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Big Stage, Small Budget: A Plea for Assistance
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MilSF
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17th August 2013
Old 17th August 2013
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Question Big Stage, Small Budget: A Plea for Suggestions in Recording Opera and Musicals

The Situation
I'm looking to up my audio quality on the operas, musicals, and recitals I am video recording for my wife's university. As the subject indicates, it's a big stage, and my budget is rather low - $2000 for everything including cables. My apologies for the length of this post and if this is better answered in the Low End Theory forum. As it's live recording, I figured y'all would be the best to ask. I'm an audio noob, but I know enough to know I don't know enough I don't need stereo, but I will if it's possible. I will be able to go to a few of the dress rehearsals for the operas and musicals, so I will be trying to find good set and forget levels so I can focus on videography.

The Environment
There are two stages that I will be doing probably all the recording on:
Main Stage - 54x41x28 stage with an orchestra pit in a 1500 seat performing arts center. The directors love using quite a bit of the stage and not infrequently the floor in front of the stage. The diagrams below are of this stage.
Recital Stage - This is a roughly 40x20x20 stage in a 200 seat recital hall. The YouTube vids I link below are of this stage.

The Performers
The operas and musicals are fully staged with undergraduate vocalists and instrumentalists. Quite a few of them are actually quite good and rather loud. The principal cast is miked (forehead teardrops), but the chorus and orchestra are not. HOWEVER, we have no string section - the strings are played by keyboard. The productions are mixed for sound reinforcement, not recording, so I can't really just get a feed off of the house board. A good example of one of our recent students and the recording environment in the recital hall can be seen in the below aria and scene/musical theater piece.

Aria -> "Oh, Robert, Robert" from Meyerbeer's Robert Le Diable - YouTube
Musical Theater -> "Bosom Buddies" from Mame (opening scene is a cut from "The Queen of Bingo") - YouTube


Some Possibilities I've Thought Of
The strings are via keyboard, so unless I just mic the environment as a whole, I NEED to get a feed from the house audio board for them. If I want to use more than one mic, I would need a field mixer - something cheap and simple like an Azden FMX-42, so there goes $500 of the budget. I've thought of a handful of setups, but I have not the foggiest idea if any of them are any good.

1) All PZMs All the Time
Yes, PZMs (Crown PZM-30Ds?), not PCCs since I will have no orchestra mics, so I need to get them in addition to the vocalists. Put them and the keyboard feed through the mixer and into the camera (dual XLR inputs).


2) Centrally Located
One PCC (a PCC-160?) at center stage with a pair of Rode NT5s pointed down into the orchestra pit. Yes, I know that those in the know say they are a bit bright, but it's musical theater, bright is good! :-) Put them and the keyboard feed through the mixer and into the camera. I might even pan the NT5s to create a stereo field for the orchestra.


3) Go Wide
Place a PZM on a platform in the orchestra pit and place the NT5s pointed up onto the stage to get the vocalists. Put them and the keyboard feed through the mixer and into the camera.


4) One Mic to Rule Them All
Forget about the mixer and just go with one nice(r) mic (MKH 8090?) and the keyboard feed directly into the camera as dual mono tracks.


So, am I headed in the right direction, or just skipping down the primrose path? Any and all help is greatly appreciated. I'll let y'all know what I finally go with and put up some samples later this semester so I can be told what I'm still doing wrong
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17th August 2013
Old 17th August 2013
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Rolo 46 is offline
You need help on this project
Its not suitable for a one man band
Get on stage and record run throughs and cut those into the wides at the performance.
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17th August 2013
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Now it all depends on the quality of the sound recording you want to end up with. I have not done this kind of stuff before. The closest was a drama production. I used a spaced pair in front of the stage about 1/2 the stage width apart. It was good enough to sound much better than any camcorder can manage to record sound wise but nowhere close to the commercial DVD productions.
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17th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Now it all depends on the quality of the sound recording you want to end up with. I have not done this kind of stuff before. The closest was a drama production. I used a spaced pair in front of the stage about 1/2 the stage width apart. It was good enough to sound much better than any camcorder can manage to record sound wise but nowhere close to the commercial DVD productions.
Agreed. It comes down to a balance of acceptable results vs. effort/cost.

I do a good bit of work like this (school/amateur musical/drama) where I'm the audio guy feeding a live stereo mix for video. Sometimes I do the live sound as well.

For quick, easy and acceptable, I use a VP88 up high, front and center with a wide pair on the outer edges if it's a huge area. If you can get it in the right place at the right height, the Veeper is fairly amazing.
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17th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
It was good enough to sound much better than any camcorder can manage to record sound wise but nowhere close to the commercial DVD productions.
Not looking for DVD quality. I know that would mean close miking with my own board, etc. I'm just looking to get a bit better than the VideoPro I have on the camera 100ft away. Thanks for the spacing suggestion.
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17th August 2013
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I do this for operas and other productions.

For you as a one man band and with a limited budget, I recommend keeping it simple.

PM'ed.
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MilSF
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17th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
I use a VP88 up high, front and center with a wide pair on the outer edges if it's a huge area. If you can get it in the right place at the right height, the Veeper is fairly amazing.
I'll have to check into hanging something. Can't put a stand up right in the middle though.
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17th August 2013
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No go on pre-recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Get on stage and record run throughs and cut those into the wides at the performance.
If these were professionals, I might be able to get away with it. But these are college students, and even the good ones have some pretty significant tempo changes from performance to performance. Might be +/- 10 seconds for a 4 minute aria. I don't think even any of you audio pros could bend and twist a recording to fit the video
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MilSF View Post
I'll have to check into hanging something. Can't put a stand up right in the middle though.
Yeah. Everybody wants good sound, but nobody wants to let you put the mics where they'll do the job.

Same on the other end.

Wedding planner to the band:

"Do you really have to have all those instruments and speakers?"
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
Yeah. Everybody wants good sound, but nobody wants to let you put the mics where they'll do the job.
Fly a pair of DPA's and nobody would even notice.
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Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Fly a pair of DPA's and nobody would even notice.
Easier said than done. If you're lucky there's a grid of catwalks for lighting folks.
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18th August 2013
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"I will be able to go to a few of the dress rehearsals for the operas and musicals, so I will be trying to find good set and forget levels so I can focus on videography."

Every group of students I've heard plays differently in performance than in rehearsal.

Add an audience, and things also change.

My suggestion is that you choose whether you are going to concentrate on the audio recording or the video recording, and then enlist help where it is most helpful. Surely there is someone or several someones who would gladly collaborate with you. If you are doing the audio, then this leaves you free to make audio adjustments as needed. However, if you get someone you trust to do the audio, then that leaves you free to concentrate on the video if you want to concentrate on the video.

Rehearsals provide you with the valuable opportunity to test out your setup and working together and make adjustments as needed before the performance.

Looking at the youtube videos, it looks like the arched section of the stage is open to the ceiling in the seating area? Is there no catwalk or other practical means of suspending mics over the arched area of the stage?

If there's no way to suspend mics, what is the theater director/musical director's tolerance for something like a DPA type mic on a microboom type stand?
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18th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MilSF View Post
The Situation
4) One Mic to Rule Them All
Forget about the mixer and just go with one nice(r) mic (MKH 8090?) and the keyboard feed directly into the camera as dual mono tracks.
You might get 2 used MKH 30s for $1500 ish, and achieve this for your stereo coverage.
Why is it that so many folks disparage the single main pair for stage recordings. Apparently, it works just fine.
Or consider what Rick Suttons's solution is for a similar situation.
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18th August 2013
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For my own understanding, are you suggesting the OP needs a pair of MKH 8090's which are about something like $2,400 US? A pair of these would work to cover a 54 x41 stage?

Since the OP said his budget is $2,000 for everything including cables, does that make a difference in what he should do?
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18th August 2013
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
Easier said than done. If you're lucky there's a grid of catwalks for lighting folks.
The performing arts center is actually a rather nice facility and has a couple of places I might hang something. It might be a bit of an issue since I would have to bother one of the people there to do it (insurance reasons).

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
For my own understanding, are you suggesting the OP needs a pair of MKH 8090's which are about something like $2,400 US?
Yeah. I really wish I could stretch to do something like that, but $2k is already pushing it. I'll never see a positive ROI on this, but if the improved recordings can help our students get an audition, or progress in a competition, then it will be worth the cost.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Is there no catwalk or other practical means of suspending mics over the arched area of the stage?
Nope, this is the recital hall which is on the small side. Only recitals, so up to three of four performers with piano accompaniment.

I think that I'm leaning towards boundary mics like Crown's PZMs because they are reasonably cheap and I can put a couple of them on the lip of either stage and not worry about sight lines, etc. Something like my first idea I guess. In the PAC, I could take a PZM and hang it vertically behind the conductor - maybe on a plexiglass sheet if the pit wall doesn't work well - and put the other two 25 or so feet apart on the stage edge.
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18th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MilSF View Post
If these were professionals, I might be able to get away with it. But these are college students, and even the good ones have some pretty significant tempo changes from performance to performance. Might be +/- 10 seconds for a 4 minute aria. I don't think even any of you audio pros could bend and twist a recording to fit the video
When I watch UTube ,sync seems a quaint old fashioned principle, long jettisoned..
You can get away with murder cutting from a stage CU to an auditorium wide,
If you cover all the stage action close then the wides are crowd reaction and will always match.
Needs a good editor though.
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