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Old 3 weeks ago
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Remoteness's Avatar
Ah yes, my "Virtual Gobo" technique…

The term "virtual gobo" technique was coined in an article I was in called, “Drum Miking for Live Recordings.” It was in the April 2001 issue of EQ Magazine. I talked about how recording a live performance can be a challenging gig because you want to achieve the best possible recording without changing the artists' world or make then uncomfortable. We cannot always place gobos on stage to isolate musicians during a live show, but there are some simple ways to take advantage of the microphone polar pattern to increase isolation and reduce leakage problems. That’s what I call the "virtual gobo."

It's quite simple, really... "It’s all about the placement and positioning of all transducers involved with the live recording." This technique ensures that the sound quality of the recording is at a maximum, while on stage leakage is kept to a minimum.

To get more control of the recorded sound during the mix I tend to place and position the mics and speakers to maximize the isolation. You can curb the "bad" leakage with proper mic placement in reference to where the speakers are placed.

When we are primary audio on stage, we get to pick the mics and position them as we like. If necessary, we suggest different speaker placements to help the recording. It all depends on how important the recording is to the production. I try to position the mics away from loud sound sources. Kind of like a "virtual gobo" or gate. This is one place were "Vaporware" gobos workout well. Pointing the mics away from the offensive sound source will yield better isolation and less noise to gate or mute later. That makes our job much easier during the mix process.

As you may already know, recording a live performance can be a challenging situation because you want to achieve the best possible recording without changing the artists’ world or making them uncomfortable. It’s a balance between the ultimate placement of microphones and what the artist and their engineers are comfortable with – especially for drums. Obviously we cannot always place gobos on stage to isolate the musicians during a live concert performance, but there are some simple ways to take advantage of microphone polar patterns to increase isolation and reduce leakage problems. By getting it right in the recording process, there’s no need to “fix it in the mix.” By the way, you can use these ideas for sound reinforcement dates as well.

Although there are usually no baffles around the drums, we’re able to achieve pretty good isolation of the drum mics from bass, guitar, piano, etc. – even where the overhead mics are concerned.

My drum mic'ing technique has been fairly consistent regardless of the drummer and kit. I haven’t changed my drum mic procedure in decades. The basic idea is that I position the mics to take advantage of their pickup patterns, and reduce leakage as much as possible. I rotate each and every mic so that the back of the polar pattern is pointing toward a stage monitor or whatever instrument might be challenging the drum sound. You need to keep the rejection point of the mic facing toward the offensive sound, minimizing the leakage. To check phase between the mics, I solo various combinations of mics in mono and listen carefully to whether the low end becomes weaker when they’re added together. If the low end weakens, I move the mic to help fatten the sound.

Drum overhead mics can be a source of unwanted leakage due to the fact that they’re generally placed around the kit pointing in “unfriendly” directions. For me, the key to isolating my beyer M160s (my favorite O/H mics for decades) is to place them high up, pointing straight down. Looking at the floor tom side I center one mic over the floor tom and cymbals. On the other (hi-hat) side of the kit I make sure that this overhead mic is centered somewhere between the snare, first rack tom and cymbals.

What’s interesting to me about this arrangement is that the higher I place the overheads (most of the time that is) above the kit, the more cymbals and drum kit I get, while the less bleed I get from the stage. It’s the reverse of what you’d expect, but the higher they go, the better the isolation of the kit from the rest of the stage. Bringing the overheads down close will give you more bell of the cymbals, but remember that you’re also closer to the other instruments and speakers. Sixty percent of my drum sound is a balance between the two overhead mics and the rest of the kit mics.

Important note: If you're not mixing the tracks, this may cause some serious problems for the mixer down the road. They will not be able to "fix it in the mix" and unfortunately, you're also not helping the mixer's economics when you do this kind of stuff.

On a more serious note, of course there ways to practice this! Hiring someone to play while your experiment with the different mics and mic placements is a fabulous idea. Remember to also position the instruments and other transducers in the room. Experimentation is key!

Originally Posted by shimoyjk View Post
Hey Steve!

I’m looking for an information about your virtual gobo technique.
So, let’s say I place a piano and let drummer play a but.
Then I listening drums and walking around piano and find a good spot(less drum sound) by my ear? Is it what would you refer as virtual gobo technique?

Curious about it, since I’ve been reading and searching your virtual gobo technique but dont think I totally understood.

This sat have some free time so I called my student that will playing some drums while I miking piano and listen back. Quiet excited because I can experiment with another person since it’s been hard for me cuz I have to do everything by myself.

Originally Posted by shimoyjk View Post
Never mind, I’ve realized that I have to study and experiment with different polar pattern, which side they null and etc..

Are there any way to do practice this? Should I hire someone all day and let him/her play and I try different miking? From reading books I’ve learnedsomething but I need to really understand it... maybe I gotta hire someone all day and do experiment.