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Outdoors horn ensemble
Old 18th March 2021
Gear Addict
apotheosis's Avatar
🎧 5 years
Outdoors horn ensemble

Dear all,

I have been booked to record a series of three livestream concerts with horn ensembles (= between 4 and 8 French horns, sometimes with some trombones and/or trumpets, depending on the pieces). If the weather allows, they want to have it outdoors to allow a small audience (covid regulations in Belgium). If not, it will be indoors in a nice hall which negates my question.

Outdoors would be in a good sounding U-shaped courtyard, buildings at three sides so nice reflections. Because of video, setup time and safety in case rain *would* happen, I would like to set up as little as necessary, so no individual spotmiking.
Ensemble will be positioned either in a single row all facing forwards or in a U-shape single row for the larger groups and more distance (covid regulations).

What would be your initial thoughts? I have never recorded outdoors, so no idea about what might work, except that wind filter caps on the pencil mics will be necessary.

Thanks for any input!
All best
Old 18th March 2021
Gear Guru
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
i mix/record quite a lot of outdoor concerts, albeit mostly in amplified settings and hence i'm using multiple spot mics...

- for mains i tend to use ambisonic, m/s or spaced l/c/r, depending on the width of the ensemble and the distance of the mics to the ensemble; ambisonic mics are the least critical in terms of positioning and give the most options in terms of mixing.
- outdoors, a single main system may not pick up things well enough so consider using 3-5 mics.
- for spots, i'm using directional mic if not lavaliers.
- picking up horns from behind is recommended.
- although there's not much (if any) room impression to capture outdoors, i'm using 'ambis' (which i'm feeding into efx devices but don't route their signals to the main buses).

windshields or a dead cat are mandatory for recording, adding some early reflections plus creating an illusion of a room are helpful for mixing.

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 weeks ago at 08:17 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear
🎧 15 years
For outdoor gigs you have to be ready for wind and unpredictable BG noise, which will mean mics closer and with bigger windscreens than people are used to from nice-room indoor sorts of sessions. It's important to get this concept in front of the creatives and the video folks as soon as possible, so they understand the limitations in play. Usually an outdoor space with 3 hard walls does not sound very great, so I'd be even more interested in close micing to be able to not hear a lot of reflections in the instrument mics. I very much encourage you to scout the locations, if only to find out in advance how (if) some pesky HVAC or vent fans etc can be shut off during your recording. Early contact with the camera people about mic placement is a really good idea. I can tell you that in the recent recordings like these I've done I've put up ambiance or wide-stereo mic arrays, and never used them in the eventual mix. Too much BG noise.
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear
🎧 5 years
I have recorded many wind bands outside in the UK
U shaped courtyard will be good ,with nice reflections hopefully
I MidSide with a MKH50/30 in full Rycote windshield and windcover, could use a 40 also
They should produce plenty of level
Tall stand useful.
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear
Plush's Avatar
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Recording brass outdoors can be quite successful.

With distancing comes the requirement for more microphones. You cannot get around that. I recommend around 6 front mics for your set up and 3 mics behind the french horns. Have the players stand not in a U shape, but instead in a straight line.

The straight line set up would work better in my opinion because it offers the possibility for a better sound balance than the U shape. At the ends of the U shape formation, the closer brass players will stand out in the mix too much.

Also with the straight formation, you can place mics behind the players to catch the directionality of the bell sound. Don't mic any horns closely but use zone type of micing.

Then when you make your mix, use a good amount of reverb to simulate a hall sound. Outdoor recordings, by definition without a real acoustic, take reverb very well and can sound quite pleasant.
Old 4 weeks ago
Gear Addict
apotheosis's Avatar
🎧 5 years
Brilliant feedback, thank you all, this helps me a lot.
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear
🎧 10 years
Brass outdoors without building reflections can sound airless and flat. So embrace the reflections and maximise your capture of the reflections ability to blend the instruments. Don’t record so far back that it sounds washy and detail is lost. Omni mics will help a lot, and they will be less prone to wind noise than directional mics- but still use good windsocks !

NB...a few more thoughts...if the horns' bells are facing back into the U shape boundary, you'll get the desired bounce of indirect sound, and a recommended way of covering (I think it was Richard King's book) is to mic horns from directly'll get a blend of 'somewhat direct' bell sound plus wall bounce. That won't help with the other brass, which will benefit from a more 'above and in front' location (or BLM/PZM on the floor...don't forget that possibility !)

Fortunately, because of the height of these 'area mics' (assuming a pair above horns, and a wider main pair out front and up high, or PZM), they should be out of camera frames, so video operators will be placated ? Tall stands, long boom arms ...and plenty of sandbags !

Alternatively, consider an arangement similar to a lighting truss above the players (but with a single horizontal pole, rather than the latticed 'ladder' shown in the pic below....and hang mics from the pole overhead.

For the number of players you mention, a set of 4-5 mics would cover the whole ensemble, especially if they are in a straight line, and put the stand above the bell of the trumpets/trombones. This should give you a representative blend of all the brass...on a single bar !

You can probably hire the stands (and pole) if your mic stands aren't sufficient. It may look overkill, but with some helpers you could set it up and take it down quite quickly, and pre-attach cables to the pole before the event, or at a rehearsal.

Have a variety of mic pairs...omni and cardioid (regular or wide).... and use whichever sounds best, with the caveat that no amount of foam windsocks (even doubled up, one inside another) are going to stop wind buffeting in SD cardioids outdoors, so Rycotes are really the only way.

Experiment at home by running cables outdoors and mic the garden ambience in light to moderate breeze, verify the results for yourself... well before the events !
Attached Thumbnails
Outdoors horn ensemble-truss_lg__.jpg  

Last edited by studer58; 4 weeks ago at 02:14 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear
🎧 5 years
Use a bit of slap if there is none
A short delay sounds good on brass, especially if the sound field is reversed.
Point source is best, detail is King.
Old 3 weeks ago
Lives for gear
🎧 10 years
Possibly not suitable for your needs, but somewhere on the forum is a photograph of John Dunkerley (Kingsway) of Decca, recording London Brass seated in a circle (I think a Decca tree is in use) which also presents the opportunity for miking horns/tuba from the rear from the outside of the circle.

I guess translating this into stereo would need to be given a little thought, which for my tired brain, here at 1:45am, is just a tad too much at the moment to finalise!
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