Recording an Audience

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Codemonkey, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Search function keeps returning blank pages :S

    How would you go about capturing the sound of a congregation singing, with a cardoid dynamic mic? (Stereo is going to be more hassle than it's worth for the moment)

    This isn't a one off thing, it's going to be done weekly, starting in the new year perhaps.

    The limitation is that the mic can't be visually intrusive.
    I'm not hoping for an exact placement here, but some hints. The pew area is about 8m wide by 14m long. ~7m roof.
    I'm not bothered about quality of the sound here, so long as it resembles people singing in a stone room.

    To capture the fullest sound from the congregation, I assume I want to be above their heads, pointing down at the busiest area?
    I'll assume I want to be far away from and not be pointing at the PA cabs which have guitar/piano during hymns.

    What if I tried from behind, with a mic above the back row, pointing back up the hall?
    Would you expect that to be unusably full of PA feed?

    Experimenting is a little difficult in this case.
  2. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    How many people in the congregation are we talking about?
    a Choir or the whole congregation?
    If its the entire congregation and you just want to capture them all singing hymns inside your church I would put it up front facing back towards the congregation. It doesn't have to be in the center either it could be in a corner but still facing back towards the congregation. It could also be suspended from the ceiling somewhere if that's an option. If your not looking for a quality sound anywhere within the space should work.
    If you want to test for the best sounding spot, just setup any portable sound source at a reasonable sound level (SPL) roughly equivalent to what your group might produce and then walk around and monitor different positions and levels of the microphone, record it and see how it sounds....
    We used to use a white/pink noise generator on a mic stand about 5-6 feet high and place it in the front or center of church spaces to test acoustic issues and to check levels and reverberation times etc.....

    You could use a boom box with a tape or CD of people singing, crank it up to some level...(I would use an SPL meter) and then walk around to find your sweet'd be surprised where that might be in a stone walled church!.....then its just a matter of getting the wires to your mic location... unless you use a wireless mic!
    Run some tests, have some fun with the space and maybe you'll get some understanding of your church acoustics in the process....
    acoustics can be your friend!!
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    The greatest concern most people have is being able to pick out individual voices. So what you really want is a beautiful wide wash of voices. Churches by nature generally have some reasonable reverb time. One of the microphone techniques I'd enjoy using for over 20 years has been the use of PZM or Pressure Zone Microphones. These are similar to Boundary microphones but differ in their general perceptual character. Because the microphones are generally mounted directly on the walls, an entire reflective surface is virtually eliminated. Plus the high-frequency character of PZM microphones presents them with a higher shifted thinner quality. This works well with crowds. The microphones are not omnidirectional but are hemi-directional as compared to Uni-directional.

    As an experiment, you may want to try and tape a lavalier tie tack microphone to the walls. This will closely approximate the PZM experience. The real PZM's will have a greater element of high frequency clarity that will add a nice sheen to the audience choral.

    Conversely, you could also mount/hang a pair of ORTF or XY shotgun microphones pointing toward the congregation with their backs towards the musicians & pulpit.

    Happy harmonizing!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Few problems...

    I don't have wireless mics, or PZM/boundary mics. Or shotguns...I have cardoid dynamics and no budget.
    There's not enough wall area that isn't 4m up and awkward to get to. Plenty of pillars though.
    Can't hang anything from the ceiling. Although, if I could, it'd be ideal. Spacious, 6m up, well out of sight...

    However, I'll try getting things incredibly close to walls.
    If I point a mic AT the wall at say, 30 degrees, up within 3" of it, would that catch too many reflections?

    I suspect from the PZM comments, I should roll off a lot of low end, which is good because that should help counter any PA bleed (of which I expect a lot).

    Btw, the congregation is scattered roughly across the whole area, about 65-90 in all. I think that they're too scattered to allow proper comparison using tape machines.
  5. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Cardioid dynamics aren't the right mics for the job. you won't need to roll off the low end - you'll be lucky if you get any at all.

    If you can manage to spend anything at all on this effort, look into omnidirectional Behringer ECM8000 microphones. These can be had for just a little over $40 each. I have used these to record audience with good results. Even got a decent choral recording with these. These are the cheapest microphones I know of that will get the job done ...

    ... (thinking) ...

    Just thought of another option - this guy has an assortment of affordable OMNI microphones that would likely get you decent results. I generally space Omni pairs about 27" apart when recording in open spaces.
  6. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Hmm... the ECM would also help with doing frequency analysis as I see it on studio acoustic guides a lot.

    Cheers all!
  7. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    FYI - here's a choral recording - about 75 singers in a circle - obviously a live performance. A pair of ECM8000 mics is all that was used on this track.
  8. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

  9. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Well, we were away at another Church tonight for a talk by Brian McLaren (inspirational guy).

    They've got the full rig of audio gear, I was looking at every bit of it strugging to get WANT WANT WANT out of my head.
    Hopefully this'll inspire the minister to divulge a bit of cash to sound, I should be able to get hold of *something* over the holiday.

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