Need Help Recording A Marching band...

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Feikert, May 15, 2009.

  1. Feikert

    Feikert Active Member

    I have been put in charge of recording my college's marching band, and I am not quite sure how to do it. I was thinking a basic X/Y in the center of the field and then omni's spaced out on the sides. (oh,this would be at football games, so I dont have time for a tedious set up.)

    I am recording into pro tools with an M box, so I have 4 channels to work with... the 2 pres on the box and then an s/pdif input from a pre amp and A/D converter in a rack.

    Any help or suggestions would be great. There is absolutely no help on line for this subject...
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I don't think XY will cut it in this scenario as the field of sound is too wide. You'll probably do better with either A-B omnis for center or NOS cards. Cardioids as outriggers are a good idea. You'll have plenty of crowd noise as it is so I probably wouldn't use omni's on the flanks. Just know that no matter what it won't be pristine and that it's supposed to sound like it's on a football field.

    Your biggest problem will be cable management and cleats.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I think you'll do better by putting out six microphones. XY at the 50 yard line. The others spaced at the thirties & tens. High pass filter engaged on your console. Omni's are less sensitive to wind noise and are still in a sense directional. So Electro-Voice 635's are a good choice on the field.

    That's for TV baby
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'm with Jack on trying a wider configuration for your center pair. NOS with cardioids if your stereo bar is long enough, ORTF if not. Remy's probably right about the spaced omnis, but don't get too stressed out about this. A good center pair will give a pretty usable record of the performance. It's marching band. If they wanted the best sound they'd march into a concert hall and sit down to play. So if you can get the spaced omnis out there without anyone tripping over the cables and getting killed, do it. But if it is a big problem do some experimenting with positioning the main pair and do the best you can with that. For what it is worth, I took a lot of marching band videos with a XY Rode video mic, and when I was able to get in a good position the sound was quite serviceable.
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I would definitely try to get the director to get the band on the field for at least a dry run through. (tough as that can be...)

    That way you would get a shot at getting decent mic placement.

    I would definitely get some preliminary/practice sessions (with your crew) on the practice field as well.

    As the band moves into some positions, you might find you'll need the secondary mics in different locations than you would expect.
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Is the band going to be "marching" or is this a recording of a marching band playing on the field?

    I just helped record the University of Akron's marching band. It was done on stage with a DECCA TREE as the overall recording setup and spot mics where needed. It was recorded on a Fairlight system and mixed later at the studio. I am thinking that for your "assignment" a DECCA TREE would not be such a bad idea as you can use OMNI microphones and you have three channels available.

    Best of luck and let us know how this turns out.
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member


    He says that this is at football games, so I'm guessing that this means marching and noisy crowds. I was recommending using some technique that used cardioids to put the close half of the crowd in the nulls. (I think this was Jack's point as well. Of course, it all depends on the stadium and the crowd. (Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium is incredibly loud. Hate to think of recording there.)

    I've always read about Decca Tree done with omnis. I suppose you could try something similar with cardioids. Anyone hear of or try something like that?
  8. Feikert

    Feikert Active Member

    Hey thanks for all the comments. And what I am doing is recording live games with video. So 3 or so camera angles with a good sounding audio track.

    I also can only use about 4 mics. I noticed some posts required near 6 mics, and while that is a possibility, my inputs are limited to 4 channels.

    This is a difficult recording because the football players dont take kindly to equipment on their sidelines. So I would have to set up the mics as soon as the team leaves, and set down as soon as the band is done.

    Just some more info to maybe shed some light on a solution. But thank you all for your help so far.
  9. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    This suggests to me that you should for a mono end result. This gives you one more good position.

    I would put up the number of mics you can handle in a line roughly covering most of the distance they do their figurative march. As close as possible. My first choice would be omnis as they are much less influenced by wind. Cardioids will work of course. DonĀ“t forget wind jammers for the mics.

    In post production mixing I would ride the faders between the different mics to get as good sound as possible. Not that I expect this to be anywhere near CD realease quality.

    Best of luck

    // Gunnar
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    A couple of problems. WIND NOISE which, as others have pointed out, is going to be a big factor, SETUP which will have to be done quickly and struck quickly which means more people, RELIABILITY you are going to only be able to do this if everything is working and no one makes any mistakes in the setup so you are going to have to have good people doing it.

    I don't know your stadium but when I was a student at Ohio U I did every home football game for the radio station. We had a four input COLLINS remote mixer. Two of the inputs were for the play by play announcers, one of them was an OMNI microphone I hung out the window of the press box for crowd and band pickup and the forth was for a spare. It worked GREAT and we got good crowd noise and always could pick up the band with no problems. Them was the goode olde days. I recently attended a baseball game and sat in the video truck. The audio engineer had a 48 input board and he was using 30 plus inputs. There were a number of microphones spaced around the stadium and everything was on sub mixes so he could control the total audio pickup with the eight main faders that were feeding the stereo mix. It was a very eye and ear opening experience. My favorite microphone was the one just behind home plate that was used for the THWACK of the bat. Talk about overkill but I guess today with HD television you have to have HD audio as well.

    Best of luck and let us know how it turns out.
  11. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Exactly why I suggested to start working with his crew on the band's practice field... and as soon as they start practicing at that!

    You'll need to time how long it takes to get things in place, once you figure out where to place things.

    It's going to take a lot of practice on things like mic line placement, where to store the mic's and stands before half-time, etc...
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Several things -
    Much of the advice you've been given is pretty solid.

    I've had the "pleasure" of doing this for a few major universities as well as mastering other universities' work that's been done by another "major" location recording company. I can tell you, it is possible to get a pretty good sound from just four mics.

    First things first - protect your gear. IF you use mic stands on the sidelines, expect them to get destroyed. Take a cue from the professional photographers - lash a monopod (or a mic stand boom) to the front railing of the bleachers. I use a pair of cable ties in an "X" configuration at each railing intersection point. Then, for security, I use some gaffers tape to keep everything from moving. Then, I bring all of my cables down and over in straight lines where there's only one possible trip point and a I secure the hell out of that. (On grass fields, I've used landscaping stakes - they're shaped like upside down U's and hold the cables down nicely.

    For this type of rig, I've used an ORTF main pair and a flanking pair of omnis spaced roughly at the 25 yard zones (for bigger bands) and 30-35 for smaller bands.

    One of the keys to this being successful is management of the environment -
    First, you'll need to deal with wind noises. I use foam windscreens - good ones used with the HPF will make all but the biggest blasts of wind inaudible. (For omnis, I use wind filters but NOT the hpf. If you want the THUD of the tonal basses, you'll need them open.)
    Second - height. You'll need enough height that the mics can "see" all of the musicians on the field. You may need to make a small investment in decent booms. I actually like the Rode boom arms for this. They're inexpensive - go about 10 feet high and lash easily to the stands. 3 of them will set you back about $400.

    The final thing you need to do is set the expectations of those receiving the final product. I have university marching band client I'm working with now who has NO CLUE as to what to expect from a marching band recording - mainly because he THINKS he knows what he's doing when he's recording. (He's done things like setting up the band in a large gymnasium aiming the band into the corner and wanted me to place my mics in the corner because "that's the best way to record a marching band".) He recently gave me two "reference" recording samples of what he wants his band to sound like - the recordings sound awful! If you listen to them for more than 30 seconds, your ears literally give up on life and try to leave the sides of your head. They're nothing but screaming trumpet equalized out the wazoo and some thwacking from tonal basses...

    Anyway - As long as your director understands what he/she should expect. One of the posters suggested doing a dry run - there is no better way to get that point across to the director.

    However, bear in mind, with this setup, the sound will likely be much better than you think it will be. The band should put out enough sound that crowd noise won't be an issue.

    Cheers and good luck!
  13. Feikert

    Feikert Active Member

    Um... so you would not put the mics on the sidelines? I feel as if that would greatly effect the sound... But I could try it, but I am worried about a sound difference and too much crowd noise, especially if using omnis.
  14. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I would only put the mic's on the sidelines if you can get your team of assistants to hold the monopods in place and not wiggle them around.

    Otherwise, as J said... your stands WILL be destroyed when the football teams are leaving the field and coming back to the field after halftime.

    I know they generally suck, but has anyone ever had any luck with putting a decent quality mic in a parabolic?
    Even using a shotgun?

    My guess is that neither are good options... but thought I'd toss it out there...
  15. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Have you heard a full marching band at full volume? And if they are actually somewhat resembling in tune it will be even louder. The decibel level is often louder than a 747.

    The difference in sound from the sidelines to the front of the stands will be minimal. The press box would be different but not necessarily unusable by any means.
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    In fact, if you were doing this without a crowd, the press box (or at least several rows back in the stands) would be the best place for the main pair. That's where my wife and I have place mics during HS marching band competitions.

    The problem with your dry run is going to be the lack of crowd noise. The most important thing for you to get out of it is sot of a speed drill for set up teardown and cable management. Your sound goal in the dry run is to see how a conservative set up (say one ORTF pair) will sound. Remember, good sound is a goal. Safety is a necessity. (If the quarterback breaks his leg on one of your cables, no one is going to care how good the recording sounds.)
  17. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    As usual BobRogers brought up a really good point and that is SAFETY, not only of your equipment but of the players and others on the sidelines. I remember all too well at OU a "famous" sports photographer for UPI got run over by a 300 pound tackle. His 500 mm lens and his motor driven Nikon camera were both trashed beyond use. The tackle was fine. The photographer was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cables can be very troublesome and I have seen pro sports players trip on intercom and other cords strung up between the bleechers and the field but still in their "working space"

    Best to do a dry run and check everything out.

    I am saying this somewhat "tongue in cheek" but have you thought about using a couple of wireless microphones either on the conductor or on the side of the field. I know it sounds corny but..who know it may work just fine.
  18. Feikert

    Feikert Active Member

    I think I have decided my best route.

    Three omnis... one Sure KSM in the middle (set to omni of course) and two earthworks on either side, probably spaced out along the 35. (the cheaper earthworks.. not the expensive ones)

    As for management, I will still use cords, but Ill have a crew of two other people that will run the stands with the mics already secured on with clip and extra tape just in case to the position on the sidelines. After the performance we will run them back to the back wall of the bleachers and tear down.

    There were a lot of good techniques you all displayed. Thank you for all the help and ideas. They all contributed to my final decision, and it gave other people good ideas because there is nothing on the internet for marching band recording during halftime.
  19. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Two more gofers to help move the cables would not be unwise.

    What school is this?
  20. Better late than never?

    I've been recording live marching bands for over 10 years, and have found the clarity and definition I want using just one x/y mic, on the 50 yrd line, 25 feet from sideline, and (very important) 25-30 FEET OF ELEVATION. Multiple mics will cover more real estate, true, but at the cost of probable phase cancellations and other spatial annomalies. Something as simple as an Audio Technica AT822 provides a wonderful sound field, and is quick to delploy and recover. Wind screening is a must!
    Below is a link to one of my recordings of a high school marching band using this setup. The group featured contemporary, fast-paced drill, utilizing all 100 yards spread to both sidelines for 120+ winds, 15 battery, and 20 pit. Have a listen and see what you think.
    -Jacob Deming
    Deming Musical Services

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