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Piano Home recording set up advice wanted

Discussion in 'Piano' started by Piano, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    I am new here. I have been reading related discussions, but still need to ask
    my questions directly.

    My son is a high school student and play piano quite well. He wants to apply for
    some very high level piano competitions which requires video recording.

    For the past competitions, I have been using Sony PCM-D50 for just audio recording. Just one competition requirs
    video and I used a Sony camcorder with external Mic that mounts on the top of the machine. It is better than using just the
    built mic, but I am not satisfied with the result.

    The piano is a Seiler grand piano. The video quality is not important, but the audio quality is important.

    My first question is Mic. I have been reading related articles and everyone seems to recommend AKG C414,
    which is pretty expensive. Could I use AKG C214 instead? AKG C214 seems to be a cheaper version of AKG C 414.

    I want to use 2 Mics. I assume I need to buy the stereo matched pair?

    It seems I also need to have a pre-amp and a Mixer. What pre-amp and Mixer should I get?
    I understand pre-amp is needed, but not sure why a Mixer is needed.

    What kind of interface should I get for connecting the Mixer to MacBook Pro?

    Anything else should I get?

    One more question: how hard is it to sync the audio recording with video recording?
    I will make a clapboard to help this.

    There are lots of questions. I have wanted to have these setup before and haven't had the courage
    to tackle all these questions. But now I have to.

    Thanks in advance for all answers.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I think you have a number of options here. As a rule of thumb, most consumer camcorders have AVC a.k.a. automatic volume control. This sounds god-awful. Better consumer and pro-sumer camcorders may have the ability to switch off automatic volume control in favor of manual volume control and/or manual volume control with just a limiter. Unfortunately, this still does not render decent piano recordings.

    The 214 is the same as the 414 but is cardioid only. But you can still get away with just one. You do not need to have a stereo pair. And since your kid is likely to need to make more recordings, a Zoom H-4n would be a great investment along with a single 214. You set that H 4 at least 6 feet away from the grand piano and rely upon its built-in XY stereo microphones. You then place the 214 closer to the piano. You can record up to 4 tracks simultaneously on that device. You then dump those tracks into your computer along with the video. You'll need a program like Sony Vegas Studio which is their entry level of Vegas Pro which you will not need. You'll make your recordings on that H 4 set to ".wav ", not MP3. And you want to set it at 48 kHz sample rate not 44.1 kHz sample rate. If you have set your levels well, you could opt for 16-bit but if you are uncertain, 24-bit is slightly more forgiving when dealing with the improper level setting.

    Now because the camcorder and the solid-state recorder all rely upon crystal controlled clocks, synchronization is usually quite easy and stable to attain in software. It's handy however just like in the movies to have a " Clapper " that generates a very distinct percussive snap on microphone and on camera. A SHURE SM58 works quite well when you drop it on a wooden floor. He can then utilize that SM58 along with his 214 to make fine jazz recordings with him singing on the 58 while the 214 is on the piano and the H 4 is picking up the ambient stereo from its XY microphones all at the same time. Don't forget the extra foam pop filter.

    Don't let him wear jackets like Liberace did.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    What is the difference between Zoom H-4n and Sony PCM D50? I thought PCM D50 is a better version of Zoom H-4n and that was why I bought PCM D50. Would PCM D50 work in the setting you said?

    I am not sure how a matched pair comparing with the configuration you says.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The point about the Zoom H4N is that, unlike most other recorders of this type, it can record 4 tracks simultaneously. Remy's suggestion is to use the H4N's built-in pair of mics as a "near ambient" pair to give both room sound and a stereo image, and then the additional tracks for one (or two) AKGs as spot mics on the piano to give extra definition.

    The PCM D50 is a fine unit, and possibly better than the Zoom H4N for 2-track recording, especially when it comes to internal noise levels. However, when recording a piano, you would have to do a fair amount of experimentation with placing the D50 in the room. You would need to find a position for its stereo microphone pair that achieves an acceptable balance between adequate definition of the instrument's sound and the ambient acoustics. Having the extra track(s) on the H4N available for spot mics makes this task a lot easier and quicker.
  5. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    Thanks for the explanation. I just noticed the difference. D50 can also accept a line input. But Zoom H4N says it has a controllable Mixer. I will see if I can make do with the D50.
  6. simman

    simman Active Member

    AKG 414 is good mic but check this out

  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    If you're only going to use the 2 input D 50, I might suggest you go after an MS stereo microphone or a pair with say a 214 paired with a 414. This technique allows you to aim the microphone of central image and interest directly at that solo performer. While the Side (Difference channel) will be picking up the stereo information and overall ambience. You'll be able to vary the stereo width and depth after the fact where XY or ORTF, cannot provide that level of after-the-fact manipulation. This MS stereo microphone technique can almost be thought of like having a left-center-right microphone set up where you can dynamically positioned the left & right as widely or as narrow as you want. I might also mention that I personally like to purchase my quality microphones in pairs. So in your case, I would recommend a pair of 414's. That will further broaden your professional sounding possibilities.

    Matrixing many things into sum & differences.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Unlike the H4N with its pair of XLR microphone and TRS line inputs, the D50 on its own is a bit limited when it comes to external microphones. You can plug in a consumer-level electret stereo mic via the 1/8" jack, but you have to get the XLR-1 external adaptor and battery box if you want to use professional mics with phantom power available.
  9. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    Thanks. Very interesting posts. I don't have those Mics.:mad: Even the cheaper ones.
  10. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    Thanks for the reply. I have to admit I could not understand many terms. As purchase, a pair of 414 is almost $3k, while a pair of 214 is $900.
    I am not sure if the recording quality difference is worth the money.
  11. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    Thanks for the explanation. I understand the difference now.
  12. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    I talked to the agent at B&H. Here is the list that I probably will purchase:
    [FONT=Calibri, Verdana, Helvetica, Arial]A pair of AKG C214
    PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL - USB 2.0 Recording System $199 - This has the pre-amp and the interface to the computer.

    a software
    Singular Software Inc PluralEyes for Premiere Pro $149 - This is a Premiere Pro plugin that will automatically sync the audio and video for you

    I also need to get some accessories such as 2 stands, 2 [/FONT]Pearstone PFN Nylon Round Pop Filter with Gooseneck, and some Audio Cable.
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    In your decision for a pair of 214's because you cannot rectify the cost of a 414 will limit your usage of just a pair of cardioid's without having a Omni or figure of 8 patterns, from a single 414 with a single 214. There is no difference in the quality as both are nearly identical. The difference would be in your versatility and usage. So it makes sense to save a few extra clams in order to purchase a single 414. You don't need to waste your money on expensive nylon round pop filters where simple foam will do a fine job. You might be in the Bay Area where your decision-making is being held at Bay? So swim dammit, swim.

    Faster, FASTER!
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  14. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    What is "a Omni or figure of 8 patterns" for? I am trying to learn. So one 414 is enough? For all the piano recording video I have seen, they all use 2 Mics.
    How do you think of
    Shure SM81? Someone recommends this over c214.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    The 414 series is a poly-directional microphone. What that means is, it has 2 identical capsules mounted back to back in the head shell. A selector switch allows the capsules to be switched on with different electrical phasing. This allows the back to back capsules to be electrically in phase creating a Omni-Directional microphone pattern or out of phase to each other creating a " Figure Of 8 " polar pattern. With just the front capsule on, it's the same as a 214 Uni-directional a.k.a. cardioid polar pattern microphone. The additional pattern selection on a 414 switched to figure of 8 will allow you to create a MS stereo microphone technique utilizing the 214 cardioid as the front facing Middle (Mono) pick up. While the side wall facing 414 figure of 8 polar pattern will allow you to create the Side (difference) channel. When combined together with a MS matrix in the software will yield a most amazing stereophonic pickup that has the ability to vary the width of the stereo image from ultra-wide to ultra-Mono. And you can't do that with just a pair of cardioid's such as a pair of 214's or even the SHURE SM 81's which are both strictly Uni-directional/cardioid microphones. Of course one can get by with someone else's poly-directional large diaphragm condenser microphones such as the Rode's which are a hell of a lot less money than a 414 and still can come close to a 414. While MS microphone stereo technique generally indicates identical matched microphones, it's not 100% essential. So different microphones can be utilized to still obtain MS stereo miking. So perhaps a pair of Rode multidirectional microphones can be utilized or a single one with a 214 which may still fit into your budget. MS stereo miking is one of my favorite stereo microphone techniques which I prefer over XY & ORTF since I can also vary the stereo width perspective and where the Middle (Mono) microphone is facing directly at the sound source. XY & ORTF are not facing directly at the sound source. The reason why XY & ORTF are so popular is they provide for very little phase cancellation. Whereas the MS technique provides for zero phase cancellation since the Side (difference) microphone electrically cancels out when the mix is collapsed to Mono providing for zero phase cancellation. This can be and is incredibly important when miking anything close up for stereo. I don't care if you've seen a lot of recordings where they are utilizing 2 microphones. Most folks don't GET how to do this properly and so they avoid it relying upon the goof proof XY or spaced Omni-directional microphones space to more than 6 feet apart to prevent serious phase cancellation anomalies. The MS technique also helps to eliminate 2 walls that can cause spurious phase cancellations. And that's because it is so extremely dead to picking up anything coming in from its sides. So it's great to utilize in smaller rooms that are compromised in their small acoustic spaces. You will get better on axis sound to the sound source while creating a great feeling of stereo imaging. So even having just a single poly directional microphone along with utilizing just one of the cardioid XY microphones with the figure of 8 microphone directly below the XY which has been shifted so as to be pointing one of the XY cardioid microphones directly at the sound source can still be achieved. You would of course still have to eliminate that second channel XY microphone that would now be pointed off to an oblique angle. Playing with channel matrixing and phase is one of the most fundamental and important concepts of stereo recording. MS stereo microphone technique can also be referred to as left + right & left - right matrixing which is how FM is actually broadcast. It's not broadcast in stereo but rather L + R & L minus R. In your FM receiver a MS style matrix is then utilized to re-create left & right stereo. It's also known as sum & difference matrixing. Most stereo systems today are surroundsound and this matrixing is a large part of creating surroundsound from non-5.1 mixes. It's also utilized to enhance and widen stereo. And that's why it's so important to understand this kind of phase manipulation within the recording realm.

    I'm a good mixer so I've changed my prefix from MS Remy Ann David to Mx. Remy Ann David. Both of which are applicable to what I do and who I am.
    Mx. Remy Ann David a.k.a. MS Remy Ann David and Ms. Remy Ann David
  16. Piano

    Piano Active Member

    Thanks for the reply. I have learnt something. I am just starting to record. I hopefully will have more questions to ask later.
    I have ordered a c214 pair. I don't have the budget for 414. Hopefully the economy will get better and I could afford them.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    That was a good choice and you will love your 214's. With those however, as indicated, you simply have a pair of cardioid's which will restrict you to XY & ORTF and spaced over top of the drum set, etc.. But no can do on the MS stereo microphone technique without a figure of 8 microphone pattern. C'est la vie.
    It's all good.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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