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MUlti MUlti Multi Multitracking an Orchestra!!

Well I just got a call from a guy who wanted to rent 15 HD24 machinces to track a full orchestra. every person gets a mic. Is this a common thing, it cant be. I could'nt believe it! I thought he was joking at first. I dont think Michael Jackson or the smashing pumpkins even had this many tracks. Anyway has anybody ever done this? and what in the world was that like?

This is also a good opportunity for me to get advice on how to track an orchestra in general. I have done it a few times a couple different ways. First way is to set up 2 pairs of cardioid mics about 8 feet off the ground set about 10-15 feet away facing the group spaced evenly across the front of the auditorium. Second way is to do a left right center set up all cardioid same height and distance . Both ways included spot mics on soloists if needed. Sounds good but Im getting a pair of 414s so now I have polar patterns available and thought I would ask yall to start my research.

Comments

TheJackAttack Thu, 02/25/2010 - 17:41

If you are talking about normal orchestral performances and performance stages, then no that isn't normal. Normal would be a center array of some sort-Decca Tree, M/S, Blumlein, ORTF, NOS whatever. Usually the main array is behind the conductor four or six feet or so and above his/her head about ten feet. This is supported by mic's on the wings and then in very elaborate setups by spot mic's on soloists. Tweak to taste.

90-95% of your sound in the mix will be from your center array. Very little of anything else is added in generally unless a soloist needs to come out a stitch. It's up to the conductor to balance the sound not the sound engineer. There are like 30 or so mic's hanging around the stage of Chicago Symphony and they may all even be going to a recorder, but I'd bet only about 3-5 are being utilized at any given time. Someone here may have better details on that and if so they'll speak up I'm sure.

Now, for movie scoring soundstages that can be different. I've played sessions where everyone had a mic and every section had area mic's plus main arrays out front. You couldn't prove by me that they were all used either but they were there. 75 piece orchestra + area mics + main array could be a ton o' tracks.

What's this for anyway?

studio33 Thu, 02/25/2010 - 20:52

I have no Idea what it was for but the guy that called me said that he needed that many tracks. His words were "Thats what their asking for so I'm gonna do it". I mean thats360 tracks man! That statement tells me that he's either an engineer that is being directed by a producer to do this and doesn't know any better and or doesn't know how to tell a producer or conductor that they are wasting money or a guy that's not involved other than organizing the rental of these machines and doesn't care a lick. Thanks for the advice about the micing techniques. I learned them in school but I havent recorded orchestras much till now. now that I have a decent pair of mics to get started doing this the right way I cant wait to do it again. My pair of c414s were waiting on the porch for me when I got home. I never thought i would feel like this about a pair of mics. Im sure the honeymoon will wear off soon but im going to enjoy it while its here!!!!

TheJackAttack Thu, 02/25/2010 - 21:11

It's only 180 tracks at 88.2k. If you are going with the 414's as the main pair then I'd recommend renting a third one. Set them all up in omni as a Decca tree. Rule of thumb is roughly twice as wide as it is to the front. All mic's 1m from the center point. You can read a wiki [[url=http://[/URL]="http://en.wikipedia…"]here[/]="http://en.wikipedia…"]here[/]. Where you are going to come up with 75 other mic's as a beginner is the $100,000 question.

TheJackAttack Fri, 02/26/2010 - 07:55

I think 180 tracks at 88.2K would be sufficient for redundancy. That would get you 90 twice.

Also, I used a poor turn of phrase in my last post. I did not intend to refer to the OP as a beginner since I don't know him/her. Just the difficulty in coming up with 90 mics suitable for an orchestral recording. Talk about your nightmare additive effects if one used cheap chinese condensers with the ubiquitous high end. Of couse, I still think that unless it's a movie scoring session the job request is seriously ill informed. Someone probably saw some special feature on a DVD that panned an orchestra in Hollywood.

anonymous Fri, 02/26/2010 - 08:22

TheJackAttack, post: 300788 wrote: I think 180 tracks at 88.2K would be sufficient for redundancy. That would get you 90 twice.

Also, I used a poor turn of phrase in my last post. I did not intend to refer to the OP as a beginner since I don't know him/her. Just the difficulty in coming up with 90 mics suitable for an orchestral recording. Talk about your nightmare additive effects if one used cheap chinese condensers with the ubiquitous high end. Of couse, I still think that unless it's a movie scoring session the job request is seriously ill informed. Someone probably saw some special feature on a DVD that panned an orchestra in Hollywood.

Absolutely - the point I was badly trying to make is that as soon as you add redundancy the track count comes down quickly.

Other factors that could come in to play are things like is it a crossover band? Is it, for example, a full orchestra that's complementing another band / multiple singers etc...if you've got an additional drum kit that needs fully micing (inc top and bottom...some producers are quite specific) and / or enhanced percussion sections then the tracks can get swallowed very easily. Is it outside? Sometimes to get the balance you need on an OB that number of mics is apparently needed.... the line list for gigs like that can be scary...

Of course it could be overkill as suggested ;)

Boswell Fri, 02/26/2010 - 08:31

TheJackAttack, post: 300788 wrote: Just the difficulty in coming up with 90 mics suitable for an orchestral recording. Talk about your nightmare additive effects if one used cheap chinese condensers with the ubiquitous high end.

Oh, I don't know about that. 89 Chinese mics (not connected) and an AKG C24 out front might work quite nicely.

TheJackAttack Fri, 02/26/2010 - 08:56

Boswell, that reminds me of the section of control board that I used to set aside for conductors. They could turn the knobs to adjust for "taste." Of course the knobs themselves weren't routed anywhere at all.

Also agreed, a high quality stereo mic is an excellent choice for the main array. The OP might be able to rent a C24 or C424 or more likely on this side of the pond, a Royer SF24.

blaumph2cool Fri, 02/26/2010 - 09:29

Boswell, post: 300791 wrote: Oh, I don't know about that. 89 Chinese mics (not connected) and an AKG C24 out front might work quite nicely.

That is awesome. I once did that to a drummer who wanted every single piece of his 9 pc kit miced. I ended up muting all but the OH, Kick and a little bit of snare, he never knew the better and was satisfied with the result.

Customer satisfied + Not sounding like crap = Good

-Chris

hueseph Sat, 02/27/2010 - 16:08

blaumph2cool, post: 300796 wrote: That is awesome. I once did that to a drummer who wanted every single piece of his 9 pc kit miced. I ended up muting all but the OH, Kick and a little bit of snare, he never knew the better and was satisfied with the result.

Customer satisfied + Not sounding like crap = Good

-Chris

I've mic'd a full on double kick 8 piece drum set before. It wasn't pretty and after working out all the phase issues, it was a nightmare to mix. It can be done but a rack full of Keypex gates sure makes thing easier.

Thomas W. Bethel Sun, 02/28/2010 - 04:15

The most microphones I have ever seen used was 22 and that was at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in 1990 with Leonard Slatkin conducting the American Soviet Youth Orchestra. The recording engineer was Andreas Neubronner. It sounded like he used one stereo microphone but of course he is very good at what he does and his recordings of the San Fransisco Orchestra are legendary. I personally think that one microphone per player is overkill and you are going to have more phase problems than you can possibly imagine. The normal rule is 1 to 3 (one foot away - 3 feet to the next microphone) and in the string, woodwind and brass sections you are not going to have that space to work with. Also the mix down is going to be a real PITA.

Best of luck and let us know how it all goes.

Thomas W. Bethel Sun, 02/28/2010 - 04:20

hueseph, post: 300905 wrote: I've mic'd a full on double kick 8 piece drum set before. It wasn't pretty and after working out all the phase issues, it was a nightmare to mix. It can be done but a rack full of Keypex gates sure makes thing easier.

I was recording and broadcasting a national tour date of Tanya Tucker. She had the largest percussion setup I have ever seen. She wanted 32 microphones on her drum set for the recording/broadcasting. I had a 24 input mixing console. Obviously I could not honor her request and still mic the rest of the band. We finally did it with 8 microphones on her drums. It sounded GREAT! and she was pleased.

soapfloats Sun, 02/28/2010 - 22:13

Studio33 -

I think there's a great lesson to be learned by this discussion.

You knew the request didn't make any sense.
You also realize that people sometimes make senseless/unfulfillable requests.
So, sometimes you just gotta lie and seem to fulfill that request.

I remember a current thread where this very notion was discussed (dummy mics, as Boswell suggested).
Of course, your situation is unique, as the other fella seems to be making the decisions, and you're just supplying the HDs. Am I right?
If so, my advice is to fill his order and pass on your (and our) suggestions.
If you two can come to terms on a way to do this, you'll save him a load of headache and money, and have a loyal client for life.

drumrob Mon, 03/01/2010 - 16:03

I once was hired as a shooter for a "Behind the Scenes" video of the making of a CD. This was for an opera singer, accompanied by a full, or at least very close to full, orchestra. I don't remember for sure if they miced every instrument, but I know that there were at least several mics per section. Still a ton of mics and stands around the stage. They had a couple of guys to run "monitors" through a board that had to have at least 40 inputs. The mics were run through pres and straight to a ProTools rig separate of the monitor mixer. The engineer (whose name I don't remember) was apparently a well-known and respected classical engineer. So I guess it can happen. It does seem like a balancing nightmare to me!

Have fun!

Rob

anonymous Mon, 03/01/2010 - 23:27

Aural Reject, post: 300999 wrote: It still happens, though....3 Tenors Live from Wembley.... >90 channels, all Schoeps iirc.....sometimes these things DO happen (and sometimes the engineer DOES 'argue' the track count down but sometimes there's no other option....)

Agreed - but a the large number of mics in this instance would be for the PA Mix. And the engineers doing jobs like this do know their stuff

anonymous Mon, 03/01/2010 - 23:45

lell010, post: 301037 wrote: Agreed - but a the large number of mics in this instance would be for the PA Mix. And the engineers doing jobs like this do know their stuff

Absolutely - it makes for an interesting time plugging the splits if you're forced to use copper cables on a job like that :-)

As you know, even if some / most of the channels don't make it into the mix they could well be recorded - it can sometimes make it easier to fudge the balance when the mics are a little suboptimal which could happen for a variety of reasons, including visuals etc.

I'm lucky enough to have done a few jobs with one of the engineers who does this kind of this thing (relatively) regularly and I learn something new about every 2.3 seconds!

Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 03/02/2010 - 04:44

Having worked in TV as an audio engineer I want to add that when the director zooms in on the flute player he wants to HEAR the flute player so you have to have a microphone you can bring up. Much is recorded for later use (DVDs CDs of the performance) and much, as others have pointed out is for the sound reinforcement. Most directors I worked with wanted perfect sound but did want to see any microphones - go figure!

BobRogers Tue, 03/02/2010 - 14:19

Thomas W. Bethel, post: 301047 wrote: Having worked in TV as an audio engineer I want to add that when the director zooms in on the flute player he wants to HEAR the flute player so you have to have a microphone you can bring up....

That actually makes sense to me as an explanation. The basic mix may be the kind of standard thing we have been talking about. Most of the "extra" tracks may never be used. They're just thrown in there in case the third violist is particularly "camera ready" and you want to bring her up in the mix for her five second closeup. Seems inefficient, but in the scope of a big budget project it may be the kind of expense and effort that gets spent to get a dozen five second sound clips. Still, it's another one for the file on why the media businesses are in trouble.

TheJackAttack Tue, 03/02/2010 - 14:33

Some of the best live broadcast production is done by ORF on the Vienna Phil New Year's Day concerts. Phenomenal sound and production both for the live broadcast and the post concert DVD/CD. I don't remember seeing many or any mic's on stage itself but they have the advantage of one of the great concert halls in the Musikverein and an orchestra that is always balanced and musical.

Of course the best part of the concert is when Jobstl or Tomboeck plays the opening of the Blue Danube. But I may be prejudiced on that.

Boswell Wed, 03/03/2010 - 03:01

Thomas W. Bethel, post: 301047 wrote: Having worked in TV as an audio engineer I want to add that when the director zooms in on the flute player he wants to HEAR the flute player so you have to have a microphone you can bring up. Much is recorded for later use (DVDs CDs of the performance) and much, as others have pointed out is for the sound reinforcement. Most directors I worked with wanted perfect sound but did want to see any microphones - go figure!

It's exactly the pimping up the sound for TV that I dislike so much about most televised orchestral concerts. The conductor does the job of balancing the sound from the band, and it's the sound engineer's job to capture that balanced sound. If to do that he has to use spot mics on certain sections of the orchestra, all well and good, but it should be a static mix that is independent of the video content.

The Vienna New Year's Day concerts are an example of how televising of concerts should be done, as John D mentioned. The man behind the production of those for many years was Brian Large, and his legacy has, by and large, been carried on. Careful examination of the images from Vienna shows discrete DPAs on thin curved-neck stands dotted around, as well as 3 or 4 overheads suspended on very thin cable from the high ceiling.

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 03/03/2010 - 05:37

When you attend a concert your ears and eyes work together and when someone starts playing a flute solo your mind kicks in and with your eyes and ears together lets you zoom in mentally on the flute player. If you are broadcasting the same event the camera is on the flute player but the audio engineer needs to bring it up in the mix or the person watching at home will think there is something wrong if they cannot hear the flute and all the hear is the overall orchestra. Most times there are only a few spot microphones and their placement is worked out in rehearsals so you normally would NOT mic every instrument. I agree 100% with Boswell's statement above but if the director wants to hear the flute the audio engineer has to give him what he wants or he probably will not be doing many more remotes with the director. It is the law of supply and demand. The director demands the sound and you, as the audio engineer, supply it.

We did a large orchestra a choir recording, television and radio broadcast. I did the recording. The overall "sound" of the orchestra was from an AKG 422 flying over the orchestra conductors head. That feed went to everyone. The TV people put up some spot microphones as needed and we also had a Neumann SM-69 flying over the chorus and that feed also was made available to everyone. The concert came off well. The recording sounded GREAT the radio broadcast came off well since they were just using our feeds from the two microphones and TV came off well because they were using our feed as well as some carefully selected and placed spot microphones. It can work but...there needs to be a lot of cooperation and everyone has to be on the same page. The TV director had an assistant orchestra director with a score sitting next to him telling him when the next soloist was going to play/sing so he could do tight shots. The rehearsal went very well but we spotted some problems and were able to get them corrected before the broadcast. This was all done live and came off without problems. To quote a famous quote by Hannibal of the "A" Team "I love it when a plan comes together"