This weekend's project - will it work, or won't it?
We get quite a bit of work because we work across technical boundaries - We're working for a well known client next week who is putting his comedy show out on a streaming platform - so it's lights, sound (recording and PA) and video - we won't edit - just provide the services on the day of the shoot. This weekend though, it's one of our choir groups - can you do our first concert since lockdown ended - as a video and sound project. I asked when and where. All agreed and I've worked in that church before, so knowing the choir (and the awful piano/nice organ) all got agreed and times set. I confirmed what time we would arrive and the organiser said she'd meet me in the hall where they were rehearsing and she'd show me where they'd be ON THE FIELD!
Yep - I assumed it would be inside the church, but it's outside on the clifftop, next to the beach and sea. My stereo pair, with outriggers for the edges and a couple of mics for the piano are out of play - so I'm looking in the store for wind-proof housings. I'm thinking I have two 416s in big windshields and somewhere I might have a spare housing I could put something else in for a centre line mic. As for the piano? I assume it will be an electric and sound horrid - so do I take a MIDI feed from it and replace the piano sound in the studio? That means finding an interface that will do MIDI on computer power only. I'm not sure I even have such an interface? Otherwise maybe a DI - but if it's a nasty yamaha, plugging in to the single socket on these keyboards kills internal sound, so is it really going to be a couple of SM57s on the internal speakers. Will the weather be kind. Wind left to right kills stereo sound, so do car alarms and aeroplanes.
I'm predicting something far worse than I imagined. Hopefully - sunny day, no wind, no seagulls, a nice piano and we'll be OK. Knowing my luck, it will rain, in a gale, with a fog horn and hundreds of screaming birds. Shall I take bets?
Sounds like you have to rely on all your years of experience and wing it! Sounds like fun to me! Looking forward to hearing how it all played out. :)
All those years of experience of doing it badly outside. We go on about tiny adjustments in angle on coincident pairs, time aligning everything and then outside it blows a gale and wrecks it all. I've found two shotguns but also my other Zoom with a nice big foam windshield. I rarely use the plug on mics, but this could be a good outing for it!
Good luck, ive never had to record outdoors, just run a PA.
I've played outdoors quite a bit over my years but as a musician, never FOH. I always tried to not let the wind effect my performance. Blowing monitors and no bass. I sure liked it when people got close to the front of the stage. The crowd would hold the sound in which made it everything sound so much better.
Well - gear is packed, batteries charged and it's raining. Not hard - just mizzle. No word if it's on or off, so it will either get nicer, or not. A friend has also told me that the site is next door to where an international undersea cable has just been brought ashore and they're digging up the paths. I wonder if they work Sundays?
Fun thread...If you could share a picture of where you are, that would be fun!
Here are a couple of views - you can find the place on google maps or Google earth - Pakefield Lowestoft will work, and then match these views. The weather is now brighter - but there is a sharp wind coming in from the east - and you'll see that the church, and the field to the north-east where they will be, is right on the top of the cliffs!
They intend warming up inside, then moving outside. It's a popular walking area - and the clifftop path is busy, so prep will be fun. As I'm not actually expecting much - I'll take some pictures of the setup, which will probably serve as a DON'T DO IT LIKE THIS - topic! The organiser asked if it was correct I have a drone - that would be good pictures?? Wind noise and a buzzing drone? I said I had, but there wasn't time to charge the batteries.
I notice you can upload audio here, but not images?
Thanks for the images. Fun seeing a different side of the world. Its nice you can have outdoor music again. No Masks?
Re uploading images: The current default Editor (black editor) is called Standard. It's clean and simple but lacks upload functions.
If you ever want to upload an image, audio etc, change the Text format Standard editor to Basic HTML. This editor includes an in depth media section (image uploads, audio, video and some linking and page creation tools).
If you are planning to add more than just text in a post, switch the editor before hand.
Summary, to upload an image Select Basic HTML, save it and the you have a full editor to work with. To upload an image look for the image upload icon and you are good to go.
Well, set up. A person tasked with health and safety has objected to every cable, mic stand and tripod so far. It blowing fog in from the sea and somebody nearby is playing the flute badly. More later!
Did it work? Well, from a technical perspective. One shotgun (Senn 416) on the small bunch of men - from a distance of around 5-6m, and another on the altos and sopranos, but favouring the sopranos, simply because the layout was very wide and the boom stand had to be further out than I liked so around 4m to sopranos and 6m to altos. Zoom with the X/Y mic on with windshield and as I guessed, the keyboard was a horrible Yamaha, which was fed into their little PA to give the distant singers a piano to pitch to. To be honest, I'm not sure that worked very well. This left me with a thought - I tried a DI box, but it seemed on headphones to be clean but very odd sounding - I think the shorting of the stereo output with a mono jack really upsets these Yamaha and you get a phasey thin sound. So, I taped an SM57 emergency mic to the keyboard stand and sent that to a channel on the Zoom - a bit boomy but it gives me a solo piano with no singing. Cameras both had their small 'short shotguns' and it was a bit breezy, but the actual balance was OK. So looking and listening while copying the cards - I have L/R, L, R, Keys, Cam1 audio and Cam 2 audio - athough cam 2 was on a ronin, so going all over the place and the sound balance is not really useful. The audio recording went fine, the levels I set at the quick sing through of one piece were a good guess. I did my usual thing that with amateur choirs, sound checks will be very quiet compared to the real thing. I got that right. I had an issue with the camera on the Ronin. I thought I put in an empty card but mixed it up with another and it filled up and stopped. No excuse - I use a really bright monitor that you can see in daylight on the Ronin, but I didn't have it set to display status - and I missed the clock counting down to full on the camera VF. Stupid mistake, but the other camera has OK content I think. At the end - the organiser mentioned making the finished thing a shorter highlights thing - so that sounds good to me. Problems. None really from the technical aspect but Covid shutdown mean this keen amateur choir had not sung together for a very long time. Pitching was a bit iffy in places and they were somewhat loose - but - very keen. No real noises to annoy that I have noticed so far. I think I'll have a stereo main mix from the L/R on the Zoom, and then have the hard left and right from the shotguns for artificial extra width. Clearly reverb that you would normally use is out, so blending will be tricky. I'm wondering if deliberately delaying the hard left and right compared to the centre might give me a more double tracked thickening? I'll need to fiddle and see. I did remember to do a sync clap before they started which made aligning the tracks not too tricky in the editor. Tomorrow I should be able to pull a few bits out and post them up. It's my first choral recording outside, and with a better and more experienced choir I think it could have been quite good.
What did it sound like?
Well - I have to say that this is probably a very good example for newcomers to listen to, in how NOT to do a recording. The zoom stereo recording with the X/Y head on did a pretty good job on the stereo imaging, but the little foam windshield was unable to protect it from the wind - which was not remotely high, but a breeze. The two shotguns also did a pretty good job, with less wind, as they were in zeppelin style housings, and one had a dead cat style outer cover and the other a fabric one - the problem was that (and you can clearly hear this) they focussed on individuals, and with this amateur choir, the most enthusiatic are not always the most accurate, or er, tuneful. The mix was about 70% Zoom, but I had to use the shotguns because the wind was terrible in some sections. These were panned hard left and right.
Lessons to remember.
Make sure the person who books you tells you all the details. I nearly ran out of setup and soundchecking time, but made it. The flute I heard and assumed was somewhere local was in fact a soloist in one song. She walked out and set herself up with a music stand outside the camera field of view between full left and right. Zoomed out I had to miss at least two people. She was also outside of the capture area of the shotgun, but did manage to creep in a little to the stereo recording, but if I had known, I'd have covered her. Amateur choirs need lots of help, and outside with no reverb, the dry acoustic reveals everything. The conductor also used a mic between pieces. A cheap 58 looking thing, which she held as if it was a side fire mic. Surprisingly it didn't do too badly, despite pointing at the sky, not her mouth. In the little clip, you'll hear wind, birds, other strange noises and some other unidentifable things. It's a very good 'how not to do a recording' really. With no info, little setup and because I was a one-man band doing cameras too - no monitoring. Mics set initially with headphones in the zoom. Levels set with educated guess work and that was that.
What else wen't wrong? Well I had plenty of space on the zoom card, despite having 12Gb of previous material. The trouble was, I put that card in the B camera, and on the Ronin - I didn't notice the record stopped for 8 minutes. The DI box that didn't work, didn't work because I thought there was a battery in it, and there wasn't, and 48V was turned off on that zoom channel! The SM57 emergency mic sounded quite nice till the pianist got a bit energetic and it made a giood drum kit. My hatred of cheap Yamaha pianos has not abated. Luckily it got into the left hand shotgun, which actually captured the awful sound pretty well - it was a distant tinny noise in the L/R.
What will I retain for future use?
I'm actually surprised the 416s did this well frankly - I've always been happy with them for speaking, but they did have surprising clarity. Maybe I need to invest in cable rubber protection? I have always avoided this stuff, believing it was more likely to be a trip hazard than a cable. A couple of elderly people did trip, nearly - but I took purple cable, and it was quite visible against the grass.
It was frankly, a poor recording, but not too much I could have done to improve it with the job pretty much arranged as a 'this is what it is' gig. I don't think the conductor will like it very much, but 18 months of zoom means they know the parts, but the balance and tuning issues were pretty tough on them - but they had a good time, and that I think was the intent.