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    Recording small orchestra / ensemble?
    #1
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    Looking for advice on recording a small ensemble video. Similar to this. Not sure total size just yet
    https://youtu.be/oWJynlA88RI

    I'll have more information soon but I am curious about these mics I see in the video. I have quite a few different mics. Not sure where to start.

    Seems a high XY placed mics and then a mic near each musician?
    I also have some audio recorders such as Sony PCM 10 that record stereo and have always served me well. Maybe put a couple of those up on a stand?

    From 1st comments it sounds like a small budget so running a bunch of mics to a nice sound mixer probably not likely. So I was considering using some audio recorders like the Sony mentioned above to take the mic feeds and then mix the recordings in post

    ----EDIT---- more information now-----

    Only 3 musicians - cello, violin, piano. No conductor.
    (Photo in lower thread)
    No Audience. It is in some type of hall I believe the photo attached is correct.
    We have the ability to position musicians and cameras where we want.

    Delivery viewing is web/computer/mobile.

    They want it to look and sound good, not CD master quality, but small budget is big determining factor.

    We can do multiple takes with adjustments.

    The audio is the part I'm concerned about. I would use multiple camera angles and maybe a jib if we can fit it in budget.
    Here is what gear I have in case any of this is useful:

    Mics:
    (2) Tascam TM-PC1
    (1) Shure PG57
    (1) Shure PG58
    (1) Audio Technica AT822
    (1) Audio Technica AT 4053B
    (1) Rode NTG-3
    (1) Sennheiser MKH 416 P48
    (1) Sennheiser ME66
    (1) MXL 890
    (2) Panasonic MIC 150
    (3) Sony ECM XM1
    (1) Azden SGM PDII
    (1) Audio Technica AT 875R

    Recorders:
    (1) Tascam DR701D
    (1) Tascam DR 40
    (3) Sony PCM M10
    (1) Zoom H1
    Last edited by firehawk; 11-03-2020 at 09:48 AM.


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    To be honest, this is the wrong forum for this type of question. A few people may have enough experience with this to advise, but I would recommend the location recordist section of sound forums like Gearslutz. Even if you end up going with a handheld recorder on a tripod (I wouldn't recommend doing that even on a tight budget), there are things to consider with regard to placement, acoustics, etc, that are best answered by those who record large ensemble acoustic music on a regular basis.

    BTW, in some ways a small string orchestra is easier to record than a piano trio like the video you linked to, mainly because the latter has piano involved and can be really tricky to balance unless you are an experienced location recordist. For a string ensemble, you can get away with a stereo pair if well placed in a good sounding hall. BTW, I'm an orchestra conductor and video producer, so I'm prone to being a bit picky about these things. I don't actually know what the expectations are from your client for the deliverables here, so take what I am saying with a grain of salt.
    Last edited by ozmorphasis; 11-01-2020 at 11:44 PM.


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    To be blunt, are you asking how to do the job? Or is it a paid job? As per the video, the setup is pretty straight forward. XY or two straight is always going to be a distant type of sound. Audience or wide shots might determine where you can place this.


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    Some of us do do this kind of thing - I certainly do, and the video only folk who come to it see a few mics dotted about and assume it therefore is a simple task.

    This video is deceptive. A LOT of money has gone into this. Spend some time with the Shoeps and DPA websites to see the scale of event.

    Mixing the stereo techniques, with coincident through to wide spaced arrays gives amazing scope and very venue critical differences, and if you do these things, it's critical to have some kind of loudspeaker monitoring system in the venue to set the spacings and angles of the array, and adjust the array itself in rehearsal. In familiar venues it means the location (in 3 axis) is pretty well known, but many people, me included use our ears then instigate a belts ahnd braces approach so we also close mic or semi-close mic each instrument so we can blend the thing together back in the studio. For video it's always a battle to give clean framing without the mics intruding, so always a compromise. My biggest battle is always with acoustics. The space needs the mics in a certain place, but the cameras say no. Sometimes it ends up being a client decision. Which is more important, sound or vision? This trio have 6 mics we are aware of, perhaps even a couple more we are not. To do something like this without being able to hear the results at rehearsal mean it's not a first recording scenario. It's also quite equipment heavy. Oddly, the biggest problem with these things are the flown mics. In concert halls there are normally proper rigging points that you can use to fly your kit - if you have it. various premade lengths of (in my case) 3mm aircraft type steel wire rope in black, all kinds of straps, shackles and shock mounts. In non-concert hall situations, like churches or theatres there may be no practical way to hang a microphone where you want it, unless you have with you ladders and the ability to use bridles between available structural points to get the hanging points in the right place. Portable recorders aren't that trick to get any longer - the zooms being very popular, or maybe an interface or mixer, direct into a mac or whatever.

    If you look carefully, you'll see the flown mics are not X/Y. The DPA folk have a microphone university on-line where you can see many of the different mic techniques shown, with angles and spacing. X/Y requires the capsules to be near coincident, so the differences between left and right are done by the polar patterns, with the capsules time aligned, so the differences are in level between left and right. As you separate the capsules you start to get time differences AND level differences. This has a big impact on the stereo field, but also on mono compatibility. It's interesting to do some research on this, as some techniques have an inherent 'hole in the middle' where some player locations sort of drop or even vanish. It's a bit of a minefield for newcomers. Being frank, the people who do multitrack music recording assume 2channel recording is much, much simpler. In practice, the reverse is true. A two channel, stereo recording is the hardest to do if you base your success/fail criteria on the music you hear recorded by the folk at Deutsche Grammophone or any of the big classical companies. It's very much right mic, right place, right venue.


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    Thanks everyone. I have more information now:

    Only 3 musicians - cello, violin, piano. No conductor.

    No Audience. It is in some type of hall I believe the photo attached is correct.
    We have the ability to position musicians and cameras where we want.

    Delivery viewing is web/computer/mobile.

    They want it to look and sound good, not CD master quality, but small budget is big determining factor.

    We can do multiple takes with adjustments.

    The audio is the part I'm concerned about. I would use multiple camera angles and maybe a jib if we can fit it in budget.
    Here is what gear I have in case any of this is useful:

    Mics:
    (2) Tascam TM-PC1
    (1) Shure PG57
    (1) Shure PG58
    (1) Audio Technica AT822
    (1) Audio Technica AT 4053B
    (1) Rode NTG-3
    (1) Sennheiser MKH 416 P48
    (1) Sennheiser ME66
    (1) MXL 890

    Recorders:
    (1) Tascam DR701D
    (1) Tascam DR 40
    (3) Sony PCM M10
    (1) Zoom H1


    eleven-reception_51_526368-1556721052.jpg
    I will also explore on the other site.
    Thank you all very much for any input. This is a learning experience for everyone involved.


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    I used to assist on this sort of thing many many many years ago. And recently, I've gotten back into recording small ensembles, but mainly for fun (ie- low stakes and quality concerns). So the deal is I have a solid audio background and that's helped me from totally blowing it. Anyway, Oz and Paul here have suggested some good online resources. Namely:

    DPA's Mic University:
    https://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university

    A sample article:
    STEREO RECORDING TECHNIQUES AND SETUPS
    https://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-u...ues-and-setups

    And Gearslutz, a site I search and read when looking for specific info... I greatly benefit from the contributions of everyone on that board:
    https://www.gearslutz.com

    Me, if I'm in a hurry, I find that an ORTF or NOS arrangement with my (recently bought) Line Audio CM4 cardioid mics can cover small acoustic ensembles decently (yes, they're not the ultimate ORTF mic, but they can work... depends on the space, instruments, etc). Often into a Sound Devices 442 and/or 744T since I like those preamps for music. But note that music recording is for me a hobby, not my bag (unlike production sound).

    Here's a fun calculator/visualizer that can get across some of the differences in various mics setups. It's not a recipe generator, but it is useful and nicely made.
    http://www.sengpielaudio.com/Visualization-ORTF-E.htm


    [Edit since I just saw your post]
    The piano's could make that a bit tricky to balance, ime. You might want to rent some good music mics to make everything work. Maybe go ORTF in the piano, and perhaps instrument (or at least solo) mics for the violin and cello. And then mix (that seems like what's going in in the Alice Tully video you linked to). Microphone rentals are really inexpensive, but as has been said, placement is key. Great question for gearslutz, but there are some cranky people over there (also a whole bunch of generous and smart people). Can you bring in someone with experience with this sort of thing to help?

    I'll totally defer to others on this topic. Good luck and have fun!
    Last edited by Jim Feeley; 11-02-2020 at 10:02 AM.
    ----------
    Jim Feeley
    POV Media


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    You don't have too much choice here, only having one stereo pair of mics - the Tascams, but a few thing leap out. Concave ceilings are horrible, acoustics wise as they create very strange nulls and worse, the opposite where a certain position is at the focal point and everything seems mega loud if the sound source and the mic just happen to be in the wrong place.

    With your mic choice I would record all using close/sem-close mic positions and get as much separation as possible and mix it in the studio and use artificial reverb to make it sound nice.

    The 4ch 701 recorder will do the trick. I'd probably use the pair of Tascams on the piano, with the MXL on the cello and the 4053 on the violin. Position wise - two boom stands on the piano with lid on half-stick - favouring bass and treble strings in the usual close mic position, the cello to the players left about a foot out, looking down between bridge and the end of the finger board. Violin wise, tricky as you need to assess the instrument and the way the player thrashes about. Some are static so a high boom looking down from around 1-2ft at the area around the centre of the triangle created by end of fingerboard/brudge and f-hole. If the violin is very bright and screechy, more f-hole, if it's mellower, then anywhere. If the player moves a lot a bit further away, but use the mic nulls to remove as much of the piano as you can. That will sound fine - making it look nice is up to you! Close miking will hopefully remove what will almost certainly be horrible real acoustics. Expect the live sound to be dry and very changeable as you walk around the space. Hence getting mics in close and adding reverb when you blend the mics.Note - you are NOT using and stereo techniques here - the two mics on the piano need blending, they won't be hard left and right panned.


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    I'm happy to share what's worked for me but I want to start by deferring to members like paulears here, who are clearly far more knowledgeable than myself. In my experience doing some small concert recordings (which I haven't done in well over a year) I had success with a variant of what's being suggested by others here: i.e., separate mics for each performer and then mixing and adding some presence in post. Here's one example with a violin and harpsichord: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Wja...ew?usp=sharing

    I went with four Rode M5's going into a Zoom F4. On the harpsichord I used a stereo-spaced pair and on the violin I used X/Y spacing; this was a long time ago, but I went with these arrangements based on some research I did poking around on various audio sites and forums. Harpsichord is a very different beast than piano, though, so keep that caveat in mind.

    I don't have the original files in front of me to confirm if this was the case on this concert, but generally I also ran a second recorder in case I wanted some sense of the space to mix in: often this was a Zoom H4n, H6, or H1.

    In the end my client was happy and liked the sound. To my ears it sounds perfectly fine but I'm no audiophile.

    One thing I'll add regarding mic placement and video: I've had at least one performer tell me that musicians are totally accustomed to sacrificing visibility for the sake of better mic placement, and that viewers expect this as well. Over the course of doing several concert recordings I've never had anyone complain about a mic being in a shot.


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    Senior Member paulears's Avatar
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    Oh - you've not lived then! I've had people complain about pretty well everything over the years. I've had all kinds of potential train wrecks. I spent ages sound checking and tweaking a choir's microphones, and then when the audience arrived we started and three pieces in. Half the choir got up and moved to the choir stalls, rather than from the proper tiered seating they used for the first section. No mics covering the choir stalls because nobody mentioned they'd be used! I'd got rather a nice reverse angle from a gopro, careful positioned on a magic arm, and the entire shot was the back of somebodies head from that point on. One soloist climbed into the pulpit to sing one of her pieces. This is why I always make a point in an email to ask about what is the most important thing, so you know when there is a compromise. Lots of my work take place in churches, and it's so common for there to be rules the client isn't aware of that wreck things.

    In fairness, if the space sounds good when you are in it, it's pretty hard to get a bad sound. What actually happens is that the venues with nice acoustics sound good - the usual thing is it's over reverby - but sometimes that sounds perfectly acceptable. The snags are that balance issues cannot be fixed. If the piano is too loud, then as it also has the widest frequency range, it's tricky to fix as the usual tricks leave the piano sounding weak. Close mics give you scope to fix it - the balance between wanted and unwanted sound makes the job easier. I've made it a rule, wherever I can to only buy versatile mics in pairs. I'll buy a specialist mic as a single, but two identical modest condensers are so much more useful than one really good one. There are also 'rules' to follow and 'rules' to ignore. You'll find people recommending recording instruments in 'stereo' - and often this really doesn't work. if you are ten feet away from a violin, or a voice, or a guitar or a trumpet using two mics will NOT produce stereo from that instrument, because the instrument is a point source - it has no width. An X/Y or A/B pair of mics will record the sound of the space in stereo, but leave the focus instrument a bit of a mess in the middle. A piano, or a harp has real width, so using the harp as an example, you can hear with your eyes closed, that some notes are on one side, but others are on the other side. The trouble is that when listened to from the perspective of a member of the audience - at twenty feet away, it's point source again BUT the power from those short high strings is very low compared to the longer strings, so your two mics will allow the string and weak to be balanced in volume.


    Whenever you do classical style recordings also consider the camera mics - with solid state cameras, the quality of the recording from the internal mics can be surprisingly high and perfectly possible to use once synced up. I've got an old handicam Panasonic SD9 that I often stick on a tall stand as a fixed camera for a really wide angle, and it has 5:1 sound that is surprisingly useful in churches and con cert halls to use with the closer perspective mics.

    In nice spaces you can also experiment a bit when you have extra mics. If the performers have a natural balance when you are standing in front of them, you can capture that many ways. even mono! I'm not a huge fan of M/S for example, but when presented with too much distance, the 416 in that list can give you a bit more focus if you combine it with a pair of cardioids that have their nulls facing the direction of the 416. I don't think I've ever seen this technique in the books, but when you get back to the studio you can use the two cardioids as 'space capture' so the reverby, reflected sound of the things in the centre, panned hard left and right, with the centre mic capturing the performers. The 416 captures them in mono, and your two mics provide the stereo effect. You can, however experiment by reversing the polarity of one of the two cardioids which produces a kind of 'side' signal, which you can try to use as M/S. It's not real M/S which needs a figure of 8 mic, but can be quite effective if the space is very live. None of what they produce is accurate stereo field, but can sound really nice.

    This doesn't work in poor acoustic spaces. It's just a mess, hence why close miking can solve the day. Recording real acoustic spaces is damn hard for beginners. I am happy to admit that I cheat frequently and the videos have far better sound than was really evident on the day.

    I have friends who swear by Decca Trees and will do anything to get one hauled up to the optimum location. Me. I'll happily use X/Y or maybe ORTF which are more simple to rig and predict.


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    Quote Originally Posted by paulears View Post
    Oh - you've not lived then! I've had people complain about pretty well everything over the years. I've had all kinds of potential train wrecks.
    Ha! I suppose I haven't. Over the years I've probably done only a dozen or so concert recordings (plus maybe another 5-10 I did for free when I was learning and experimenting). And while I've had a few moments of panic—e.g., showing up and realizing that whatever I was told over email is entirely not the case—I've been relatively fortunate. Probably the "worst" was being told that I had to move my camera for fire safety rules (totally fair) after I'd spent 15 or so minutes setting it up for the "perfect" shot.


    Quote Originally Posted by paulears View Post
    In nice spaces you can also experiment a bit when you have extra mics. If the performers have a natural balance when you are standing in front of them, you can capture that many ways. even mono! I'm not a huge fan of M/S for example, but when presented with too much distance, the 416 in that list can give you a bit more focus if you combine it with a pair of cardioids that have their nulls facing the direction of the 416. I don't think I've ever seen this technique in the books, but when you get back to the studio you can use the two cardioids as 'space capture' so the reverby, reflected sound of the things in the centre, panned hard left and right, with the centre mic capturing the performers. The 416 captures them in mono, and your two mics provide the stereo effect. You can, however experiment by reversing the polarity of one of the two cardioids which produces a kind of 'side' signal, which you can try to use as M/S. It's not real M/S which needs a figure of 8 mic, but can be quite effective if the space is very live. None of what they produce is accurate stereo field, but can sound really nice.
    Very interesting! I don't think I've ever come across something like this, but I'm certainly intrigued by how it might work out and sound.


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