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Untreated "studio" vs. church for album recording
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obiejon1
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6th April 2011
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Question Untreated "studio" vs. church for album recording

I'm doing my first professional engineering/producing job and i've got a room with nice acoustics but it isn't remotely soundproof from the street.

I'm debating whether I should take the opportunity to instead record in a not too swimmy church. What different mic techniques can you suggest that I use to record a acoustic guitar singer/songwriter in a huge space as opposed to a studio? I was going to be using a sm7b on voice and a c414eb on guitar (hes not going to multitrack)

basically I'm just wondering if there is a good reason why albums aren't made in beautiful acoustic environments (or if they are point me to them)

Thanks!
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Quote:
basically I'm just wondering if there is a good reason why albums aren't made in beautiful acoustic environments (or if they are point me to them)

Thanks!
Many are, but rarely in the popular music scene. That is because tight edits and punch ins are really only doable in a dead environment. Also, a studio gives you more control of the ambiance.

I really don't think vocal and guitar would be best served in a highly reverberant church unless you are talking renaissance mandolin and voice.
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The OP described the space as "not too swimmy" which does not equal "highly reverberant" to me. What I am curious about is why the guitar is not being recorded in stereo?

As for the answer to the bigger question (why not more in a beautiful acoustic) I think it gets down to control. Studios generally don't sound good, but everything is easier to control-- esp outside noise.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonare View Post
The OP described the space as "not too swimmy" which does not equal "highly reverberant" to me.
How do you know exactly what it means? I have no idea what it translates to...

Quote:
What I am curious about is why the guitar is not being recorded in stereo?
Guitars are mono instruments why should they be recorded in stereo, is there a new rule about that somewhere?

Quote:
Studios generally don't sound good,
Are you talking about professional studios, or the converted bedrooms and basements that pose as studios?

Criteria, Abbey Road, Compass Point, Cresent Moon, Pluss XXX, Real World, Air, etc., this is just a very short list of great sounding studios, I could make a list several pages long that proves your statement wrong but I don't think it will be necessary.

There are a numbed of reasons why people don't record in those spaces. One of the most obvious is that it's just not practical in most situations, first you have to get permission, which is not always easy. A lot of these spaces are in continuous use and the prospect of setting up and tearing down tons of equipment on a daily basis is no appealing. Another reason is that the long uncontrolled reverberation times of most can easily become problematic especially when recording non acoustic or very loud instruments.

Natural reverb can be good...but only if it is exactly the type and length you want, otherwise it's just a nuisance, and not every band, producer or song is looking for 'that' sound. There could also be problems with noise (coming in and going out) control if the space is not acoustically isolated from the environment. A properly designed and built studio will not have these problems, it will also offer better convenience for the production of your record.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Guitars are mono instruments why should they be recorded in stereo, is there a new rule about that somewhere?
I am not aware of the existence of any any mono acoustic instruments
And than if you are recording in a nice room or a well sounding church (doesn't really matter which one), with two instruments only, why not to capture the big picture and have some sense a real space in the mix instead of just a spot?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Are you talking about professional studios, or the converted bedrooms and basements that pose as studios?

Criteria, Abbey Road, Compass Point, Cresent Moon, Pluss XXX, Real World, Air, etc., this is just a very short list of great sounding studios, I could make a list several pages long that proves your statement wrong but I don't think it will be necessary.
Well, if he could afford such studios than I would say: "Go for it and don't even think about it." But maybe this is not the case...
Maybe we need a bit more information first...
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thanks for your replies, the reason I wasn't planning on stereo or m/s was just technical, the duet only has only 2 channels and I really want to capture the energy of a "live" performance. I'm thinking about recording both sources in one pass and then try to overdub just guitar (maybe taking out the first take later) so I can use the m/s. As far as the acoustics of a church go, I was curious about mic placement. If I mic'd the same distance away as in my studio, would it make much difference (probably a stupid q but it seems like if I wanted to capture the acoustics of the space I would back up)
The church is about 3/10 on a scale of a pain in the ass to record in, I'm still trying to figure out whether its worth it. From what I'm hearing only if I really like the exact amount of actual reverb. I'm working ITB on even the best software plugs sound really fake (not to mention eating up all my cpu power) so I would really love to not have to deal with all that.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obiejon1 View Post
I'm doing my first professional engineering/producing job and i've got a room with nice acoustics but it isn't remotely soundproof from the street.

I'm debating whether I should take the opportunity to instead record in a not too swimmy church. What different mic techniques can you suggest that I use to record a acoustic guitar singer/songwriter in a huge space as opposed to a studio? I was going to be using a sm7b on voice and a c414eb on guitar (hes not going to multitrack)

basically I'm just wondering if there is a good reason why albums aren't made in beautiful acoustic environments (or if they are point me to them)

Thanks!
If the Church reverberation suits that music style go for it.

There are many albums recorded in beautiful acousitc environments - this whole "Remote..." forum is dedicated to that FYI...

Just use sm7b on voice as normally you would do and put C414 on guitar (not too close) in figure 8 to get less voice in it. Experiment with the position to get the best sound - you will also get quite some reverb in that mic and just a bit in the vocal mic to make it sound sexy.

I would go to that Church if you can freely use it without any disturbances - traffic outside, religious people praying while you try to record.

If you have more mics - use additional stereo pair further away to get even more acoustics and depth.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener View Post
Just use sm7b on voice as normally you would do and put C414 on guitar (not too close) in figure 8 to get less voice in it. Experiment with the position to get the best sound - you will also get quite some reverb in that mic and just a bit in the vocal mic to make it sound sexy.
This is a classic technique and could work very well if done right. I'd say if you're after a live recording do that. It will introduce one big problem though.

How are you going to get a full picture with a good stereo width and no holes in the mix?

I mean, two mono mics don't make stereo. I would have been cool to have two mics for the guitar or as suggested another pair for the whole picture. But you probably won't.

So this is something which you could probably address with overdubbing the guitar, backing vocals, etc. And since you won't be able to go for "right there in this room" sound (in other words realistic sound), why not to go a bit more creative and do some additional takes to fill in those hole in the mix... Or maybe think from now about the use of some effect ITB. That's what I probably would do - but than it depends on the music and the customer too.
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The most important/useful thing about old churches is usually the very high ceiling (that's a good thing). High ceilings are great for acoustic instruments and vocals.

Recording in large spaces like churches can sometimes achieve best results if you locate the mics and source as far away as possible from the side walls. In other words, in the central zone of the space. This helps ensure the reflections arrive at the mics much later than the direct sound. You can also reduce the affect of reflections by use of hanging duvets or velocity absorbers in appropriate places around the source and/or mics.

Some churches sound great. Some are acoustic nightmares. Many sound best when filled with people....

Sean
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small churches are not too wet to record a singer/songwriter if you don't need punch-ins. I am surprised how much room mikes it takes to make a space really big (you should probably use some for the width too).
i'd put the c414 in figure 8 and face the null towards the singers mouth to avoid phasing later on.
Also i would act as if i totally knew what i was doing!

good luck

BTW
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Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Guitars are mono instruments
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I can point out hundreds of albums that were made in strange environments.

Everything I do now is far away from any studio. I dig it. No interest in being in a studio! Something magic about being in new environments every time.

If you want suggestions for albums...

bon iver- for emma- cabin in wisconsin with cheap gear.

waterlily acoustics-- a meeting by the river / bourbon and rosewater

opus 3 = eric bibb and needed time- spirit and the blues and tiny island..



Great lake swimmers S/T- grain silo

cowboy junkies trinity sessions--soundfield mic straight to dat in a church.

low- live at eindhoven-- church

The Head and The Heart :: the first Fuel/Friends Chapel Sessions | Fuel/Friends Music Blog

Iron and Wine-- creek drank the cradle. back porch/portastudio.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delonien View Post
BTW
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Guitars are mono instruments

Pleeze!
Maybe you could explain why the guitar is a stereo instrument?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
How do you know exactly what it means? I have no idea what it translates to...


Guitars are mono instruments why should they be recorded in stereo, is there a new rule about that somewhere?


Are you talking about professional studios, or the converted bedrooms and basements that pose as studios?

Criteria, Abbey Road, Compass Point, Cresent Moon, Pluss XXX, Real World, Air, etc., this is just a very short list of great sounding studios, I could make a list several pages long that proves your statement wrong but I don't think it will be necessary.

There are a numbed of reasons why people don't record in those spaces. One of the most obvious is that it's just not practical in most situations, first you have to get permission, which is not always easy. A lot of these spaces are in continuous use and the prospect of setting up and tearing down tons of equipment on a daily basis is no appealing. Another reason is that the long uncontrolled reverberation times of most can easily become problematic especially when recording non acoustic or very loud instruments.

Natural reverb can be good...but only if it is exactly the type and length you want, otherwise it's just a nuisance, and not every band, producer or song is looking for 'that' sound. There could also be problems with noise (coming in and going out) control if the space is not acoustically isolated from the environment. A properly designed and built studio will not have these problems, it will also offer better convenience for the production of your record.
Your contentious response makes me wonder if you have much location experience-- if you did you would know that there are techniques for working around every "problem" you named. In fact, I normally work WITH each one on every job, and the OP nailed it when he wondered why more music wasn't recorded in a space that adds acoustic beauty.

There actually are NOT many studios that have good resonance/reverb for recording classical music -- and last time I saw a guitar it was more that a millimeter wide (ie mono). If you had seen many high-end classical vocal sessions (either with orchestra or something smaller) you would know that it is normal to use a pair of TLM170s or Senn 800s about 1ft apart about 2 or 3 ft away on the voice.

Personally I would add a main ORTF pair to get more of the soundscape-- and if 4 channels is not possible then work with the position of the ORTF to give the desired sound (and hopefully it is a nylon string guitar.)

I am sure YMMV.

Rich
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
I can point out hundreds of albums that were made in strange environments.
And I can point out thousands that were not...records are made in some awful sounding bedrooms and basements too. For practical and technical reasons however, most records will continue to be made in purpose built recording studios.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonare View Post
Your contentious response makes me wonder if you have much location experience-- if you did you would know that there are techniques for working around every "problem" you named. In fact, I normally work WITH each one on every job, and the OP nailed it when he wondered why more music wasn't recorded in a space that adds acoustic beauty.
My 'contentious' response as you call it was at least factual, your statement about studios generally not sounding good and are only used for the control they offer is misleading and wrong. My experience and the experience of many engineers working in studios all over the world daily disproves this 'opinion'.

Yes there are in fact solutions and workarounds for every problem, they are however not always convenient, cost effective or practical.

I don't know that the OP 'nailed' anything, he asked a question which a few people have responded to.


Quote:
There actually are NOT many studios that have good resonance/reverb for recording classical music
I have not stated any such thing, plus you have now moved the goal posts (to suite your argument) by defining what the OP's statements mean. There was no mention of recording classical music in the question, or post for that matter... I should point out that many, maybe even most orchestral recordings are produced in studios, not in churches.


Quote:
and last time I saw a guitar it was more that a millimeter wide (ie mono).
Wait a minute....are you saying that any instrument wider than a millimeter is stereo!?!? Where pray tell did you learn this? This would mean that vocals are stereo...


Quote:
If you had seen many high-end classical vocal sessions (either with orchestra or something smaller) you would know that it is normal to use a pair of TLM170s or Senn 800s about 1ft apart about 2 or 3 ft away on the voice.
Are they using both of those mics at the same time, because that sure sounds like recipe for phase hell if you ask me.


Quote:
Personally I would add a main ORTF pair to get more of the soundscape-- and if 4 channels is not possible then work with the position of the ORTF to give the desired sound (and hopefully it is a nylon string guitar.)
I on the other hand don't know what I would do until I was in the room with the musician and had a chance to listen to the room regardless of the tools I'm presented with...all things being equal my mileage will no vary.
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You are nothing if not argumentative! You should re-read Ethan Winer's and Jim Williams' responses to you in this thread: Great Rooms: No Replacement

Of course, their wisdom and experience wanes....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
And I can point out thousands that were not...records are made in some awful sounding bedrooms and basements too. For practical and technical reasons however, most records will continue to be made in purpose built recording studios.


I was addressing the OP, not you... Stop being argumentative, contribute. you are veering off topic with your ranting..... this is the *remote* section. People record on *location* here.

anyway..

I would like to know what "genre" the recording is. The approach for singer/songwriter records is a lot different than classical.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonare View Post
You are nothing if not argumentative!
Why, because I don't agree with you?


Quote:
You should re-read Ethan Winer's and Jim Williams' responses to you in this thread: Great Rooms: No Replacement

Of course, their wisdom and experience wanes....
As far as I know, neither of those guys make records on a daily basis, my situation is the opposite and I have made records in all kinds of locations, I have more experience that both of them on the subject.

You still have some questions to answer by the way...that is if you care to discuss the topic instead of me.
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@ Samc & delonien

Sorry guys but the guitar is NOT a mono instrument. In fact neither it is a stereo instrument. The guitar is a guitar and there is something terribly wrong with such a terminology (and yes, English is not my first language).

Yes, you can record it in mono and sometimes this makes more sense than stereo. The question which sonare and I asked is: "Why not to record it in stereo?" And I can see a point in asking this.

I could agree that a DI'd electric guitar is a mono instrument - yes.
And now regarding ac. guitar and stereo...

I don't know if you have ever noticed it, but this instrument radiates it's sound differently in all directions. As well when working in a room with some ambiance/verb the instrument becomes one with the room and rooms are "stereo".

So the question here is: if you have 1 vocal and 1 guitar and both are mono, how would that sit in the mix? Artificial reverb or effects to fill in those huge spaces left totally empty in the mix? Could be, but for me it makes more sense to work with the natural acoustics of the room and get that.

Another option would be to go for the "stereo" of the guitar radiation and mike two different parts of the instrument. In other words - I would look for a way to make the mix fuller and these are two possible ways which could do the job depending on the music and the goals of the OP.

Last edited by Sheikyearbouti; 8th April 2011 at 12:07 AM.. Reason: typo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delonien View Post
small churches are not too wet to record a singer/songwriter if you don't need punch-ins.
I have done thousands of edits on records done in extremely reverberant spaces. You simply have to ask the musician to start a few bars earlier so that you can get that verb tail in the new bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by delonien View Post
I am surprised how much room mikes it takes to make a space really big (you should probably use some for the width too).
In fact a wonderfully rich and huge space can be achieved with two mics only. The problem is that the OP doesn't seem to have access to "the right ones".

You can even record the whole thing with two mics only - assuming that the musician can balance himself and that the engineer knows how and where to place those.
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I've spent the past several months traveling back and forth through TN, WVa, NC, SC, documenting the Old Time music that is so prevalent there.

I've recorded in living rooms, horse trailers, alley behind Aunt Betty's Cafe. abandoned whiskey stills, (and one still in operation!!) , dive bars on the state line, and even deer blinds!!. anyway....



Not too long ago I was involved in a project in a place called Selma, NC. The band/group was a family endeavor founded by the family patriarch (and Pentecostal minister). They are an old timey gospel group (the members are all shape note singers) with nice harmonies and hints of sacred harp and good old fashioned string band! Anyway.. my father and I are both professional singers, he being of the more "MOR" contemporary stuff, and me being more "southern Gospel" ..so between the two of us we have a pretty good line in on available opprtunities...so that is how this one came about. The group patriarch was diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease and in reaction, the members expressed wishes to do one last record with Papa at the helm. the group took up love offerings at church(not for me, mind...I don't charge for these jobs.. I see them as preserving an important part of our heritage) took off work(they all farm) and got to work... so we had to find a place.
Option one was to use a "proper" purpose built studio with a enormous live room and a nice selection of rquipment. I knew of several places in the RDU area (and asheville, Winston, G-Boro, etc)


Option 2 was a re purposed Barn (and when I say re purposed I mean the inclusion of a padlock on the door) in the middle of nowhere, where the group held practices and gospel singings every two weeks. I had my own piecemeal equipment rack(12 DAV channels and 4 hamptone hvtp2, two of Mr. Hinton's BG-6 units and a Mackie 1402 VLZ)

the guys didn't even hesitate in choosing the latter..!I am very proud of it, and would not hesitate to work that way again. I'll take atmosphere over equipment or "purpose built" any day of the week.

.. "FEEL" "Synergy" "a place where you feel like jamming/being yourself. that is the most important thing, I think. ..and studios(at least the 10 or 12 ive recorded in) rarely if ever get *that* part right.

Alan Lomax was the man!

oh yeah, ive been writing grant requests to get me funded for more of this work. Preserving Appalachian/Southern Musical Heritage
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic View Post
Many are, but rarely in the popular music scene. That is because tight edits and punch ins are really only doable in a dead environment. Also, a studio gives you more control of the ambiance.

I really don't think vocal and guitar would be best served in a highly reverberant church unless you are talking renaissance mandolin and voice.
Colombia studios in NY was...a church.
Churches can sound exellent for this application, some too reverberant some are not.
You cannot know until you set foot in the room yourself.
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Originally Posted by Sheikyearbouti View Post
Sorry guys but the guitar is NOT a mono instrument. In fact neither it is a stereo instrument. The guitar is a guitar and there is something terribly wrong with such a terminology (and yes, English is not my first language).
This is correct. It is the propagation of the sound in (a particular) space which determines if we're hearing the instrument in mono or stereo.


Quote:
Yes, you can record it in mono and sometimes this makes more sense than stereo. The question which sonare and I asked is: "Why not to record it in stereo?" And I can see a point in asking this.
The question I responded to is:
"What I am curious about is why the guitar is not being recorded in stereo?"

Which presumes a lot without knowing anything.


Quote:
So the question here is: if you have 1 vocal and 1 guitar and both are mono, how would that sit in the mix? Artificial reverb or effects to fill in those huge spaces left totally empty in the mix? Could be, but for me it makes more sense to work with the natural acoustics of the room and get that.
Again, what really baffles me is that people are responding as if they know the room in question and how the performance will sound in it or even what the artist is looking for....and this statement is a perfect example.
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I'll just add - artificial stereo reproduction doesn't even come close to the real life sound clues coming from all directions when a music instrument is played and you are listening to it in real space. It is so much more than this artificial approximation called: stereo. The sound emanating from different parts of the instruments, all the reflections coming from all sides of the space, etc.

As others said - you can choose to either record it mono or stereo. And with additional room mics, etc.

I heard such strange objections once from a guy who claimed "why record the piano stereo - it's a MONO instrument."

That kind of thinking about recording is more than flawed, stop doing it while you still can.


----

@OP - if you use that mentioned "classic" technique, you can still pan slightly L-R and get some sense of width, but sometimes a nice mono recording is also cool for singers-songwriters - but in the church I would go for additional stereo pair to get depth and more real reverb and keep the close mics mono in the mix.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener View Post
I'll just add - artificial stereo reproduction doesn't even come close to the real life sound clues coming from all directions when a music instrument is played and you are listening to it in real space. It is so much more than this artificial approximation called: stereo. The sound emanating from different parts of the instruments, all the reflections coming from all sides of the space, etc.
Couldn't agree more!

Real life acoustics can be so wonderful for a lot of genres, but of course it need to be suitable sweet natural reverb = good acoustics! I have done quite a lot of this over the years and that's what I adore about remote recordings - real life rooms in blooming stereo..!

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It's quite possible to capture guitar + voice with a stereo pair, I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by samc
neither of those guys make records on a daily basis, my situation is the opposite and I have made records in all kinds of locations
So does Rich, and many others on this forum. It seems that you're just coming from different perspectives, perhaps?

Quote:
Originally Posted by samc
the prospect of setting up and tearing down tons of equipment on a daily basis is no appealing
Sure does sound appealing to me but maybe that's just me
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Samc is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by JonesH View Post
So does Rich, and many others on this forum. It seems that you're just coming from different perspectives, perhaps?
My post was a direct response to a statement which mentioned only two people, secondly you are assuming that the "many others on this forum" have the same opinion as the two people mentioned... Furthermore, the difficulties I speak about are based on experiences I have had on both sides of the pond, this is not my 'perspective' or opinion.

Generally speaking, once we go beyond one or two singers and/or guitarists it gets exponentially more difficult to 'legally' produce these types of recordings.


Quote:
Sure does sound appealing to me but maybe that's just me
A singer/guitarist (or two) and a mini mixer with four mics into a laptop is one thing. But have you ever had to manage and/or pay for the setup and tear-down of a full backline: drum kits, guitar amplifiers, percussion, piano and/or other keyboards etc., and production: gobos, mics, cabling, console, complete DAW system etc on a daily basis?

Have you ever had to manage the above while also paying for the cartage, insurance and nightly storage of said equipment? What percentage of your production budget did you spend for this, and how many hours per day did you have to set aside for the setup and tear-down? What about the legal and administrative paperwork that is often times part of the equation, ever had to deal with that? I know of a big production orchestral recording in a hall that was shut down a year or two ago because they didn't have the correct paperwork....

These are just 'some' of the things that need to be considered when answering the open-ended question in the OP. These are some of the logistically irksome problems that take away the appeal of working in these spaces, then there are the artistic ones which should (hopefully) be more obvious.
#29
10th April 2011
Old 10th April 2011
  #29
Lives for gear
 
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Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Sweden
Posts: 1,395

JonesH is offline
Hi Samc,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
secondly you are assuming that the "many others on this forum" have the same opinion as the two people mentioned...
Of course not. I didn't assume anything, especially not what opinion anyone else has or shares with someone. I just pointed out that many people in this forum does remote work for a living (or part of).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
But have you ever had to manage and/or pay for /snip/
No. I've never managed a larger production, I've only done the engineering part. I DO see your point - sometimes there are vast obstacles with doing large on-location recordings. I didn't get the impression that anyone's questioning that. In fact there's an entire forum dedicated to solving these problems in the community.
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