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Stereo miking in general
Old 22nd August 2006
  #1
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pabloman's Avatar
 

Question Stereo miking in general

Bruce,

First of all I'd like to thank you for doing this! - We're going to learn a lot from this!

For me you're a hero when it comes to stereo-imaging!

Do you use any form of room calculation when you position your mikes (in stereo, that is)?
There is a lot of stuff, like phase problems, that can go wrong when you record A LOT of tracks in stereo. Do you use phase alignment tools?

Sorry if this is a silly question, and thanks for doing this!

respect,
pabloman
Old 26th August 2006
  #2
Viking
 
Bruce Swedien's Avatar
 

Don't try to think out these Stereo Images too much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pabloman View Post
Bruce,

First of all I'd like to thank you for doing this! - We're going to learn a lot from this!

For me you're a hero when it comes to stereo-imaging!

Do you use any form of room calculation when you position your mikes (in stereo, that is)?
There is a lot of stuff, like phase problems, that can go wrong when you record A LOT of tracks in stereo. Do you use phase alignment tools?

Sorry if this is a silly question, and thanks for doing this!

respect,
pabloman
pabloman....

I hope this answers some questions for you.....

Stereo Music Recording Technique......

It's always been interesting to me that the beginnings of stereo music recording technique developed as kind of an 'underground', almost 'guerilla' effort, by the more progressive engineers and producers that were thinking 'Stereo' at that time.

Because of the reluctance of the major record company moguls to acknowledge the importance of stereophonic recording of music, and the hesitation of the folks that held the 'purse-strings' to pay for the additional reels of recording tape, the future of stereo music recording came very close to being a strangled 'baby' before it was out of the crib. Those of us that were interested in the future of stereo recording of music proceeded totally on speculation. We volunteered our efforts and the studios donated the tape to record many of these incredible musical performances in stereo. This speculation paid off in later years when many of those recordings have been re-released in stereo, often from tapes from the private collections of people such as myself.

One of the biggest problems for studios was that the control rooms that were designed in the 1930's and the 1940's were designed only for monaural recording and thus were very small. United Recording Studios in Hollywood was one of the first studios with control rooms designed expressly for the recording of stereo music product.

United Recording Studios in Hollywood were designed and built by my mentor, the brilliant engineer, Milton T. “Bill” Putnam. The Capitol Tower studios were completed shortly before the issue of larger stereo control rooms was settled. Those control rooms were re-configured and remodeled in late 1959 to accommodate the new stereo techniques.

I think I was kind of a rebel. I was very young at that moment in the industry, and I wanted to experiment with stereo. I knew there was something truly new and innovative. In my soul I knew that really good stereo music reproduction wasn't merely one sound source coming out of one speaker, and a different sound source coming out of the other speaker. My heart told me that there was far more to the adventure of high-quality music reproduction than just that.

I have always felt that we can reproduce the sound of music plus the feeling of music, more emotionally by using good stereo recording technique. But at that point in time, the people...the recording industry executives, really didn't want to hear about it. The people that ran the record companies at that time, didn't think there was much of a future in stereo. I remember one guy(I won't name him, he was a big executive with a major label). He said that, “Stereo was to him, like taking a shower with two shower heads... and you wouldn’t take a shower with two shower heads would you???...ha! ha! ha!. Shows you what small thinkers thery were.

They had so little trust in the future of stereo, that they wouldn't even pay for the tape or the extra stereo tape machine to record those priceless musical performances in stereo.

So I did it on my own.(A few other engineers at that time did the same thing.) We built a separate control room just for stereo. And we had to disguise it. We set up the separate control room for stereo in the back part of the studio complex, so that the record moguls wouldn't see the stereo machines and think they were paying for extra tape, or machines, and go crazy on us. Even with this bold guerilla effort on the part of a few, think of all the beautiful stereo recordings that vanished into thin air, because of small thinking on the part of the narrow-minded people that held the purse strings of the business!

What is Stereo To Me?

I don’t think I have ever seen a really good definition of what stereo music reproduction actually is. If we attempt to precisely define the word “stereophonic” , we find in the dictionary that the first half of the word, “stereo” means, solid, firm or three-dimensional. The second half of the word or, “Phonic” means pertaining to the nature of sound. I think that may be as close as we get to a definition of stereo music reproduction. I think a real definition of stereophonic should say that “Stereophonic sound is a reproduction system consisting of two or more microphones, placed in front of a sound pick-up area, recorded discretely on two or more channels of a multi-track recording device, and then played back on two or more loudspeakers placed in front of a listening area.”

This system creates the illusion of the recorded sound having direction, position and depth in the area between the loudspeakers. This playback system produces a sound pattern at the listeners ears which our hearing sense interprets as indicating direction and depth of sound field in the limited area between the loudspeakers.

In most cases, accurate localization is the goal of a stereophonic image. In other words, when recording a large orchestra, the instruments in the center of the ensemble are accurately reproduced in the area midway between the two playback loudspeakers. Instruments at the sides of the orchestra are reproduced from either the left or the right speaker. Instruments half way between are reproduced halfway to one side and so on... This type of a stereo image is what I would call “Basically - an unaltered acoustical event”.

For me, the problem is that this technique totally eliminates “Sonic Fantasy” from the recording process. It is the clinical approach. I find it somewhat interesting, but not very inspiring. Things got really exciting for me when I discovered that I could successfully record sonic images that existed mainly in my imagination.

In other words, Since the middle 1960’s I think my philosphical approach to using the "Stereo Space", has been to take the listener into a “New Reality” that did not, or could not, exist in a real life acoustical environment. This “New Reality”, of course, existed only in my own imagination.

Don't try to think out these Stereo Images too much.

DO NOT use any form of room calculation when you position your mikes in stereo,!!!

Your ears will tell you if there are phase problems.....

Do you use phase alignment tools? NO!!!!! (That's a lie, I always have an oscilloscope on the Stereo Buss.... But that's all!!!)

Bruce Swedien

Old 30th August 2006
  #3
BoW
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Stereo abstraction

Dear Bruce Swedien,

your post is a gem.

Creating synthetic or virtual events in picture and sound is inherent with the abstraction of the correspondig natural phenomenoms to vision and hearing by using tools that are - too - the result of abstraction of other natural processes like electricity and the transformation there of into soundwaves or modulated light.

(Ouch, what a sentence!!)

Edison and Poulsen have discovered simple methods to capture and preserve soundwaves on a simple medium. The pure mechanical process of engraving, that was carried out on spot by one mechanical system has diversified by the time that it had become possible to transform sound into electrical current and vice versa.

Since then, more and more specialized systems for more and more sub-processes have emerged and have been refinded in the run for a better and more reproduceable truthful sonic image at home.

Bruce, I almost cracked up, when reading your anecdote about the producers in those days, comparing Stereo with taking a shower with two shower heads. For me, it's still amazing how much value - both sonic and emotional - of music can be transmitted by using this "simple" Stereo-Techniques and what has become possible by just doubling the channel. It' s such a benefit!!

It's a miracle, that we can speak about depth, clarity, transient response, etc., that have become values for good recorded music while listening basically to two simple electrical transformers ( this is to me a real change in paradigm, since in the early times of recording, you had primarily - I think - to talk about extending the dynamic range, reduce hiss and hum, linearisation, etc., thus pure technical terms attached with the equipment in those days ).

In the real world, we are often less critical for those values while i.e. listening to a classical concert in a acoustically bad designed hall, where the sound might be less defined compared to a good recording. The advantage of being able to 'shape' the "New Reality" on the other side of the mirror.

Never the less, due to our limited tools, we're not really able to get the whole picture. A lot of the directivity and so character of acoustical instruments is lost, when using microphones, and there is, with exception of the limited use of binaural recording techniques, no real appropriate tool for preserving the exact spacial representation of a piece of music in an acoustic environment. We're still peeping through a hole and personally I don't see a real solution, here, that will allow us to fully synthesize a live acoustical scenario with all the aspects. Even Soundfield Synthesis won't fill the bill entirely.

Your magnificent expertise in the art of how to capture as much as possible of that natural content and emotional impact with our 'Swiss Army Knifes' can not be worshiped enough and I personally hope, that this general approach towards acoustic, electroacoustic and MUSIC doesn't get lost between to much cables and computers.

Now to meat and potatoes..

In a different thread, you have mentioned the Westlake Studios to me as one of your favourite recording places. In an article I once read, you had mentioned an early built but very advanced NY studio with variable acoustics as wonderful for certain projects ( I can't recall the name, wasn't it the RCA-Studio? ).

Question: Who built those studios and when? Are there anywhere blueprints available ore more detailed information in certain literature about the fundamental thoughts behind those designs?

I've been following your remarks about studio-conception wiht great interest in an other forum. The design of the control-room seems to me of a somewhat different approach compared to a Harris Grant design. I found a picture on the web of a studio that you have built with quite high ceiling in the front. What is your personal experience with listening fatigue in highly damped but 'accurate' listening rooms? Do you have a favour?

Second polite question: Could you compare the different approaches with your experience over the years and the sonic results, that you're able to achieve?

If, in your oppinion, something has gone into the wrong direction, concerning studio design, could you give some remarks?

I hope, I don't ask too much, but it defintely would be a pleasure!!

Kindly yours : Boris
Old 31st August 2006
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Swedien View Post
I remember one guy(I won't name him, he was a big executive with a major label). He said that, “Stereo was to him, like taking a shower with two shower heads... and you wouldn’t take a shower with two shower heads would you???...ha! ha! ha!. Shows you what small thinkers thery were.
Well yeah exactly....They'd obviously never experienced the joys of a really good power shower with body jets!

J
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