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    Rock band reunion documentary audio
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    Member mattmealer's Avatar
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    I'm planning to shoot a short documentary project in April about the reunion of my dad's high school rock band...wondering how best to handle audio since I will be working alone and, of course, on a very tight budget. My (limited) experience with sound has been with interviews, verite-style documentary, etc. -- not recording music.

    The band is three guys -- electric guitar, electric bass, drumkit, and two singers (the guitarist and bassist). My first shoot with them will be their rehearsals for their 50th class reunion. Apparently they'll be setting up in a dedicated rehearsal space (likely a garage/warehouse-type thing) and playing through a PA system. They're not planning to mic the drums, but everything else will be run through some sort of mixer.

    My first thought was to bring along a multitrack recorder and get the two vocals, guitar, and bass on separate tracks for post mixing. The drums would not mic'd, unfortunately. Then probably record a line-out/mixdown from their mixer and also have a mic (or mics) placed around the room to capture the PA speaker output, drums, and general ambience.

    I'm not 100% sure that I'll be able to make the multitrack recording idea work, in which case my alternate plan would be to just record the line-out and room tone.

    I would like the music to sound as good as possible, of course -- but as this project is more about the story of the musicians, particularly my dad, and not the music itself, I don't necessarily need a studio-quality recording.

    Any thoughts on this approach? Suggestions for equipment? I currently own very little audio gear -- a Sennheiser 416 shotgun and Zoom H6 recorder is all -- but I have some options to borrow/rent from friends or other local sources.

    Syncing all of this in post could be a nightmare...I welcome your thoughts on that as well. Or just tell me that this is a terrible idea


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    Quote Originally Posted by mattmealer View Post
    Or just tell me that this is a terrible idea
    As long as your expectations for the audio quality are sufficiently low (think a slight step above cellphone recording of a concert), I think you'll be fine throwing up as many mics as you can get your hands on and praying. If you have dreams of a great sounding mix (and particularly if the musicians are picky about how they sound, don't underestimate this!!), I would look to find a kid at a local music engineering program to record/mix the session, because there's a lot that goes into getting a good recording (beginning with the fact that recording someone in a garage and a warehouse are two completely different animals). Many would love experience like this (live bands are hard to come by), will work for cheap, and will probably bring their own mics as well.


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    Senior Member Rick R's Avatar
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    With the gear you have, and a few rented or borrowed dynamic mics (SM57 or 58s for instance) You may get six decent tracks to mix.
    1: feed from the vocal mixer. (which would likely be +4dB line level)
    2: guitar amp (mic) assuming an electric guit.
    3: bass amp (mic or DI)
    4: overhead mic on the drum set.. you may want to experiment with placement (recommended option: premix in a kick drum mic if you can find a small two or more channel mixer.. 90+% chance one of the band members has a Mackie 1202 or something similar lying around)
    5-6: live-room-audience (H6 internal mics)
    You may want to put wireless lavs on the key folks and record them directly to the cam to pick up off-mic chatter.


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    Quote Originally Posted by mattmealer View Post
    ... but as this project is more about the story of the musicians, particularly my dad, and not the music itself, I don't necessarily need a studio-quality recording.
    The focus is on the story, so the important thing is to hear what they say at the rehearsal and elsewhere when they are not doing a number. I'd go for a simple stereo recording of the band using the on-recorder mics. The problem is hearing them when they step away from the mics. You really need someone on the 416 and capture them between numbers. Otherwise, it's just a performance of some numbers.


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    As suggested above, using the built-in recorder mics for an XY pattern is a option. And if you are working solo, is pretty easy. Better yet, if you can find a couple of better mics and do an XY, that can improve things a lot. At the most econo level, I have used a couple of older CAD M37 large diaphragm condensers with a DR100II and it sounded surprisingly good. There are lots of similar mics on the market which can be had on the cheap. I eventually purchased some better LDC's, but it always surprised me how well that sounded. If you look at the BH site there are a bunch of LDC's for under $100. At around a $100 you can get an AT-2020 which is a pretty respectable mic. I'm sure that other members will have their fav econo mic suggestions for this method.

    Grant


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    Member mattmealer's Avatar
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    Awesome feedback so far...much appreciated. Definitely some food for thought here.

    I should have added that I will be recording dialogue in-camera (Sony FS7) with lavs, in addition to the music. As Paul points out, the subjects' interactions are just as important, and probably more so, than the performances.


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    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    If I was covering this, I would heed the advice of Doug, it's way too much for a solo shooter to end up with quality audio in this situation, even just from the musicians. You need a sound pro and each musician needs to be wearing a wireless mic or if you're hurting for funds, consider buying or renting three of the Tascam DR-10Ls. These are little wireless transmitter sized stand alone recorders, I own two of them and for $189.00, they provide usable, decent quality audio and you don't have to worry about wireless issues. Same with the band performing, trying to just mic the live sound from the PA and drums is going to sound pretty bad and you'll have no ability to adjust levels for a solo, etc. in post. You need to either hire a sound mxier or find a live sound engineer type student person who will help you out for whatever you can afford. A smart creator knows when they have involve others to get something usable and professional level.
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    To kind of pile on. This is about the group and that would be my focus. If they want really good audio recordings I would have someone else do that because doing that yourself will be a huge distraction and take your focus away from what you are really there to do.

    Garage band "sound systems" are pretty notorious for hums and buzzes etc., poor connections, dirt, you name it. I would not plug into their system at all. Now if I'm the sound guy doing an audio recording then maybe, but I am going to spend a bunch of time making sure the mic cables are not piled on the power strips etc. I'm going to bring a bunch of isolation transformers and I'm going to probably have to bring my own mixer so I can get direct outs. I would at least do a big site scouting to see what I will be up against, and bring accordingly.

    I mostly do sound and a bit of shooting and if I were OMBing this I would set up a stereo pair to pick up the music/ chatter, and you are already laving them so that would be it.

    I actually did a reunion shoot of a punk group (the Jawbreakers) for a Japanese music show and all they wanted from me was a decent stereo pickup, and they did lav's direct to camera.
    Cheers
    SK


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    What do you actually want? Video with general background audio, or a mixed good quality balanced audio track to match the pictures? If you move about in a rehearsal, then the camera audio will change constantly as you go near the sources. If you take a PA then it's going to sound weird with no drums. What you ideally want, but can't do is a proper multitrack. Trouble is, the subject is a band, so people will expect to hear the band. As it's a reunion, then ultra quality may not be necessary - but, how can you work without the drums? Even one overhead in your multitrack or stereo mix would fill in the hole.


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    A few thoughts just about the music element - there's some overlap with others.

    As you say, the priority is the story, but the sound could do with being as good as possible and, certainly, not distracting. Putting aside the filming, recording a band in a reverberant space like a garage or warehouse is always challenge in its own right. Even with decent mics and recording equipment, spill is an issue: add in a PA and foldback/monitors, and the issue is much worse. Plus someone is then miking and mixing for a PA, which is very different. First off I would want isos for everything (inc. the drums: there will need to be a couple of mics on those irrespective of the PA) and before any PA mixing: there are different ways of achieving this and it will rather depend on what equipment you/the band have and what you can borrow, hire or buy.

    Personally, for this sort of thing I run a Soundcraft Signature 12 MTK, which gives me post-gain direct outs on each channel straight for all channels plus the master on a 14-channel USB, direct into Reaper. Assuming laptop and Reaper (free/cheap) that is a very cost-effective solution (the 12 MTK is only £279 in the UK these days). A Zoom Livetrak 12 could do similar, with on-board recording, but with a desk that isn't so good for live use. And you could use a more trad desk by using the insert jacks as direct outs: but you will need a separate multi-channel recorder or interface. This set up would work for the main gig too, which I assume you will also record/film. You need someone to run this setup independent of filming: but then the band will need someone clued-up mixing for the PA anyway. That same person will need to know about miking instruments, inc. the drums, and arranging the band, the drums, instrument amps, PA mains and PA foldback speakers to reduce spill for recording and feedback for the PA. Definitely take a DI for the bass, even if the bass amp is miked too. And a stereo pair of room mics too would useful/necessary (esp. for the later performance with an audience). I count 9 channels: 2 vocals, 1 guitar, 2 bass (miked amp and DI), 2 drums and 2 room/audience. If this, fairly simple, set up is too complex and there is no PA mixer person (!) or not one capable of recording too, then, yes, abandon isos and just go for a stereo pair, but still using an intelligent approach to mic, band and PA placement, balancing the sound and keeping the PA sound out of mics as much as possible in the rehearsal room.

    As you say, keep lav mics on the band members as a separate system.

    Cheers,

    Roland


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