1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

Taking It on the Road for My First Real Work

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Jumpmonkey, Jul 13, 2012.

  1. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member

    Lord willing I'll be heading out in mid August to do some recording with my equipment. I'll be given a room at a convention and will be recording different speakers each hour. They have their own (woeful) equipment, but are giving me a chance to use mine to see if I can do better (I feel quite confident, novice that I am, that I can.) FWIW their recording team is volunteers, who use the somewhat woeful equipment, and have little to no training.

    Here's What I'll be Packing (In portable rack cases)
    Mackie VLZ3-802
    Warm Audio WA-12
    Ashly GQX 3102
    Behringer Multigate Pro XR4400
    ART Pro-VLA II
    (Provided Recording Device) TEAC CD-RW880
    Mics are yet to be seen. If I can afford one SM11, otherwise whatever is provided.

    So, I record on my own in my quietish house. But I've never recorded a live speaker in front of an audience. As long as I'm not in one of the main ballrooms, I won't be contending with a speaker system. But if I am... then I will.

    I plan on leaving the EQ alone (I think its more a way for me to get myself in trouble than do anything useful.) May use the adjustable HPF if I need.

    1) What general advice can you experienced folks give a first timer?
    2) Should I still be using downward expansion to reduce background noise, or is it not worth it because of inevitable audience noise (coughs, sneezes, fiddling with papers etc)?
    3) Compression: I figure I'll be using this as a peak limiter more than anything else. What kind of settings should I look at?
    4) Are there any cool tricks for quickly mic'ing up and leveling a new speaker? (99% sure it'll be lav mics one way or another)

    What say the Mathemagicians of audio engineering?

    Thanks for your time and help!
    God bless,
  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I've done a few of these conference thingies - here are the first issues that come to mind and potential problems I recall having to deal with:

    1A) Redundancy
    (and at the risk of repeating myself)

    I (almost always) record to more than one recording device whenever possible. Standalone CD-R recorders are not a bulletproof recording technology. Not all CD recorders 'play nice' with all brands of blank CDs. Not all CD recorders behave well if the inputs gets clipped. None of them like to be bumped or vibrated. Plus, if you hit the 70-minute mark and the speaker is still talking - you will have to eject the CD, and wait for the new blank to be recognized, during this small eternity you might miss a minute or two of what might be the most important and inspiring part of the speech. A written itinerary, is just a guideline - it can rarely be trusted.

    1B) If you end up in the main ballroom and there is a PA system, I would try to get ahead of the FOH soundman in the signal chain, or stick my own lav on the speaker and then mix in a room mic to taste to pick up audience responses. In any case I would take several splitters (and the associated long & short XLR cables) so I can be in control of what I record without relying on the attention span of a woeful volunteer (or even disinterested pro) sound-person. If the room has terrible acoustics, the counter-measures even a highly skilled sound-person may have to use to make the lav sound good - may completely undercut your attempt to make the speaker sound natural. If you're ahead of them, you get to do whatever you want with the same signal.

    1C) If there is a Q&A session at the end, good luck getting those asking the questions to the designated mic. You may want to put a few mics up front facing the audience if there will be Q&A, so you at least have something you can turn up while they shout their question from their seat.

    Take your own long power cables, take headphones, splitters if you have them. Make sure they use new batteries in any wireless mics. People will host a big fancy conference and then try to save $2 on batteries. If batteries are your lifeline, change them early and often at your own expense if necessary - assuming you're getting paid. I would also scout the location if possible.

    2) Honestly, if you have to ask - I'd say you're not ready to worry about downward expansion on a live run & gun recording job. It takes practice to fine-tune and can sound terrible if done too heavy-handedly. Get a split, or your own lav on the speaker and you'll have no problem with the ambient noises.

    3) As a starting point I would compress spoken word at 4:1 with the threshold set to just catch the louder parts. Then adjust ratio and threshold depending on the speaker's dynamic range. Follow that with a limiter as a failsafe set comfortably below the theoretical limit of the CD recorder's meters. If you're hitting the limiter a lot it's too hot.

    4) Your biggest challenge will be EQing the lav on a new speaker, clipped in a new position, from one speaker to the next. You want to make them sound natural and un-amplified. If I can get the mic on the speaker before they get to the podium, I have a brief conversation with them to hear what their voice sounds like up close and personal. I will then ask them to continue talking while I listen to them in the headphones to make sure their voice sounds right with the mic. That way we can make adjustments if necessary, and hit the ground running once they take the stage.

    Surely others will have different experiences and more advice.

    Best of luck.
  3. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member


    Thanks for the thoughtful response. You continue to be one of the awesome sources here at recording.org!

    The only comment I have on your veritable font of wisdom is concerning point 4. I have an EQ, but I have just obtained it and am woefully stupid as relates to EQ. I have 3 or 4 of the utmost basic concepts concerning it, but believe I'd be more apt to do the work of a butcher than the work of a surgeon using one.

    Thanks again!
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    If you get the lav in the right place, the EQ on the Mackie 802-VLZ should be sufficient.

    Cut is always better than boost.
    In most cases with a lav, I will need to roll off a fair amount of the bass. If there's a HPF I would use it.
    Mids and Treble vary greatly depending on the voice. It's shocking the difference the tiniest fraction of a turn can do in the midrange.

    If you can't find the right frequency, when using something with sweepable mids (which I don't think your Mackie has), exaggerate the mids by turning the cut/boost knob associated with the mids all the way up - then slowly sweep the mid-frequency knob through it's full range of motion. When you hear the most obnoxious sound you've ever heard, you have found the most offensive frequency in the midrange. Now that you've located the offending freq. you would then immediately cut it by turning the mid cut/boost knob back to the "cut" side. Gently, judiciously, until it sounds right. For obvious reasons, this technique is not pleasant to listen to, so is best done during a rehearsal or sound-check so it won't be a distraction to the audience.

    If you're lucky enough to have a 4-band EQ with more than one sweepable frequency, the same technique works the same for each band if you are struggling to identify the frequency you'd like to change.

    You can practice at home and hone your skills.
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    DVD has given some very good advice. Maybe i can offer something.
    i've never done one of this type of gigs, but i've done 40 or 50 gigs the past few years at FOH, for bands, comic acts, rappers ect. As well as system repair, in bars,nightclubs.
    Redundancy is your best friend live, at least two of everything possible will help ya sleep easy, and sweat less when something goes wrong. KEEP YOUR COOL when things get hairy, breathe, think, don't just get mad. A sound system is just that, a bunch of individual things that could go wrong. Be logical and methodical. For instance tonight during setup at the studio the floor tom bottom mic wasn't sending signal to our mackie board. So first suspect is the mic/mic cable. (yes, mics break i've scotch taped questionably severed internal mic wires, on two mics, less than an hour before a 6 act show.) mic was fine. swapped cable, still nothing. used diff input jack on snake. yes sound, cable works. My but is covered if the default jack is busted, but maybe that's not it... so checked the board. Ooops, the mic/line switch was incorrectly pressed. This happens w/ mute switches, master faders down, mic pre trim down. LOL i've even hastily plugged ins to out's 5 minutes before my band was up to play. (it's only funny after you figure it out :)
    Adapters of all kinds are soo useful, as is tape, duct, electrical,some splicers, a screwdriver.
    Also, remember you might not be able to fix it then and there, i've bypassed rack units, bypassed amps, mixers, speakers had to make multiple vocalists share a single mic, dusted off old amps from the backroom, that some sleez said were broken.
    I suggest that you call the venue and get in touch w/ the 'soundguy' asap. create a plan w/ him, because he may not be diss-interested showtime, he may just be scrambling around dealing w/ his own surprises. Or use your system as backup. Go to the venue. see what your working w/. Where are you setting up your station? is there power w/ in reach. wheres the most discrete place to run wires? How early can you setup?
    Make a plan that you know will work, it's very very important at any level of experience to be confident in how your system will be setup. Your going to be dealing w/ random problems, or randomly no probs at all. it's important to know as much as possible, that your system ain't the prob. And know who to 'know' when there's an issue.
    Your experienced enough to do what you are gonna do, I'm not trying to scare you or anything w/ my it can hit the fan stories. You can certainly do this w/ your current rig, altho i agree strongly that you might want to use, or have access to another means of recorder. $100 portable zoom type couple sd cards, your cdr unit as redundant or 'backup'?
    Plan the way you want it, then plan for things that could commonly go wrong (adapters,cables,batteries,tools) that way if a mic cable goes down, maybe you can use adapters and use a guitar cable or whatever.
    The excitement of live sound in any form is, to me, the 'moment'. Part of the job is knowing things may be so much smoother than u thought, or the worst night yet. Don't quit, panic, or be to hard on yourself. The worst case i could imagine for you is everything broke, and you tape a cell phone to the speaker, use built in recording device, and get a more experienced mixer, to clean it up.
    That probably won't happen.
    If you do your planning, and unforseen things happen (like when someone set-off the fire alarm at a FOH gig, shutting down everything) then you know that you did your best, and that's all you could do. That will get you a call back. and i'd leave the noise-gate home and do it during editing. Only my opinion but unless it's necessary to the production, i want to record everything, then edit to taste. maybe somebody mumbles, or whatever, don't wanna be messing w/ thresholds during the recording. Best of luck, you'll be fine. Success, and troubleshooting skills will allow you to progress.
  6. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member


    Thanks so much for all the great information in there. Again, not a lot to respond to, mostly because between you and DVD I've been grunting out agreeable noises while furiously taking notes of all the wisdom of experience.

    I do have my own MicroSD recorder (Tascam DR-07 Mk2) That I was planning on doing as you have said with it. The CD's are actually the primary recorded media. The convention takes the CD's and immediately puts them into a bank of duplicators to sell on the spot after each lesson. In addition, this means if there's any processing at all, I'll be recording wet. I will need some splitters since the CDR and Tascam will both be using the same two outs.

    I wish I had a heap of cords for "Just in case" but, I don't yet, though I'm slowly building a repertoire. I should have enough cable and will have 2 mic's incase something in the wireless system they use goes out. I believe I could have the speaker back running in a minute (2 at very most) of any wireless/mic malfunction.

    Thanks again!
  7. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member







    If there is ANYTHING you ONLY have one of, you're missing something, or the other one just broke, and you're calling for a replacement... or two.

    If you haven't experienced a complete catastrophe because you only had one something, you soon will... and you'll kick yourself REAL hard.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Cheap generic brand cables are available. The only thing that i've used that broke quickly multiple times, or didn't work when i opened it, is the radio crap headphone extensions.
    i humbly suggest musicians friend, or similar for extra xlr's. they work well, and don't make it sound horrible. The R word is key in the moment.
  9. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member


    I've been eyeing up cables, found a couple "good deals" on XLR until I read reviews. I believe I'm going to wind up buying a soldering kit, some crane Quad Core and Redco M/F XLR connectors (anyone know if the Redco connectors are good?)

    Aside from the initial outlay for the equipment, the price of "home made" xlr made of good parts just beats the snot out of anything else I'm finding. It's all either overpriced junk or overpriced quality. It amazes me how much manufacturers charge to solder 6 connections.


    EDIT: Plus since its a nearly week long event, I can bring my soldering kit, and if a cable goes, I can fix it up at the end of the day and be back up and redundant the next morning.
  10. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Redundant systems is a recurring theme.
    A couple months ago I was providing my large-ish club sound system, minimal lighting for a show at a local university. AND I was also responsible for a 24-track recording of the band that would go with the 2-camera HD video being shot by another guy they hired. I was using the StudioLive24 for this job firewired to my laptop. Everything was up and running perfectly for the soundcheck, I had good recording levels and got to listen to the playback a little bit pre-show. Time to catch my breath and try to grab a bite to eat before the show. Fifteen minutes before the gig starts, my laptop inexplicably goes black and shuts down. I've seen this particular blinking status light happen once before with the laptop as a RAM module flakes out. So 10 minutes before the first song I'm sitting there with a small screwdriver calmly talking to some friends while I'm removing 2GB of RAM, restarting the laptop, and the two clicks to start the Capture software and I'm ready with time to spare. Had I not had a tool case and multiple back-up recorders to fall back on - I would have been anything but calm.

    The show went great, I got a good recording, and slept like a baby because I knew I was ready for the inevitable 'surprise' that's going to pop up once in a while.

    And kmetal makes an excellent point, the FOH soundman may have his own fires he's trying to put out as things are getting underway. Chances are he's scrambling to deal with last minute details and equipment requests that nobody bothered to tell him about in advance. (I've been that guy before too) Therefore you need to be as self-sufficient as possible.

    Here's something else you might find useful Jumpmonkey. If you haven't already, draw a block diagram of the system you'll be using to make sure you've accounted for every audio cable / power cable / stand / adapter / etc.
  11. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member


    By block diagram you mean something like this?

    Thanks again guys!
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Sure, anything along those lines will help you visualize the exact cabling needed. Whether it's a sound job, or a recording job I'll often diagram it well in advance. Sometimes I'll do a simple flow-chart block diagram like that - sometimes I'll make it more detailed. If it's a job I'm unfamiliar with it helps in terms of planning, tallying the quantity and lengths of the cables needed, and how to integrate various components. I want to have spares of everything, but at the same time I don't want to lug around 300 lbs. of spare AC, SpeakOn, and mic cables.

    Over the 4th, I was playing out of town at an event that provided the PA for us, while my son needed to use part of my PA and lights for an outdoor gig of his own. He's been along on numerous rentals, but never hooked everything up himself. Anything he would have done on sound jobs in the past wouldn't have required any level of understanding, just the ability to follow directions. (take this cable and connect it from here to there) So for this job I gave him a fairly detailed diagram a couple weeks ahead of time that he could study and visualize how everything interconnects and ask questions as needed. My system is extremely efficient and logical in the way it hooks up and fairly well labeled, but like any complex system there are a couple things you need to be aware of. The main thing was, he needed to be able to get everything set up without being too frazzled to then play well. We knew his bandmates would be helpful carrying equipment, but wouldn't know where to begin hooking anything up. He's an engineering student, so he can relate to a logical system. The diagrams and drawings helped him visualize the set-up of everything, and even change how they would like the monitor mixes split up long before they got there. By the day of the show he was comfortable enough with his understanding of how it went together, he was able to hand cables to his buddies and say 'take this cable and connect it from here to there'. He said, other than the torrential rain as they were loading out, it went about as well as you could have hoped for. I credit advance planning and his ability to look at the diagram and truly understand how it all works together.

    If it was a job I was completely unfamiliar with, I might go into this much detail to make sure I'm prepared.

    I gave him a detailed block diagram of the speaker runs, snake, sub-snake, and mic runs.

    I gave him a detailed 2D overview of the PA & light runs, with color coding similar to the physical markings on the cables.

    We are both very familiar with SketchUp, so I also gave him a 3D model he could walkthrough and view from any angle.

    Makin' a list - checkin' it twice.... and then - checkin' it a couple more times......
  13. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member

    I've got my "box diagram" put together. It's definitely not even remotely as nice as yours, but its got the needed details on it. That's a good way to work through things. I'll have to put together a library of nicer symbols over time to make it a bit more visual than textual.

    I also picked up some soldering toys and put in an order for cables and connectors. This mean's I'll have redundancy in my cable system, and the ability to repair!

  14. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member

    Just wanted to stop and say thanks to everyone for the advice.

    The week of recording speakers at the event went off with plenty of problems, some that affected me directly, others that affected me indirectly. Thanks to the advice ya'll provided I never lacked for a usable recording at the end of a speech. I also got called on to solve problems for other people. The end result, I learned a lot, made some mistakes, fixed some problems, and ultimately, was thanked for my work and asked back for next year.

    Thanks again for all your advice!
  15. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    good job, glad it went well for ya. that's some rewarding experience. keep it going full speed!

Share This Page