Newbie with important questions

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by thesteelydane, Aug 17, 2010.

  1. thesteelydane

    thesteelydane Active Member

    Capturing room reverb, mic placement, interface questions from a newbie.

    Hi folks. I'm a classically trained violist who always enjoyed recording as a hobby, but now I find myself location recording a professional release of Bartok's 44 violin duos. We did a test recording earlier, and will be finishing the project over two weekends in september. I had the chance to experiment with a lot of different mics and setups, although only with 2 channels. I've attached a picture of the setup everyone (The producer, I and the artists) all agreed sounded the best. As you can see we are using vintage style ribbon mics in an A/B configuration pointed directly at the violin decks in a distance of about 120 cm (roughly 4 feet) . Here are links to 2 test recordings without any modification, EQ or otherwise:
    thesteelydane - Bartok test recordings - SoundCloud
    To my ears, it's a bit dry. I think we need more of the room reverb, and so I would like to use another two mics to capture the room when we go back to record for real in 3 weeks. So here are the questions I'm hoping the knowledgable good people of this forum can help me with:

    1) What type of mic to use for capturing the room?
    2) In what setup? I've seen engineers use small diaphragm condensers mounted on the same axis/stand as the main mics, but pointed the other way (towards the back of the hall, pointed upwards towards the ceiling). Is this a good approach? Or is it better to go the standard route and place them in the middle of the room pointed towards the stage?
    3) Is it possible to do this on separate machines and sync the audio in my DAW later, or must I record the 4 tracks into my DAW simultaneously to get a good result? I'm asking because I used my Apogee Duet to record the two main tracks, and really like the sound of it, but it only has two channels. I have access to a 2 track Korg hard disk recorder that sounds decent, and I could use this to capture the room reverb while recording the direct signal through my Apogee. Alternatively I have to buy a 4 track interface, but at the moment I can't afford anything in the same class as the Apogee - I could afford the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 with 8 channels if I have to, but I don't think the preamps and converters are as good as my Apogee.

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated!


    Attached Files:

  2. JasonAlanJohnson

    JasonAlanJohnson Active Member

    1) I have done this precise type of recording several times, and I have heard good results with ribbons (set up just like you have yours) and an earthworks omni (like a QTC40 or 50 preferrably)
    2) I can't see the entire room; but I might place the earthworks 2/3 of the way back, half way between the floor and ceiling, and pointed toward the stage typically.
    3) Certainly, you can use separate devices and line them up later. Although, you may want a distinct click or clap at the beginning of your takes so that you have a noticeable transient when you get it to your DAW later. Depending on the size of the room you may end up with too much of a delay on the room mic anyway, so you would already be altering the time; but atleast with a distinct transient you will be able to see exactly what it is later.

    On a side note, don't dirty a pristine microphone signal with a cheap preamp or converter. I don't know what kind of Korg hard disk recorder you have, but your apogee is part the reason your ribbon tracks sound so good.
  3. thesteelydane

    thesteelydane Active Member

    Thanks for your reply, very helpful. So what you're saying is, even if I recorded all the tracks on the same device, I would probably get into a situation where I would be manipulating the timing anyway, if the distance between the direct mics on stage and the room reverb mic is too big?

    The Korg recorder I have acces to is this: Stereo Recorder | Mobile Recorder | DSD | Korg MR-1000 It's either record the reverb on that, the ribbons on the Apogee Duet, and line up the tracks later, or buy and record everything on this at once: Saffire PRO 40 Audio Interfaces Professional 20 In / 20 Out Firewire interface with eight Focusrite Pre-amps

    I don't have access to a an Earthworks omni, the best I can get is a pair of AKG 414's that can be set to omni. Will that work?
  4. JasonAlanJohnson

    JasonAlanJohnson Active Member

    Honestly Nicolaj,

    I have never used a DSD recorder so I am the newbie in that department. Although, from what I understand, the conversion should be superior simply because of the way DSD works. Some of my friends use DSD recorders and their stuff sounds great (although the guys I know with DSD have top quality everything so great sounds are to be expected from them). The MR1000 contains high-end preamps as well, so I am sure that you will be fine with it. Also, the PRO 40 sounds good but I have had issues with the software (this may have been an isolated - I don't want to denounce the Saffire yet). Case and point: I think you are in good shape with the MR1000. I would stick with it.

    As for the 414's, "heh". I would prefer that you use a small diaphragm condenser, or a pair of them if you don't have omnis. Or, you can just rent an earthworks, or some other high-end SDC. I would browse some of the rental sites online. You can experiment with a 414 (1 set to omni should be enough). I won't capture the sound that I am talking about, but hey... you like what you like.
  5. thesteelydane

    thesteelydane Active Member

    Thanks for your advice. So I've settled on recording the direct ribbon signal directly into my DAW through the Apogee Duet, and recording the room reverb on the Korg recorder and line up the tracks later. I don't have any omnis, so I will try to capture the room with a pair of small diaphragm condensers (I have a pair of Røde NT5's - they should work, right?)
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    NT5s should be fine, but I'm not convinced that recording them on an asynchronous recorder is likely to work very well. You should be able to get the start of each track lined up adequately in post (I've done this in the past by tapping the bow smartly on the music stand for a bar, then a silent bar, then away), but how are you going to maintain sync between the computer and the Korg? Even with the relatively short 4 - 5 minute tracks of the Bartok duo movements, the slip between the two digital clocks is going to leave you with some very strange-sounding room reverbs towards the end of the tracks.

    You would go most of the way in correcting the absolute frequency difference by replaying the Korg tracks via analog and re-recording them on the Duet rather than transferring the digital file directly to the computer, but this does not correct clock wander or effects due to temperature difference between record and replay. I know this sounds a lower-fi way of dealing with the reverb tracks, but given the level of the room reverb in the final mix, it may be a better way to go.

    What I would do is a test using just you on the fiddle. Start the computer (+Duet) and Korg, do your sync tapping, play for a minute, then sit down for half an hour with a cup of coffee while the two devices continue to record. Get up again and play the same piece. Stop the recorders and process the recordings, doing a digital transfer and also an analog transfer as outlined above, syncing up the start. See if the room reverb at the end of the recording sounds convincing in either or both of the two cases. Because of the record time, this test will be 5 times worse than your Bartok movements.

    One other thing not mentioned by others is the angle of the ribbon mics. You can make use of the fig-8 pattern by making sure that the room reflections entering the rear of the mics is constructive to the sound you want to achieve. This may mean altering the height as well as angle of the mics in relation to the violins. I don't think you stated what type of mics they are?

    Good luck with this project, though.
  7. thesteelydane

    thesteelydane Active Member

    Thanks for your reply. I was worried about the very scenario you describe here, that's why I wanted to ask the question here before we start recording. Maybe I'm better off with using the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 after all, even though the Apogee probably has better preamps and converters?

    The mics I'm using are Golden Age Project R1 active (mk III). I know they're cheap, but I've had amazing results with them in the past and some pro engineers I've shown them to have been impressed. I tried to get around the need for extra room ambience tracks by setting them up in Blumlein pair, something I've had good results with on violin-piano recordings in the past, but at the end of the day, this is the setup that sounded the best. This way the ribbon element is fairly parallel to the decks of the violins, which definitely seemed to be very important. There is a little bleed between the two channels that produces an imaging the artists really liked, but I'd love to try out any setup you can suggest.

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