I'll lend my daughter a pair of mics and an FMR RNP/RNC preamp/compressor combo. The kids from the high school can run the cassette deck of CD recorder or whatever they decided to use. I emailed the district coordinator and explained the difference in the products and encouraged him to consider budgeting more for better recordings in the future.

    BTW: This puts the swap of the Octopre for the Mackie and the adoption of new DAW software on the back burner for a while. Probably a good thing to let the 1200f get shaken out on the market to see if there are any bugs. If I had to make a quick decision on software, I would go with Samplitude, but I probably should look at all the options more carefully before making that decision.
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    A bit off topic but...

    We do a couple of choir festivals a year. We charge a very minimal rate for recording them both audio and video. The groups are always complaining that they don't have any money and want us to drop our rates or in one case "do it for the good of the group" and one group even asked us if we could somehow only bill them for the CDs and DVDs and not for the actual recording. *

    At the same time this is happening I cannot overlook the fact that they are spending a lot of money on "other things" In one festival they went from a nicely printed black and white program printed on regular copy paper to a 4 color program printed on glossy paper and went from two pages to 14 with lots color photographs and lots of ads. In another case they went from the silk screened one color sweat shirts for all the participants to an embroidered golf tee shirt with the person's name on the front and a big logo on the back. They also have more and more people involved in the festivals and concerts and I have noticed recently that they have a fancy catered lunch for all the "volunteers" at the festival. They also hire a professional photographer to do the "group picture" and he is never on time and makes us take down all of our microphone stands BEFORE he will take the group's picture which sometimes means a scramble to get everything set back up before the doors open.

    I guess it is a matter of priorities

    If you have the money to put out a fancy program and give everyone an embroidered personalized shirt then why is it that you don't have money to spend on the recording of the concert? The recording is something that will last for a lifetime and will survive long after the glossy program or tee shirts have hit the recycle bin.

    *there is a company located in Ohio that does just that - they do not bill for the concert recording but instead insist that you buy 75 CDs for $16.00 each. This is about 3 times what we bill for the recordings of the concerts.

    FWIW and MTCW
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member


    I think one of the reasons that recordings are not a top priority around here is that they have been getting inferior quality recordings. I've been dutifully buying the CDs at each of the district and regional bands that my daughter has been to for the last four years, and none of them is as good as the recordings I make of the local concerts. Now my classical recordings are not what I'd consider up to professional standards. My equipment is not optimal, and I still have a lot to learn about mic placement. But the other people doing it locally have been far worse.

    The usual operation for the District and Regional bands around here is that they set up a booth and the parents pay (usually $20) and are mailed a CD in a couple of weeks. Keeps the organizers from having to handle any money and I think the people doing the recording get a pretty good payday out of it (especially considering the quality).
  17. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I feel your pain, Tom.

    I got burned several times doing "choir festivals" under similar circumstances, and scaled back my pursuit of that market as a result. I felt I could do better elsewhere, when all's said and done. My complaint is a similar one: why NOT spend a little to get a lot? They do it for T-Shirts, bus rentals, trips, food, etc., but they balk at making a little investment in posterity, specifically a recording of their hard work. The lack of planning never ceases to amaze me.

    Mostly, the problem is no one really knows how to plan ahead, budget & set it up properly. As you mentioned, it's always a mess of photos to be taken, rushed staging and performaces, unannounced soloists or extra instruments (that no one told us about), air conditioning systems blasting away, crying babies in the audience, rude parents snapping pictures and making noises, etc. etc. Then they want cheap copies - NOW. Who needs it!

    I find the festivals can be a bit of a "cluster-f*ck", but individual choirs (usually the upper-scale suburban ones) have better resources and are a much saner pursuit.

    Some choir directors "Get it", thankfully, and I have a few who really shine in this regard. (Tom, you know one of them.....Tom L. from Oberlin.) They ALWAYS plan on making a recording, whether it's just an archival or semi-commerical release of the group. (Heck, it benefits the DIRECTORS as much as the kids; it's THEIR career on the line as well! After years of working with some directors, we eventually make compilation discs for THEM, when they need them.)

    We have a variety of pricing options, like everyone else (Hourly, recital, small ensemble, orchestras, choirs, etc.) but we also offer the "Guaranteed minimum" approach, and many choir directors like it better - there's no impact to their operating budget if they PLAN AHEAD, take orders, and then hire us to come out. The smart ones post a sign-up sheet long before the event, throughout the rehearsals weeks or months in advance and so they know if they're going to be able to hire us or not. Sometimes, if there's a shortfall, they can make it up from their operating budget, other times, they simply have to cancel. (I much prefer a cancellation than getting screwed on copies, believe me!)

    It may sound callous to say, but as with everything else in the recording world, it's about finding the money, (it's classier to say "Funding," isn't it?) It's unavoidable: you must search out the ones who understand this, and won't waste your time. By the time you're getting a call about recording, they SHOULD have done some homework on costs, etc.

    Many groups apply for grants, and they MUST have good recordings to qualify. (Many who then GET the grants have to submit a recording to prove they spent the grant $$ properly, as well.) These cycles can go one for years and years. These are the people you want to seek out. (Check your local listings of Arts grants and endowments, there's often a list published every year for who-got-what, and those are the people who now have some $ to pay for archival recordings, etc.)

    I take really good care of my choirs with the "Smart" directors, and occasionally cut them a break if there's a pinch. As long as they're working with me, planning ahead, and even budgeting "Funds", I'm there for them.

    Don't waste time with people who don't plan ahead and want to grind you down. "Festivals" are usually among them, sorry to say.....
  18. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    We lost a recording contract with the local Youth Orchestra because our rates were "too high". The person who beat us out was $25.00 less. We bring three people to do the audio and video recording and about $10,000 worth of equipment not to mention the 39 years experience I have in pro audio and video recording. The guy they hired showed up with a microphone stand, two SM-57 microphones, a Shure stereo mixer and a TASCAM DAT deck. Total investment was probably less than $1500. He proceeded to set up his microphones about a 1/3rd of the way back in the auditorium and as you can imagine the resulting recording sounded like #$%^. He did a dreadful job on the duplication and the mastering and in the end the orchestra got exactly what they were paying for. Within a year he was out of business, he took all the masters with him so they have no archives for that year and he left them in the lurch when it came to the next season's recording. The orchestra subsequently came back to us and we are now doing them again but they are paying a somewhat higher rate for our services .

    In another case we were asked to video tape a play. The person who had done it previously had used a hand held camcorder and he situated himself in a corner of the auditorium and filmed the play with one camera. He charged a "professional level rate" for his services and when I saw the results on a DVD I was stunned that anyone would accept this level of work and pay the price he was charging. We did the shoot with two tripod mounted professional video cameras and did our own audio mix and charged the same rate. The play's director was more than appreciative and could not believe how good video of the play could look.

    There are a lot of fast talking know nothing people doing terrible audio and video work for high school orchestra and choir concerts but the directors of these groups are usually unaware of what constitutes good professional recordings and that is how these people get away with what they are doing. When you show them what a real professional recording looks like or how good it can sound they are, in most cases, stunned by the quality and professional results. Sometimes it is more about how the person doing the recording courts the director/school and less about how really good he or she is in doing the actual work.

    Too bad these people can get away with it but I guess it is more the norm for these concerts and not the exception.
  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I just lost one of my regular clients to a guy like this. It was a concert band (medium quality) and the guy that records them now uses an AT stereo mic to a DAT recorder. He sells the discs for more than I do and they don't have any special packaging (whereas I put out 4 page color glossy jackets, on-disc color printing, color trayliners, etc...)

    Anyway - I figure they'll either come back in a year or so and realize that the quality was better or they'll live with the crappy quality and cheaper price.

    I won't compromise my pricing though and I applaud you Bob for not compromising as well.

    I just got some insight into the thought process of this whole "cheapen out the recording guy" thing.

    I asked one of my other clients recently about this very thing - why they paid $500 to have a photographer, why they paid for expensive shirts and programs but always complain when I bill them $300. Their response was alarming (and this was from someone who *should* know better). It was:

    "Well, the other guys are doing a niche market thing. Not everyone can take great pictures or make great shirts, but nowadays, everyone can get a cheap recording setup and make great recordings for next to nothing."

    This obviously isn't a direct quote, but the idea was there. She basically told me that there were so many people recording for little to no money, it made no sense for me to record at $75 per hour.

    But then, she hired one of those guys who were "cheaper." It was a horror story (one that makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.)

    She was conducting a concert with both wind ensemble and chorus (at separate times). Halfway through the concert, when the band was leaving the stage and the chorus was coming on, the recording guy came out on stage to the director while she was addressing the audience. He asked her to stall the performance as his hard disc was full and he needed to delete some things off of it before he could continue recording.

    The funny thing, before this happened, the director was impressed because he was using around 20 or more mics on stage to record the band. They were all Shure PG58s.
  20. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    YEP it happens.....

    We lost two accounts to the "do it yourselfer" mentality of the group's directors. In both cases they hired one of the people in the group to do the recording..in one of the groups the person is on stage singing at the same time he is also suppose to be doing the recording. He uses some knockoff stereo microphone he got from China and a really cheap CD recorder and he has a Behringer mixer which he feeds into the CD recorder. The other guy recording uses a Revox A-77 tape recorder with some Chinese/European microphone look a likes and then he transfers the stuff to his computer to burn the CDs. His wife is in the choir and he is doing it for free to "help out". Before he used a computer to burn CDs he use to dub to cassettes one at a time from the Revox. What a boring way to do things.

    Both people put their microphones in, to say the least, unusual positions in the hall and their recordings both sound like they were done on a pirated hand held cassette recorder. The director of both groups is a very nice elderly women who is WAY past her time to retire. If the group does not fall apart upon her departure they may get a director who knows what quality is all about and is willing to pay for it..but I kinda doubt it.

    I guess that is the way the whole world is going. Do it yourself and save...with no regards for quality or a professional approach. Cheaper is better it is the WALMART way.

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