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Advice for recording a live classical concert with PA
Old 18th August 2019
  #1
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Advice for recording a live classical concert with PA

How would you record it?

Concert of a film music - orchestra and singers, big hall, probably not that good acoustics. Would know what to do if it was just acousticaly, but it will be reinforced.

Will try to get to the guys from the PA and ask to get a signal from the mixer but will have only 8 channels so probably not enough to cover everything and maby they will say "Sorry, no"...

Another idea from the book of Bartlett's Practical Recording Techniques says to put two mics at front of FOH and mix it with just a stereo output from the mixer. In this case probably will get to much public noise which in this kind of music can be destructive since the mics will be far back in the hall.

Do you have another tip? How to set up mics to record good sound only from the stereo pair? Is that possible?

Many thanks!


Edit: Looks like this concert will take a place outside...

Last edited by Stradivariusz; 18th August 2019 at 07:28 PM..
Old 18th August 2019
  #2
Old 18th August 2019
  #3
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i'm mixing/recording similar concerts quite frequently - i suggest using directional mics very close (and mostly forget about any 'mains'; a pair at foh gets you kinda ambient sound mixed with direct sound from the pa) but also multracking - depending on the size of the orchestra/ensemble, 8 tracks however will get you nowhere...

have a chat with the foh engineer: maybe you can decide/agree on a few important mics which can help to bump up the foh mix and get you reasonable signals as well. if s/he turns out to be less cooperative, you still might add a few mics on your own (singer, section mics or mics on string quartett, piano, harp, whatever). maybe you'll want to use a split so you can get the levels you like (which can be vastly different from what the foh engineer will use) or just put a ambis on each side of the stage (i suggest shotguns)...

if you could provide a few more details (orchestra setup, available mics, the foh engineer's take on things, mixing desk/stagebox), i could expand on my approach.
Old 18th August 2019
  #4
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Thank a lot!

I don't have much more info right now. Orchestra is a chamber ensemble, I guess from the previous productions - 6 1st violins, 4 2nd violins, 4 violas, 3-4 cellos, 1 or 2 double basses, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 bassoon, trumpets, trombones, horns, piano, maby harp, then 4 singers.

My mics are two omnis - QTC40, two CM3, can ask for some more cardioids like Oktavas or AKG C451.

I will try to contact the FOH people tomorrow to get more details.

What do you mean by "i suggest using directional mics very close "? You mean the instruments or the PA speakers?
Old 19th August 2019
  #5
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Omni’s and wide-cardiods will not be at all useful.
Definitely will need to borrow/rent some hpercardiods and fig 8’s so you can get tighter pickup of singers and instruments with less PA
pick-up. Besides getting mics in closer you
can also use the rejection of the mics (+ and -
120 deg. for hypercardiods, + and - 90 deg for
fig 8’s to reduce PA bleed.
Old 19th August 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
I don't have much more info right now. Orchestra is a chamber ensemble, I guess from the previous productions - 6 1st violins, 4 2nd violins, 4 violas, 3-4 cellos, 1 or 2 double basses, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 bassoon, trumpets, trombones, horns, piano, maby harp, then 4 singers.

My mics are two omnis - QTC40, two CM3, can ask for some more cardioids like Oktavas or AKG C451.

I will try to contact the FOH people tomorrow to get more details.

What do you mean by "i suggest using directional mics very close "? You mean the instruments or the PA speakers?
what folkie said (except that i personally do almost never use fig8's: great for attenuation from the sides but in situations with loud stages - due to multiple wedges, rear blast if pa /sub array etc. or in reverberant rooms - they pick up too much on their rear side for my taste and since close miking most likely will necessitate the use efx devices plus eq and dynamic processors to even out what sone distance usually does, i prefer not too much room sound being captured by any mic).

my pick would be one mic for two instruments, certainly for the strings, maybe three for horns, wide cardioids might work for intruments place further back - speaking of the rear of the stage: i find heavy a backdrop/curtains immensly helpful in these situations. not necessarily nice for the musicians but it helos to keep reflections under control.

i'm not much of a fan of the 451's due to their hf bump but would ise whatever does the trick (and you'll probably need eq anyway).

most likely you'll need to take in a dante or madi feed with direct ouputs from the foh desk; i fear that even on a small ensemble, eight channels will get you nowehere: frankly, i'd stay away if i could't use more mics/channels/tracks (unless levels are very low and amplification only gets used to get a bit better throw: then you might use a much more traditional approach with less mics but i still doubt you'll get through with just eight, given that you already have four soloists, maybe harp, flute etc.).

i find these scenarios to be of the most demanding but also the most rewarding situations - here's a pick of a setup i used about a year ago for an all amplified orchestra: ca 40 mics, 18 wedges and the larger part of the orchestra sitting in front of the pa (!) - the emphasis was clearly on the foh mix (and was hard to achieve 'cause i was forced to work on a huge analog desk without much useful outboard) and i then tried sorting out things in post...
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Old 19th August 2019
  #7
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That's a definitevely completely different approach than that what I was thinking of. Would never guess to record orchestra acousticaly while this was amplified.

I was actually thinking of recording just a sound from the speakers and mix it with the mixer mix since this should be similar to the sound in which public gets (I mean, that in a small club there are sometimes instruments like drums which don't need much if any amplification so they are appearing in the mixer sum much less than softer instruments which need amplification to compete with drums in the venue)

I don't have that much equipment which you mention it's needed for the best result, so probably this time I will need to stick to minimal approach.
Would it be any way to do it with the way I described above? Or something similar and get an acceptable sound? Never had an opportunity to do this kind of recording so have absolutely no idea...

I can see huge PA behind the string section on your photo, what about the spill from the speakers??? It really need a very careful mic placement, taking a lot of time to prepare...
Old 19th August 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
(...)
I was actually thinking of recording just a sound from the speakers and mix it with the mixer mix since this should be ok in such a big space (I mean, that in a small club there are sometimes instruments like drums which don't need much if any amplification so they are appearing in the mixer sum much less than softer instruments which need amplification to compete with drums in the venue)

I don't have that much equipment which you mention it's needed for the best result, so probably this time I will need to stick to minimal approach.
Would it be any way to do it with the way I described above? Or something similar? Never had an opportunity to do this kind of recording so have absolutely no idea...

I can see huge PA behind the string section on your photo, what about the spill from the speakers??? It really need a very careful mic placement, taking a lot of time to prepare...

frankly, i was never in this position (as i was lucky enough that i always had enough gear since working professionally for 35 years now) so i cannot comment much other than i wouldn't wanna try it in a highly amplified situation - but then again, it might be a challenge to do exactly this!

the thing with picking up the pa with mics at foh is though that your 'mains' then are only as good as the mix (and how the system got aligned/fits the room; crowd noise can also become an issue); if picking up the house mix, i'd pick up the master output at line level (before eq's/processing being applied) and use other/remaining tracks to pick up the most important sources. i'd still go as close as possible with all mics to get as much direct sound as possible/the least amount of reflected sound/spill) - so maybe two for strings, two for horns, two for singers (in addition to the 2mix feed from the desk) but how about piano, harp, ambi etc?

is there absolutely no chance of renting any additional gear to record more tracks? stacking/syncing two recorders, use another interface for your laptop, a combination of all sorts of gear? - this must be still much less expensive than having the orchestra play twice, once unamplified for recording purposes (and maybe without an audience) and once amplified without recording... - or is this in the cards? then go for it!
even if you're not making much money in the end (or loose some), i'm convinced you can learn a lot so i think money would be very wisely invested: gear up! after all, we're on gearslutz here... :-)

seriously now: i'm neither taking pride in using minimal gear (i don't, but at times i only use very few tracks out of the whole bunch i recorded) nor in using a multi-mic approach even with small ensembles (i often do so, up to the point of using more mics for spots than there are musicians on stage) - the main reason for doing the latter is to have multiple options and not getting stuck with a single faceted approach (or risk to 'loose' a recording due to unwise mic choice/positioning/lack of signals and tracks to work with) - imo it's way easier to kick out tracks rather than not have them at all! plus i think positioning becomes less critical and hence saves time during recording: i hate wearing out musicians due to technical reasons and rather deal with minor issues during post! - sorry for going off topic...




[the huge boxes stacked on the floor are subwoofers and musicians (horn players on each side) almost got blown off their chairs :-) there is no way of stopping sound being picked up by the mics in front of them except for using steep lowcut filters set high enough on the way in.
the line array for mids/highs can be seen above the musicians and got heavily tweaked in order not to cause feedback (allpass filters, very steep notch filters and splitting up the array into sections, applyfing multiple feeds from differently processed matrices) but essentially, i was just trying to shoot above the orchestra as there was no time to reangle or fly the hangs any higher.
dunno about others but i mostly do not get much time to prepare things: working with orchestras can become ridiculously expensive so you better bring enough gear, spill mics all over the stage without upsetting the musicians, tweak signals on a desk which allows for tweaking of multiple channels/groups at once till you get reasonable results and make sure you can achieve all of this very fast!
(setup time in this case was two hours before the orchestra coming in. i got help from one assistant/stage hand on stage and an assistant engineer at foh. setting levels/trims/filters was during afternoon rehearsals, another half an hour before doors and then things went on and onair - tough but the most fun i can think of!)]

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 19th August 2019 at 12:47 PM.. Reason: edited for clarification
Old 19th August 2019
  #9
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Ugh...I wrote a long reply, but somehow lost it...will later write once more.
Anyway BIG thank you for all your input!
Old 19th August 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
frankly, i was never in this position (as i was lucky enough that i always had enough gear since working professionally for 35 years now) so i cannot comment much other than i wouldn't wanna try it in a highly amplified situation - but then again, it might be a challenge to do exactly this!

the thing with picking up the pa with mics at foh is though that your 'mains' then are only as good as the mix (and how the system got aligned/fits the room; crowd noise can also become an issue); if picking up the house mix, i'd pick up the master output at line level (before eq's/processing being applied) and use other/remaining tracks to pick up the most important sources. i'd still go as close as possible with all mics to get as much direct sound as possible/the least amount of reflected sound/spill) - so maybe two for strings, two for horns, two for singers (in addition to the 2mix feed from the desk) but how about piano, harp, ambi etc?

is there absolutely no chance of renting any additional gear to record more tracks? stacking/syncing two recorders, use another interface for your laptop, a combination of all sorts of gear? - this must be still much less expensive than having the orchestra play twice, once unamplified for recording purposes (and maybe without an audience) and once amplified without recording... - or is this in the cards? then go for it!
even if you're not making much money in the end (or loose some), i'm convinced you can learn a lot so i think money would be very wisely invested: gear up! after all, we're on gearslutz here... :-)

I'm away now, will be back on wednesday, so I'm affraid I will have no time to collect, install, check, learn all the new stuff. On the moment my interface is broken, so I'm recording on 8ch recorder. Anyway, that's what you mean is definitely worth a try some other time. Never enough of new experiances!

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
seriously now: i'm neither taking pride in using minimal gear (i don't, but at times i only use very few tracks out of the whole bunch i recorded) nor in using a multi-mic approach even with small ensembles (i often do so, up to the point of using more mics for spots than there are musicians on stage) - the main reason for doing the latter is to have multiple options and not getting stuck with a single faceted approach (or risk to 'loose' a recording due to unwise mic choice/positioning/lack of signals and tracks to work with) - imo it's way easier to kick out tracks rather than not have them at all! plus i think positioning becomes less critical and hence saves time during recording: i hate wearing out musicians due to technical reasons and rather deal with minor issues during post! - sorry for going off topic...

Absolutely right. Also in my modest resources I try to be as prepared as possible for me. My experiance is more from the recording musician point of view and from that what I usually hear from the organisation, probably I will have to be very "not walking in the way", so don't think will have a possibility to get on stage and set my own mics. Funny, that they always want a quality product, but you should do it invisible. Invisible setting up, invisible mics, invisible stands, cables and than: sorry, we have a low budget :D Miracles happen, but mabe not with me this time. Maby also they will be different, but I'm just a collegue of the lady who organizes everything, and not an established company, so don't think will have any place to set my conditions. If we agree, will try to do is as B. and J. Bartletts are saying:

"RECORD WITH A 4-TRACKER
This method is fairly simple and provides good sound. Put a stereo
mic or mic pair at the front-of-house (FOH) PA mixer position. Plug
the mic connectors into mic inputs 1 and 2 of a 4-track recorder–
mixer (or any size recorder–mixer). Connect the PA mixer’s tape out-
puts or 2-track outputs to line inputs 3 and 4 ( Figure 17.3 ). Mix the
recording to stereo back in the studio.
The FOH mics pick up the band as the audience hears it: lots of
room reverb, lots of bass, but rather muddy or distant. The PA
mixer output sounds tight and clear, but typically is thin in the bass.
Luckily, a mix of all four tracks can sound surprisingly good. Tracks 1
and 2 provide ambience and bass; tracks 3 and 4 provide defi nition
and clarity.
When you mix the four tracks, you might hear an echo because the
FOH mics pick up the band with a delay (caused by the sound travel
time from stage to mics). To remove the echo, import all the tracks
into digital recording software, and delay the PA mixer tracks by slid-
ing them a little to the right. Align the waveforms of the mic tracks
and mixer tracks at big peaks."

Maby the only solution, and then the question, where to put the mics. Just before the left speaker (3-4 meters or so?) one and the same from the other side won't have a lot of sense since this is not the best sounding place and will need a lot of EQ in the post?


Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
[the huge boxes stacked on the floor are subwoofers and musicians (horn players on each side) almost got blown off their chairs :-) there is no way of stopping sound being picked up by the mics in front of them except for using steep lowcut filters set high enough on the way in.
the line array for mids/highs can be seen above the musicians and got heavily tweaked in order not to cause feedback (allpass filters, very steep notch filters and splitting up the array into sections, applyfing multiple feeds from differently processed matrices) but essentially, i was just trying to shoot above the orchestra as there was no time to reangle or fly the hangs any higher.
dunno about others but i mostly do not get much time to prepare things: working with orchestras can become ridiculously expensive so you better bring enough gear, spill mics all over the stage without upsetting the musicians, tweak signals on a desk which allows for tweaking of multiple channels/groups at once till you get reasonable results and make sure you can achieve all of this very fast!
(setup time in this case was two hours before the orchestra coming in. i got help from one assistant/stage hand on stage and an assistant engineer at foh. setting levels/trims/filters was during afternoon rehearsals, another half an hour before doors and then things went on and onair - tough but the most fun i can think of!)]
Sounds like hell :D And still you deliver a professional product.
And this "without upsetting the musicians" :D even for me, usually recording friends and collegues is not easy to do

Thanks again for a lot of valuable info! Everybody!
Old 19th August 2019
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
(...) I will try to do is as J. and J. Bartetts are saying:

"RECORD WITH A 4-TRACKER
This method is fairly simple and provides good sound. Put a stereo
mic or mic pair at the front-of-house (FOH) PA mixer position. Plug
the mic connectors into mic inputs 1 and 2 of a 4-track recorder–
mixer (or any size recorder–mixer). Connect the PA mixer’s tape out-
puts or 2-track outputs to line inputs 3 and 4 ( Figure 17.3 ). Mix the
recording to stereo back in the studio.
The FOH mics pick up the band as the audience hears it: lots of
room reverb, lots of bass, but rather muddy or distant. The PA
mixer output sounds tight and clear, but typically is thin in the bass.
Luckily, a mix of all four tracks can sound surprisingly good. Tracks 1
and 2 provide ambience and bass; tracks 3 and 4 provide defi nition
and clarity.
When you mix the four tracks, you might hear an echo because the
FOH mics pick up the band with a delay (caused by the sound travel
time from stage to mics). To remove the echo, import all the tracks
into digital recording software, and delay the PA mixer tracks by slid-
ing them a little to the right. Align the waveforms of the mic tracks
and mixer tracks at big peaks."

Maby the only solution, and then the question, where to put the mics. Just before the left speaker (3-4 meters or so?) one and the same from the other side won't have a lot of sense since this is not the best sounding place and will need a lot of EQ in the post? (...)
the good thing about this situation would be that you are not responsible for less than perfect results as you are simply capturing what's going on (and you'd still have four more tracks in case you'd want go take any direct outputs from the desk such as the singers or get two stereo subgroups or whatver...)
position the stereo mic system at foh (as suggested in the article); i'm mostly using an ortf to do this which helps counterbalancing the desk mix which tends to be mono-ish (often for good reason though but that's another topic).

good luck and keep us posted on the results!
Old 24th August 2019
  #12
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huub's Avatar
Can you not borrow/rent/buy a laptop and RME madiface USB and get a MADI split?
And record 4 audience mics on your recorder?


Huub
Old 24th August 2019
  #13
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Hi,

Probably I can rent some of the equipment, but this time it was just not enough time.
Anyway It didn't work out this time, they decided to go just with the video.
Thank anyway for all your ideas.
Old 27th August 2019
  #14
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This is from the fevered mind of a Liberal Arts major so take that into account, but . . . Can you take the feed that is fed to the PA and record that and then invert the phase alongside it in the mix? I. E., In you audio editor have the two tracks as they are and then again two tracks phase inverted for a total of four tracks. I'm thinking this should kill the PA. Is this nuts or would something like this work?

OTOH I am thinking if this is such a great idea how is it that only I have thought of it, i.e., others did and the idea did not work.
Old 27th August 2019
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
This is from the fevered mind of a Liberal Arts major so take that into account, but . . . Can you take the feed that is fed to the PA and record that and then invert the phase alongside it in the mix? I. E., In you audio editor have the two tracks as they are and then again two tracks phase inverted for a total of four tracks. I'm thinking this should kill the PA. Is this nuts or would something like this work?

OTOH I am thinking if this is such a great idea how is it that only I have thought of it, i.e., others did and the idea did not work.
you mean cancelling out the desk mix by alining it to the tracks of ambi mics and the flipping polarity? if so, no way!! regardless of mics, setup, position, preamp, converter, pa, room ir aby ither factor, a desk mix and an ambient recording never ever sound the same (which besides revealing this fact is telling a few things on minimal recording setup: it's not possible to get the 'real' thing, totally true and unaffect, wire with gain kinda thing...) - partial cancellation is possible though but the remaining sound you will not want to listen to: it'd be a weird phasey mess!

only if you'd have a chance to play the same mix through the pa again and record ambis along with it, then you could invert the phase (on the mix being fed into the pa) and get much better cancellation; however, the effects of the ensemble performing versus just the playback, crowd noise, subtle shifts in the soundfield due to different temperature and humidity cannot be emulated.

so no, nice try but it doesn't work, sorry.
Old 27th August 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
you mean cancelling out the desk mix by alining it to the tracks of ambi mics and the flipping polarity? if so, no way!! regardless of mics, setup, position, preamp, converter, pa, room ir aby ither factor, a desk mix and an ambient recording never ever sound the same (which besides revealing this fact is telling a few things on minimal recording setup: it's not possible to get the 'real' thing, totally true and unaffect, wire with gain kinda thing...) - partial cancellation is possible though but the remaining sound you will not want to listen to: it'd be a weird phasey mess!

only if you'd have a chance to play the same mix through the pa again and record ambis along with it, then you could invert the phase (on the mix being fed into the pa) and get much better cancellation; however, the effects of the ensemble performing versus just the playback, crowd noise, subtle shifts in the soundfield due to different temperature and humidity cannot be emulated.

so no, nice try but it doesn't work, sorry.
No, no, no. That is not what I said. Take the PA (desk mix) feed and record it. ITB copy it and flip the phase. Now you have the PA and the PA out of phase. I would think that would cancel out the PA, not the ambient. I am just trying to take out the PA and leave the ambient.
Old 28th August 2019
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
No, no, no. That is not what I said. Take the PA (desk mix) feed and record it. ITB copy it and flip the phase. Now you have the PA and the PA out of phase. I would think that would cancel out the PA, not the ambient. I am just trying to take out the PA and leave the ambient.
sure that works but you then could as well refrain from recording the desk mix altogether... - imo the point would be though how to keep the pa out of any of the mics! this can only get achieved by recording things twice but flipping polarity of the pa on the second run: then the pa cancels out in the mics.
Old 29th August 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
sure that works but you then could as well refrain from recording the desk mix altogether... - imo the point would be though how to keep the pa out of any of the mics! this can only get achieved by recording things twice but flipping polarity of the pa on the second run: then the pa cancels out in the mics.
Yes, that was what I was trying to communicate.
Old 29th August 2019
  #19
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... But that would only work if everything was kept identical:

- Ambient temp
- Ambient pressure/humidity
- Room acoustics - NB: audience = absorption


This is a really big can of worms that you don't want to open.

Chris
Old 29th August 2019
  #20
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boojum's Avatar
Yes, yes, I see it now. Thanks, everybody.
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