I'm covering a gig for a colleague, and on discussion with the director she asked for microphones in the back of the (small,bad, 250 seat) hall to blend the voices. I have since found out that my colleague puts his omnis in the 2nd to last row of the space so that individual voices don't stick out, and that this solution is the most workable the directors have found. [They really, really want blend]
The hall has a nasty fang of reverb from the ceiling (and consequently the wood floor) right at 2k, and the chorus will be 70voices with some smaller ensembles coming out. String quartet, timpani, and piano will accompany. Director refused spot mics "its not that important"
The primary purpose of this recording is to go with a video, advertising their summer choral workshop.
Knowing that this is a summer concert and nothing is make or break what are some techniques you've used to get more blend?
My current thinking is to use:
my r88 as mains, in the middle of the room (which is about the spot where the choir is included in the 90 degree arc)
sd omnis gaffed to the back wall ~20ft apart as PZMs for a blendy sound.
I think some choir directors need to realize that if they want the choir to sound blended, they need to sing that way. Putting the Mics in the back of the hall will just make them sound weak. And individuals will still stick out. Anywhere in the diffuse field should be fine. Just listen for the balance.
Daniel pretty much nailed it. Microphones do not work the way that our ears do. Our ears developed to be very sensitive to direct sound. Microphones, especially non-directional ones, are not. Basic physics at play there.
I come across this issue all the time. I talk with the director about the sound they are looking for and I make sure that I tell them that where they hear that sound is not where the microphones will.
With a blumlein pair and omnis, I'd probably place the center mic where the outer edges of the pickup will be a touch narrower than the width of the choir. Omnis would probably be at the points where dividing the choir into three parts are. I place the mics at or above the height of the tallest part of the choir (ie back step) and aim down into the group. You'll be able to get more direct sound (ie a better, more focused recording with impact) and still avoid the sound of individual voices.
Beyond that, the job of blend is up to the director. The better the group is blended, the better the recording.
Mrs. Rocks attempted to teach blending to a children's choir this week by showing them fresh strawberries before being blended in a kitchen blender. Then she told them not to be "berry" that sticks out. We still have a few berries.
Maybe she should have tried demonstrating the Japanese proverb that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down?
I was thinking the same things while having the conversation. It ended up that they had another, larger concert immediately after mine (sadly, not recorded) and the setup pushed the conductor out to midway down the hall. I used the r88 just behind her, and got a very acceptable sound (not blend-y though). I also tried gaffing omnis to the balcony, as there was no room anywhere else! Not bad, but not useful either.
I'll post some pics and maybe a sample in the morning.
Ah yes, the blend discussion. Ive had a few of these with one band director i record for. Im usually 15 feet back with ortf or wide ortf and it is fine. Not great, but not terrible.
I placed a an ortf pair directly behind him during one noncritical practice and he was stunned at the imaging and ability really hear what was going on. He didnt care for it though, so we went back to 15 for the next one. In our discussions, he tried to convince me that 30 feet or more back would be even better (enter blend argument here). I explained that 30 feet back, in the auditorium with cinder block walls that narrow as they go back, would clearly be a mistake. Not enough direct sound relative to reflected sound.
I actually thought around 7 feet would be nice, but cut my losses at 15.
I am hearing all kinds of artifacts. Looks like something wrong with the mp3s, at least for me.
Otherwise I am surprised by the clarity of the rear mics, even when taped to the balcony.
EDIT: Looks like my Flash player was acting up. Listening to the downloaded files did the trick. They all sound acceptable. The reverb in the reverb versions is a little long for my taste for this kind of music. Th clips are a bit short but I would actually pick the no verb rear as my favourite.
I've sent the same samples to the director and my colleague for whom I was covering- so we should get an official "make it like this" from someone.
Polytope, I'll admit that I put that reverb on during my first cup of coffee this morning so it will certainly be fine tuned later to a more subtle glow of spaciousness and clarity, like burnished bronze- and then I'll turn it up 6db, to make the choral people happy.
I too was surprised by the sound I got from gaffing two omnis to a wall, however in the end I think its got a bit two much sibilance, and feels very flat on my cans.
My yen is for the r88 with reverb, though I'm still thinking of feeding a convolution reverb from the rear mics
Actually, I would use the r88 as main pickup without any reverb and the back mics to replace them fully with their own reverb and mix them in with the r88 tracks. This way you will keep the original room sound but be able to tune it, while avoiding to get a "room within a room".
I placed a an ortf pair directly behind him during one noncritical practice and he was stunned at the imaging and ability really hear what was going on. He didnt care for it though, so we went back to 15 for the next one. In our discussions, he tried to convince me that 30 feet or more back would be even better (enter blend argument here).
So, 60 ft would be better? and 120 ft even better? I'll bet no voice sticks out at all a mile away.
Yep, had this discussion many times. I've finally gotten to the point where I rarely work with those who don't understand that blend comes from the podium.
Sorry, just had to chime in. As many times as I've had this discussion, I still shake my head at music directors over it.
The mic array you are using (R88, blumlein) is known for its precise capture. The ribbon helps to soften the sound but you will still get a very precise image, which seems to me the opposite of what the choir director is looking for.
To capture more of a blended and roomy sound, try using a spaced pair of omnis, either as outriggers to your R88 pair or on their own in an AB array. You will capture quite a bit more room than with crossed Fig. 8's, and the stereo effect created by spaced omnis will give a more "blended" tone, compared to the coincident fig. 8 setup.
If the room is bad, try a spaced pair with cardioids or subcardioid microphones, and add a good amount of "hall" verb later to create an optimized environment for the sound. If the hall sound is bad (small, cinderblock, linoleum, parallel walls, low ceiling, overly live slap-echo, etc), you will more often than not be unable to capture "good" useable hall sound in it. You have to create it in post.
I find frequently that with choral groups and singers I need to capture much more room than with instrumentalists- any thoughts?
This is a universal truth. Choir directors want it to sound like the perspective of an audience member 50ft away in a massive cathedral. How to achieve that is for the most part beyond their comprehension though. It usually requires a blend of standard closer setup and hall mics to promote the washy-ness of distance without loosing presence and clarity which is so important in a recording.
I am working on a CD recording now of a good choir -w- organ, The mix right now is pretty much 50% omni hall mics, 40% "main" omni pair, 10% spots. I think it sounds lovely, and the director likes it also, which can be an uncommon blessing as we know.
Daniel, I envy your shared sound concept with the choir director- Last summer I had a chamber choir CD that I had based on the r88- lovely warm sound, with scheops as room/reverb pickups... ended up that the r88 showed all of their flaws, they freaked and we put out a CD based on the room mics... plus reverb! gag. Though the Amazon reviews have been good..
Kevin here is a sample of omnis in that space from a recent concert. Raw. (I've EQ'd and reverb'd the files I'm sending to them)