Outdoor recording fun.....not!

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Thomas W. Bethel, May 26, 2008.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Last night we did our annual recording of the Commencement Band on the college's band stand for the local college. Since we have done this for many years we have it down to a basic setup which has worked well in the past.

    This year they threw us a couple of curves.

    First they increased the size of the "band" now called a wind ensemble which was not that much of a problem. Then they increased the size of the percussion add on and made it about 1.5 times bigger which again was no problem. They added an orchestra concert before the band concert which meant that a lot of players were doing double duty and we had to hold up the band concert for about 30 minutes so the orchestra players could get to the band stand. The weather was perfect and the crowd was the largest on record. They also increased the sound system from years past when it was only used for announcements and for the soloist to a fully miked concert sound setup. They had 27 microphones and the bandstand was completely surrounded by speakers including ones facing sideways and to the rear and the person who was doing the sound must have been a rock and roll engineer because he really liked his bass and at one point as we were setting up he had the whole square echoing from the drum beats of the bass drum. Of course every speaker stack had a subwoofer as part of the stack so he had LOTS of bass to play with.

    We set up 6 microphones. A stereo pair in the front, two flanking omni's for the band wings and two omnis on the percussion add on. We also took 7 microphones from the sound companies splitter. They were the announce microphone, the spot percussion microphones and the solo microphones. We were going to multi track record this as well as do a down mix to stereo. For some reason the firewire on our Mackie Onyx console would not talk to the computer's firewire input and after trying for a long time gave up the idea of doing this multi track and only did a stereo mix.

    The concert starts 30 minutes late and the first thing that happens is that some person comes running on to the band stand and throws a pie in the director's face. The director is standing there trying to conduct with a side of his face covered in cream pie. Finally someone rushes up with a towel and he is able to clean off the goo. He asks that security help him find the individual and station some security officers at the steps of the bandstand. So the concert goes on.

    We are sitting off to the side of the bandstand with a ton of cables in the area between us and the bandstand. Earlier in the day people kept walking on the cables so we put up a barrier at one end to wall off our area. Now the audience starts coming up and coming around the barrier to be able to take pictures. So now we have a very dark area that is strewn with cables and the audience is going back and forth with cameras glued to their eyes and NOT watching what they were doing. A couple of them tripped but no cables came undone.

    The concert goes on and we come to a place where someone decided to make bugler's holiday into tuba holiday and the sound company puts clip on microphones on each of the tuba's bells. Well tubas can put up a lot of volume and they overpowered the clip on microphones so it was distortion city in the PA system and since we were getting some bleed from the sound system it was distorted in our mix as well.

    The concert goes on forever because the audience really likes what they are hearing and wants more. We finally ended at 11 pm did a quick strike and were done by 11:30 pm.

    I have not had a chance to listen to the tapes as of yet but I hope they turned out as well as what I was hearing in the headphones.

    Not a typical band concert but one that will go down in my memory as a weird one. Oh yes and at last report they did catch the pie thrower.
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Sounds fun!

    I think they should bare-ass cane the pie-thrower and then put THAT video on YouTube since this jackass undoubtedly did it so he could live forever in the Bowels of such an excrement of a site!
  3. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Your story was very interesting, I'm keen to hear your tapes.
    The guy who rigged up the PA sounds cool.
    And distorted tuba is the best kind. :p
  4. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    You might want NEVER to do anything for a Church without lots of set in stone planning. Last minute changes and painful realisations are a given.

    Don't ask, unless you want a rant.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Tom, I'm curious about your Mackie FW problem; did you ever sort it out? (What computer and software were you using?) I went through some hoops when I first installed a few of my own, but now they're running very nicely.

    Also, I can't help but wonder about the pie-thrower.....what kind of conductor would deserve such treatment? Perhaps there was some old grudge going on there, finally coming home to roost? Paybacks can be a b*tch, as they say..... :roll:

    Ya never know; I had a malicious, mean, nasty music director in my HS that deserved a lot more than a pie for what he did to some students. One of the "nicer" things he did was play a game called "Stump the stoops" whereupon hearing a bad note or messed up part, he'd stop the ensemble and make each player play their part, alone, until the culprit was caught. Then it was ridicule time. It worked, but a lot of kids just gave up rather than face the embarassment. I suppose the really dedicated ones just worked harder to avoid the embarassment, but there were lots of scars because of it.
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I assume you have had your share of "problems" I know when I use to do church sound at my church there were a LOT of problems especially non communication between the minister and me and he just expected me to know what he was going to do AS he did it. I remember one time he took his wireless microphone, walked out into the church and stood in the free field of the speaker cluster and did his whole sermon from there. It was feedback city and I had to cut the gain back to keep it from going into constant feedback. After the service he said some people complained to him that they could not hear him in the back row. This was in a 300 seat conventionally laid out Protestant church. The minister we had before this guy did not even need a PA system and he could be heard in the third row of the balcony just fine.
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    No this guy is pretty well liked. He is a perfectionist but the students respect him for it. He is NOT the kind of person that you would do this to for a "fun" thing. It was in front of a crowd of a couple of thousand people so it was somewhat embarrassing for him. It put a damper on the rest of the concert and he was always looking for another attack. They did catch the person responsible and we have it all on video tape for the trial in case it is needed. Not a cool thing to do. The guy was wearing a puppet head so he could not be recognized but they caught him anyway. He was seen standing around before the concert with a pie in his hand so maybe this was a crime of opportunity or maybe not.

    UPDATE: The pie thrower was a current student and did not like the way the band conductor was doing things.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    This "Pie in the face" thing is becoming what's known as an Internet Viral phenomenan. Sh*t heads like your offender do this to public speakers (originally as a political statement against local/regional politicians/businessme) and catch it on video so that they or their buddies can put it on YouTube. Do a quick search on that site and you'll see what I mean.

    To me, it's a shameless offense which is some idiotic attempt at one's 15 minutes of fame.

    Seriously, I think people like this *should* be bare-ass caned in public and video taped for the whole world to see.

  9. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Sounds like you have some sort of sadomasochistic arse fetish dude.
    I'm not condoning retarded behavior, it's just a little cream to the face never hurt anybody...
    Maybe he was a Nazi...
    If he was a nice, happy go lucky helpful cheery guy and a credit to humanity, I think he'd laugh it off in moments and relish telling the story whilst being the life of the party for years to come...
  10. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    I can tell you from my experience as a music director that commencement is one of the worst gigs to prep for, play and organize. You're dealing with people who are not accustomed to organizing, coordinating and communicating to/for large groups of people and then make changes like you've described. I also think our society is becoming too immature for commencement to continue in the old-fashioned tradition. Not that I'd really be sorry to see the whole mess disappear - as they exist now.

    Sorry Greener - I'm guessing you're young and find the whole Jack@ss phenomenon humorous. Jr. high mentality in an adult's body.

    Jeremy, I'm with you - I'd cane him myself in front of the frickin' crowd if I could, or file for assault charges and kick him out of school as well. He'll probably end up with a slap on the wrist and file under "boys will be boys" crap. Spend a weekend picking up garbage and the issue is forgotten until the next ass comes along to "make his mark".

    It's not enough to put in 60-80 hr work weeks at the end of a school year, you now get to be fodder for juvenile delinquents. I guess that's why I spent so much time in the practice room.
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    This coming from the person who wrote these posts:
    (Dead Link Removed)
    (Dead Link Removed)

    Hmmm...within the same thread, you referenced the "arse" or its derivitive 4 times.

    If you have nothing to contribute, don't.
  12. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Takes one to know one! :)
    Pull your head out of it...

    /Side note, yeah, I know tempo is all about feeling just wanted different opinions. Meh...
  13. multoc

    multoc Active Member

    Recording outside is not fun, I attempted to record some acoustic guitar outside at about 6am before the cars started rolling, to get some atmosphere with the birds and junk. Well I have all my microphones set, x-y, about 6 feet from the guitar with my computer inside the door, put my headphones on and here this massive buzzing! Needless to say I gave up, struck my gear and went back to bed. Only to wake up and realize that I had attempted to record a guitar underneath my home's main power lines!!!!

    I'll have to try again on the opposite side of my house!
  14. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Nice one on the power lines.

    As for our problems:
    "he just expected me to know what he was going to do AS he did it."
    Same. We get maybe half an hours notice for things, we do find out about concerts a few weeks in advance. Although, the details? Lost in space.

    Sunday there, we went to Shotts Congregational. Nice smallish place, good acoustics. Has a PA installed. We were short of space so we left our main speakers and took 2 monitors, the mixer, cables, mics and snake.
    First oops: I forgot to grab the monitor amp.
    Next oops: both of our monitors have one faulty jack so we can't use them in parallel.
    Next oops: The PA speakers they have can't be put in parallel either. SO, there's 4 speakers and 2 amp channels. Plus their powered mixer. So I hijacked a line input. Then found one of our monitors has lost both input jacks, maybe in transit. Great, one monitor for a whole band. It has a blown twerter too (big problem with Church sound: zero budget).

    THEN, after I set up the monitors etc, I find out the guys at Shotts want to use their PA to play some songs and use some of their mics. So I ran a line back from their mixer to ours, and somehow dodged a feedback loop. Halfway through the gig I find that the mic they said they would use wasn't being used, the mic they weren't going to use was being used. So I had to sneak up during a hymn and twiddle some knobs. Which, I made no note of the original settings of. I think I've left the radio mic now blaring out the floor monitor, although I have informed them to turn the offending knob down.

    Problems caused by lack of communication? All of the above.
    That and the lack of organisation on my part.

    Note to self: essential gear list now consists of "Monitor amp" and "Notepad/pen"
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Most power is balanced (110 VAC-Neutral-110VAC) and at least in our local area the AC power coming into the house is wrapped around each other further canceling the fields. Unless you were within inches of the AC power and the house was drawing a lot of power I don't think that was your problem. If that was the problem then you would have the same problem in every room of your house.
  16. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I have so many horror stories from outdoor recordings, I tend to try to forget them forever. :twisted:

    One comes to mind almost right away:

    I was using an AKG422 on a wind ensemble during the mandatory "Pump and Circumcision" - the endless-intro-students-walk-in portion of the event. Although it's a side-address mic, the band director kept grabbing it and turning it to POINT at the ensemble, thinking the mic wasn't properly aimed a the musicians. It was comical for a while; I'd set it, and in a few moments, he'd move it. (Not knowing he did this), I'd go back out and reset it. Again. And Again. Finally, my assistant caught on to what was going on and told me. I nearly tore the guy a new one, but knowing he was essentially "The client", I simply but forcefully told him to LEAVE IT ALONE!!!, explaining the sound entered the SIDE of the mic capsules. Oiy.

    What amazes me is how some people think they've got the chops to dive over into someone else's job or territory and just take over. (I guess that has to happen sometimes with school band leaders, but still....)

    Another horror story is WIND in general. No matter what we'd use, sooner or later, there's always going to be wind slamming into a microphone diaphragm somewhere, usually at the worst possible time. I've double-foamed SM58s on podiums, and even resorted to heavy wool black socks (from the WalkingCompany.com!) on some LD mics that were getting a lot of wind noise. It's always SOMETHING with these things. (Did anyone mention Thunderstorms in outdoor late-spring events on the East Coast?!?!? I've done shows where we were literally listening to the local radio/weather report right up to make or break time for the gig to go on as planned, or move it over to the gymnasium.

    Then of course there's sun and windburn, and watching your gear go from red hot (out in the afternoon sun) to ice cold in the chill of the evening after the sun's gone down. The event is over, and everyone but you and the crew packing up the chairs into the school's groundskeeper's pickup truck has gone home (or out to dinner & the big party.) I've spent time in the shop afterwards removing clotted grass & rust from mic stands and wiping off dirt and grime from cables run over long lenghts of foodball field grass or the gunk on the track that goes around it all.

    Good times, ah yes. Good times. :roll:
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Okay...I've got one from a different perspective...

    I played a gig on Monday night - outdoor orchestra. The live sound guy is a person that I know in the area and is probably the best live sound guy in a 75 mile radius, so he knows what he's doing. (Consequently, the orchestra is a group of morons - there are a couple of decent folks, but most are hardcore idiots - lead by their uber-moron of a conductor and the consortium of dumbasses known as a board of directors... This is the same group that screwed me out of a couple thousand dollars and I vowed never to do any work for again - and almost sued...but hey, I played as a gesture of good will).

    Anyway, the live sound guy had 10 minutes to do a sound check. Right before we did the soundcheck though, the conductor started barking out orders for the microphones (after the sound guy had set them up and was back at FOH mix position and could hear him). The conductor was telling the orchestra musicians which mics to move and where. There was a pair of 57s over the trumpets and about 3 to 4 feet back. He claimed "Those are way too close to the trumpets - move them about 5 to 6 feet further back..."

    Basically, all the hard work that the live sound guy had done was all undone until about 30 seconds before the sound check. Go figure, the sound check sounded like crap and there was feedback city. The live sound guy came and moved his mics BACK into the positions where he had them and VOILA....all was fixed.

    I was told to move a mic from in front of the horn section....

    Nope - wouldn't do it. Instead, I went and told the live sound guy that our section had moved about 6 to 8 feet and he might want to check his position now.

    I love it when musicians *THINK* they know what they're doing.

    BTW - I won't mention the orchestra or the conductor's name since at least one other person knows and has worked with this clown (and may not despise him)...

    EDIT --

    And no, it's not Remy that knows him. It's one of our midwest engineers.
  18. Greener

    Greener Guest

    That conductor sounds like a right tool, someone should throw... Nah, never mind.
  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    He's one that might actually deserve it...
  20. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    I'm midwest...of Scotland :lol:

    Biggest problem is a lack of communication: ALWAYS. Someone does someone without checking it. 6 mics went into the snake on Sunday there despite me saying twice "leave them besides the box" and since theres tape on each cable I'd work out what was what and plug it in the way I want. But no, 6 went in. In some stupid manner. I just yanked them, put the front 4 (yes, four) into the usuals and totally forgot about the other 2 mics which had appeared from nowhere.

    If people asked before they touched, so much time would be saved.

    Thankfully, I've never had to and hope to never have to do some PA outside. Of course, we'd have no power, although I can picture us being somewhere and running off a badly placed extension all too easily. I suspect I'll have another rant (correction: I KNOW I'll have another rant) to make if that ever happens.

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