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Live Recording/Mixing

I'm new to the forum and to recording in general and I have couple of questions that have been nagging at me for a while. Early next year we are going to be putting on a musical and I would like to record the songs from the soundtrack to sell to the audience. We already have the licesnsening figured out and have permission to do so. As I try to plan ahead I would like to work out the chinks beforehand. So heres what we've got.

The actors will be on stage with wirless headsets (Audio-Technicas I believe)
The band will be backstage (ranging from guitars to brass instrumetns).

I would like to know the best way to mic the band for recording and what type of mics to use. They will be confined to a small space in a small studio theatre (behind the stage). If I could use one decent mic to capture all the sound, that would be excelent, but I know things do have to be evened out. Mixing for the sound in the theatre is not a problem, its the recording that we need to work out. I would also like to capture the audience with out it creating feedback in the speakers. I also have a small Zoom H2N recorder that has great sound quailty and can incorporate that in as well.

Other random info: the DAW we have is Pro Tools First. We have an X32 Compact. I did a recording for our last musical (mostly as a test for me) using the USB feature on the X32, and it came out OK. We didn't mic the instuments very much as there wasn't a need to in the small theatre.

Any help or suggestions are greatly appreicated. Thanks!


pcrecord Mon, 11/02/2015 - 03:55

Hi Matt !

Are you in charge of the sound for the assistance FOH ??

Usually if the band is in another room, it depends on the budget and organisation. If the accoustic of the room isn't so bad, you could use a stereo pair of mic well placed, get that mixed with the heardsets and record with any recording system, the zoom what ever you have available with protools..

Get the audience without feedback is easy, put on or two mics, send them to recording but not to the PA.

But if a quality recording in live situation, it's another story. This would meen a full recording setup of the instruments (one mic per instrument or section) Having a split snake and 2 mixers, 1 for the audience and 1 for the recording.

Questions like that gets ask all the time. The problem for me is to evaluate where you are and where you want to go.. PRO or Amateur or any shades in between... ;)

DonnyThompson Mon, 11/02/2015 - 06:18

pcrecord, post: 433552, member: 46460 wrote: This would meen a full recording setup of the instruments (one mic per instrument or section) Having a split snake and 2 mixers, 1 for the audience and 1 for the recording.

And, the types of mics you use will also determine the quality. An XY/Coincidental pair of condensers could work very well in this situation, although it's difficult to recommend anything in particular with concrete assurance without actually being there.

The Zoom might just be everything you need; those recorders have exceptional sound quality; and depending on what pattern(s) your particular model has, you could record XY at 90º or 120º; and some Zoom models will even let you record in surround
( 2 channel or 4 channel).

If it were me, I wouldn't worry as much about capturing the audience in stereo - personally I think mono would be fine, and you could do this by using a Condenser with an Omni feature, pointed at the audience; at which point you could adjust levels afterwards (in post production) in Pro Tools. A cardioid pattern could work, but it will be more directionally sensitive. One trick to consider is to mic the audience from behind, as opposed to in front of them. This helps to lessen the chance of some goofy kid ( or adult) stepping up to it and talking or singing into it. The other benefit to this is that you'll get a nice phase coherent FOH signal from the PA ( although as Marco mentioned, you want to bus this mic to a recording device only, not back to the PA! ) that you can use to support the other tracks that you are recording behind the stage. You might have to do a bit of time aligning on them, because it will be receiving a signal that's slightly delayed from that of the more direct recordings back stage, but if you are using PT, you should be able to line it right up with the instrument tracks.

If you don't want to use the Zoom, or if you don't like the results, then you have some other options, depending on your budget, of course - any good condenser mic ( 2 of them, matched models) will work fine as XY mics, but there are models that are known for their exceptional response; AKG 414's are very popular, as are small condenser mics like Neuman's KM Series... but, they aren't cheap. As with anything, quality is generally determined by price. There are companies that rent pro gear though - mics included - Dreamhire is one that rents all kinds of equipment on daily, weekly and monthly terms.

Although you didn't mention in your post which mics you currently have - you might not need to get anything at all, depending on what you already have.

Also, will you have a chance to record a dress rehearsal - or to get in there in plenty of time and check levels and such before the show starts? Doing something like this, walking in cold, is not really the best way to insure optimal results. ;)

dvdhawk Mon, 11/02/2015 - 11:01

I'm off to high-school-musical-purgatory all of next week, so I'm not unfamiliar with some of the challenges you'll be up against.

I'm surprised you were able to get permission from the playwrights, composers, and publishers involved, to record and subsequently sell the recordings. These things are usually VERY protective and extremely restrictive in terms of copyrights, so that's a major hurdle cleared well in advance.

I'm not nearly as familiar with the X32 series as I am the PreSonus StudioLive series, but recording 32 tracks while simultaneously mixing FOH should be as easy as connecting a computer to the USB port of the X32 - as you've done before using 'the USB feature'. I assume the x32 lets you record either pre or post processing like the SL does. Then you can go nuts in ProTools slicing, dicing, and editing to your heart's content. Recording room mics without sending them to the FOH speakers should be as easy as unassigning those specific channels from any of the analog Subgroup or Main outputs. Those channels won't be routed to the speakers, but their tracks will still record with no fear of any feedback FOH.

I've never mixed a show with the pit orchestra backstage that's got to be a little weird. There's apparently a snake in place to get X# of channels from the backstage studio to the FOH mixer. So you're basically tasked with getting the most mics, in as many of the right places as possible, within the number of channels available. There's no substitute for walking all around the group (while they're all playing) carefully listening for the sweet spot(s) for the group as a whole, the sections, and the individual instruments. Mark the spots that sounded best with some (not overly sticky) tape on the floor indicating which direction you were facing. Put the mic(s) on the spot(s) marked at about ear-height, pointing the right direction(s), and you're already miles ahead of what you would get by simply guessing from a distance.

The good news, as Donny mentioned, you'll probably have several full rehearsals with the pit and several performances to experiment with mic positions.

The bad news, this band backstage arrangement will almost certainly require stage monitors for the conductor and pit to hear the vocalists and their cues + whatever instruments they need pumped through them. And those monitors are liable to really muddy up your chances of just using a good stereo pair to mic the pit. For me, nothing ruins the sweet natural tone of real instruments faster than jamming a loudspeaker of some kind in there. Even when the pit is very well behaved (volume-wise) and sitting right off the apron they always seem to need monitor wedges to hear some of the key instruments, and more importantly, the actors over the fray.

Random thoughts:

  • Your computer will need sufficient hard drive space and speed to record 32 tracks for a couple hours per attempt - a bona fide (7200 RPM, or better) A/V hard drive that can read/write for hours continuously without overheating would always be preferable for tracking and mixing/editing audio or video.
  • Some of the electronic instruments may require direct boxes, but the challenge there is making the DI signal sound like it's in the same space as the rest of the ensemble and the cast using artificial reverb.
  • Are there enough wireless systems so that every single person with a speaking / singing role is mic'ed?
  • The commonly used hanging condenser mics are nearly useless, but can be used as your audience mics (if you remove them from FOH).
  • Hidden boundary mics may also be useful for recording purposes.
  • Be aware of noisy backstage dimmer racks full of fans, ceiling fans, and HVAC air-handlers in general. They may turn more of these noisy things on, or up, for a performance than they did at any of the rehearsals.
  • If you put your audience mic at the back of the room, make sure it's well away from any noisy fans in spotlights (and their operators), plus anyone else who might be on the production intercom system.
  • People with young/fussy children often sit toward the back so they can make a quick exit if the kid starts squawking. A little ProTools magic could easily cut out those sorts of extraneous noises, (baby crying - door opening and closing - kid screaming all the way down the hall) as long as you're not relying too heavily on the room mic(s).
class="xf-ul"> A recording with a retail-ready finished product under these circumstances is a pretty big undertaking, but it's by no means impossible. Especially if you're willing and able to put in the time experimenting / recording / analyzing the results / making adjustments / repeat as needed. You'll learn as you go what things worked well, and what things didn't pan out. Working in your favor; you'll probably have more than one crack at it, and the fact that you've secured the necessary licensing, and you're thinking and planning ahead - so that's a good start.

Also worth considering; if you become overwhelmed, or rental fees for additional gear start adding up - we can recommend a professional not far from you with an excellent mobile-recording rig.

In any case, it's a great learning experience for a good cause.

bouldersound Tue, 11/03/2015 - 12:30

If the sound and mix in the room is really good then it may be a simple matter of one X/Y pair in the room capturing the audience, stage sound and reinforcement, plus a stereo feed from the board, each pair on separate stereo tracks. Time align the two pairs, eq, compress, balance and done.

If the sound and/or mix in the room is not quite ideal then it's a matter of the full on split setup described above. I would use at least two mics on the audience, spaced far apart, on stage aimed away from the performers and reinforcement, high enough to avoid emphasizing any one part of the audience. I might use a super- or hyper-cardiod pattern and I'd probably high-pass them to reduce bleed from the reinforcement system.

paulears Wed, 11/04/2015 - 13:11

Much depends on the live sound. The theatre show I'm in charge of that starts the end of next week is fairly big budget - advance bookings are over a million pounds so far. The theatre seats just over 1000 people and the band is a seven piece - bass, drums, keys, sax, trumpet, percussion, and one other, probably 2nd keys. All the instruments will be close miked in the orchestra pit, which extends under the stage. All cast have headsets (DPAs) and the front edge of the stage has 5 boundary mics evenly spaced across it. If we want to, we can do record a 'cast album', but we won't of course - it wouldn't work for us, the return would be minimal. The rights would be a killer. Here in the UK, you need to sell an awful lot of product to meet the costs of clearance, in fact, although this production is self-contained, rights wise, other ones we run use popular music, and cost a fortune to perform live, let alone record. Even the amateur suffer here with Weinberger and the others specifically banning all recording. Glad you sorted that out at least!

The quality of these recordings is fine, and I routinely record random performances just in case one of the leads loses their voice and we can if necessary do a tricky number to playback. Close miking is the only way to do it, and this means enough channels - which we're lucky enough to have. Last year we also started using a multitrack playback system for some numbers where the routines mean the dancers and performers cannot sing and dance at the same time. The same track may be used in other productions elsewhere, and they just drop out their live musicians tracks. As every track is close miked, we can swap sources easily. Theatre isn't about realism so ambient recording techniques are just too uncontrolled. Yelping audience members wreck these types of recordings, and mistakes happen - so close mics are the key.

Recording with a remote orchestra is no different from them being in the pit - you don't need to see them. The MD will need a monitor for video and a monitor for audio, none of the others will - and for us, they will have cans for the click. The MD fires the tracks, that usually come from Qlab on a mac for playback. I cannot see any circumstance where I would attempt a direct to stereo recording for these kinds of shows with an audience - far too easy to wreck.

Most importantly is the wireless. This is the danger area for good recording (and good live sound too of course) With musicals, they are a pain in the bum - and I always have a Sound 2 to look after these on stage. Money well spent. Proper management is needed here, and proper equipment. It's not the mics or the packs - it's antenna systems and proper testing and monitoring. Not something first timers ever get right. Splutters, pops and bangs are normal.

Don't even rely on the system to be set up properly frequency wise - hire firms rarely do this for you unless you ask.

I wish you luck, you'll need it!



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