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Advice on production sound for filmed theater play
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 
Advice on production sound for filmed theater play

Dear gurus of GS, I'm a longtime lurker here and have nothing but appreciation for this community! I recently joined to become more active and to thank you all for contributing here I see myself as an amateur sound recordist and editor, trying to work my way up to serious living gig for gig… not really newbie but also lacking a lot of real world exp.
As mentioned in the title, I have an upcoming job on a low budget shooting of a theater play, most probably as a do-it-all boom op/mixer… What I know until now: It's a rather minimalist piece with ~10 performers where dialog is the focus, will be shot with two cameras, and not on a stage but rather a set is being currently built in some warehouse. Bad: no backline or infrastructure that I know of. Good: I have time and can come up with a "tailored" solution.
I'm mostly trying to come up with a reasonable plan for gear rental, deciding on soundboard or field recorder, placement of mics, acoustic considerations, and whatnot…
I saw another thread but didn't find it so helpful and wonder if anyone here has worked on a similar project who wants to share some tips. Thanks in advance!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Head
 
Wavefront's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anearisanear ➡️
I have an upcoming job on a low budget shooting of a theater play, most probably as a do-it-all boom op/mixer… What I know until now: It's a rather minimalist piece with ~10 performers where dialog is the focus, will be shot with two cameras, and not on a stage but rather a set is being currently built in some warehouse.
It is hard for me to picture a boom being a viable approach in this situation, particularly considering the videography.

Under higher-budget circumstances there are, of course, many things one could consider, like mic'ing each performer wirelessly with a small and carefully concealed mic, e.g. from DPA. In a low budget context, one approach would be to place several microphones so as to achieve coverage of the overall stage/performance area which is as even as you can manage. If it is a high priority, some ways you can avoid microphones being prominent in the resulting video are:
  • Hanging the microphones from above (ideal, if possible)
  • Using boundary mics (or SDC's on the floor taking advantage of the same principle)
  • Using tall stands with booms (if you have, or can rent them)

It may be that a combination of the above -- e.g. a main stereo pair hanging over center stage, plus some carefully placed boundary mics -- will end up being a workable solution. It is good that you will have some time to experiment. If there is no reason (reinforcement, live-stream, etc.) to provide a mix during performance, my personal preference would be to capture with a field recorder and spend as much time as possible focusing on mic choice, placement, sound-checking, and getting the most usable audio recorded, with the expectation that you will do some subsequent balancing/polishing work. Just my $0.02
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
Not a guru, but. . .

How many concurrent performers must be captured more or less at the same time?

Any more info available about the set, the play dynamics, etc.?

Any more info about the mics and booms and rigging you have on hand?

In the blind - If mics are hard-wired, I think I would be inclined to go with a Sound Devices MixPre-10 II in 32-bit mode so I wouldn't have to worry much about gain. I'd defer that task and cleanup to post production. If you are forced to wireless [I use Audio Ltd A10 transmitters/receivers], I would prefer a Sound Devices Scorpio with Dan Dugan [Automixing or MixAssist] and the NoiseAssist or CEDAR sdnx plugins to suppress common background noises. I wouldn't likely be after an external board either way.


Welcome and looking forward to more of your posts,

Ray H.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath ➡️
If you are forced to wireless [I use Audio Ltd A10 transmitters/receivers], I would prefer a Sound Devices Scorpio with Dan Dugan [Automixing or MixAssist] and the NoiseAssist or CEDAR sdnx plugins to suppress common background noises. I wouldn't likely be after an external board either way.


Welcome and looking forward to more of your posts,

Ray H.
The gig is described by the OP as "an upcoming job on a low budget shooting of a theater play, most probably as a do-it-all boom op/mixer" ...so budgetary constraints are likely to come to the fore, primarily in terms of recording gear ownership or rental ?

Here's the 'Scorpio ownership option' : https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ..._recorder.html
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 
Great! Thanks guys, your replies are already quite enlightening. Sorry @ RayHeath that I couldn't provide more detailed information, I'll try and add more as I get deeper into pre-production.

Quote:
e.g. a main stereo pair hanging over center stage, plus some carefully placed boundary mics -- will end up being a workable solution
This was in line with what my intuition was trying to tell me. As soon as I get a rough idea of the stage dimensions and dynamics, I'll contemplate a hanging system. My concern is getting in the camera's way.

I do have a pair of CM4 which I expect to involve and other small condensers should be no problem to find. Boundary mics would be a first for me, I've seen some ranging from omni to supercardioid, any tips here?

Also if we end up using wireless, I'll probably get access to some COS11s or MKE Sennheisers… I'm afraid the DPA are a bit out of question for the moment, not to mention the Scorpio.

I hadn't thought about the convenience of 32-bit for this particular case, but I'll keep that in mind.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
[. . .] low budget shooting [. . .]
Definitely thinking rental for the Scorpio - and even if a rental could be found, it may still exceed budget. But if forced to wireless, that is the general direction I would want to head. So I laid it down as a functional marker to talk through issues.

Ray H.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #7
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
i'd use wireless AND a couple of blm/pzm/shotgun etc. for ambis/to pickup up dialogue. i prefer cos11's or mke2's over dpa's but the latter have become more popular in recent years - no scorpio needed: most any laptop/interface/preamp combo or remotely controllable stagebox will do.
frequency coordination for wireless can become an issue in some places though...
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
[. . .] prefer cos11's or mke2's over dpa's but the latter have become more popular in recent years - no Scorpio needed [. . .]
I dislike all lavs all of the time. . .if I can get one of my Schoeps close enough. But when stuck with lavs, DPA 4060/6060 are all I will use now - cos11's and mke2's are way too noisy. Noise aside and with perfect positioning, I have by far the least animosity toward DPA.

Is a Scorpio required? No. Is it likely to save days of work in post, and significantly contribute towards a superior, polished delivery [for me, anyway]? Absolutely.

Ray H.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath ➡️
I dislike all lavs all of the time. . .if I can get one of my Schoeps close enough. But when stuck with lavs, DPA 4060/6060 are all I will use now - cos11's and mke2's are way too noisy. Noise aside and with perfect positioning, I have by far the least animosity toward DPA.

Is a Scorpio required? No. Is it likely to save days of work in post, and significantly contribute towards a superior, polished delivery [for me, anyway]? Absolutely.

Ray H.
chances are you simply cannot deploy enough high-end mics in warehouse to get even coverage across the entire room/venue so there's possibly no other way than using a bonsai radio mic on each actor...

...and in terms of mic selection, not all 'noise' (nor fr) is equal...

(...and dpa's published specs of their newer/less expensive gear are pretty far from real-world experience!)

i do own and use all three mini-mics mentioned (so far) in this thread - i vastly prefer the cos-11 for spoken word (or attached to guitars, violins, harpsichords, bandoneons etc.)
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
[. . .] dpa's published specs of their newer/less expensive e gear are pretty far from real-world experience!

[i do own and use all three mini-mics mentioned (so far) in this thread - i vastly prefer the cos-11 for spoken word (or attached to guitars, violins, harpsichords, bandoneons etc.)]
Of course, I wasn’t referring to lav specs, but to hands-on, side-by-side experience. . .with all of these lavs and more. And the cos-11 is way, way too noisy for me. I honestly don’t see how you stand it.

If I did use lavs, they would only be for backup - or because I failed to find a solution with the Schoeps during pre production and rehearsal.


Lavs => rarely great, often necessary evil,

Ray H.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
MAXX VADA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by anearisanear ➡️
Dear gurus of GS, I'm a longtime lurker here and have nothing but appreciation for this community! I recently joined to become more active and to thank you all for contributing here I see myself as an amateur sound recordist and editor, trying to work my way up to serious living gig for gig… not really newbie but also lacking a lot of real world exp.
As mentioned in the title, I have an upcoming job on a low budget shooting of a theater play, most probably as a do-it-all boom op/mixer… What I know until now: It's a rather minimalist piece with ~10 performers where dialog is the focus, will be shot with two cameras, and not on a stage but rather a set is being currently built in some warehouse. Bad: no backline or infrastructure that I know of. Good: I have time and can come up with a "tailored" solution.
I'm mostly trying to come up with a reasonable plan for gear rental, deciding on soundboard or field recorder, placement of mics, acoustic considerations, and whatnot…
I saw another thread but didn't find it so helpful and wonder if anyone here has worked on a similar project who wants to share some tips. Thanks in advance!
most important thing to learn about with live boom work is Phasing , just in case you dont know thats when the active polar patterns of more than one mic cross over and cause phase cancellation and sometimes causes almost like a flange effect ( its actually a phasing effect ) , if youre recording the live shoot you need a decent long throw cannon like a Sennheiser MKH 416 , and possibly some stereo mics set up out of shot to pick up on non essential action so you can pick up auto foley ( ambient foot steps , clapping etc ) then a set to pick up on the audience.

Next you need to talk to the DOP , Stage Manager and Props Dept to see if you have any opportunity to mount mics into stage scenes/ The DOP should supply you with a Video Monitor to see the live shoot as you use the boom , make sure you have essential and non essential switching on the monitor to see if youre out of frame for close dialogue. Theres heaps more but in a limited production that should get you out of trouble.

Best of luck man ! live production is scary but its totally awesome once you get the jist !
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #12
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath ➡️
Of course, I wasn’t referring to lav specs, but to hands-on, side-by-side experience. . .with all of these lavs and more. And the cos-11 is way, way too noisy for me. I honestly don’t see how you stand it.

If I did use lavs, they would only be for backup - or because I failed to find a solution with the Schoeps during pre production and rehearsal.


Lavs => rarely great, often necessary evil,

Ray H.
...don't wanna start a war on this but the sanken is just ca. 2bB more noisy that the dpa yet imo has more smooth fr and takes eq (way) better.

(i admit dpa's can take higher spl)
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
...don't wanna start a war on this but the sanken is just ca. 2bB more noisy that the dpa yet imo has more smooth fr and takes eq (way) better.

(i admit dpa's can take higher spl)
Maybe the ones I tried were all broken? From memory, I would’ve guessed a 12 decibel delta. It seemed huge.

Lots of guys love them. Just not me.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Wireless lavs on the actors are going to give you the best sound, and easiest to deal with.

Area mics and hanging mics over the stage are more trouble than they are worth, and in the long run, don't sound very good and will pick up way more room noise than you want to hear or deal with in post.

If you're worried about seeing the mics on the actors, you can always hide them in their wardrobe using some of the film/TV mic techniques.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
Here for the gear
 
Thanks @ MAXX VADA for the encouraging reply. I'm aware of phasing risks but thought a 416 would be too noisy for this or not so suitable for indoor use? I might get my hands on some 8060s or 8050s though, I think they're more readily available here than the Schoeps.

Quote:
Lavs => rarely great, often necessary evil,
So true!

Quote:
Area mics and hanging mics over the stage are more trouble than they are worth, and in the long run, don't sound very good and will pick up way more room noise than you want to hear or deal with in post.

If you're worried about seeing the mics on the actors, you can always hide them in their wardrobe using some of the film/TV mic techniques.
In my (limited) experience your point on hanging setups is very true. Assuming the DOP wants a 'clean' frame, I guess a mix of plant mics and lavs will do it… so I'll keep your other tip in mind and try to work together with the costume person (not department ) from the get-go.

At this point without a proper script it's hard to tell, but I'll try and sneak in some plant mics with the stage props. Would I be right to assume that omnis would be safer in this situation?

Thanks for chiming in guys!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
Gear Guru
 
Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
I did one of these a couple of years ago. TOTAL NIGHTMARE!!!

I have done TV sound as a professional and this was still a NIGHTMARE!

The director was more of a dictator than a director. The cast members were all high school students and had no idea of what they were doing. The director wanted "spontaneity" and did not want to shoot multiple takes. He did not want to "spoil the illusion of reality" and did not want to use boom mics or wireless mics. I wound up doing the whole shoot with shotguns and PZMs. Not an experience I want to repeat. All the pre-production meetings were cordial and friendly but when we got on set it all turned bad. Two video cameras with so-so videographers and floor people who had no idea of what they were doing. A complete clusterf**k from the start of shooting to the end. I pitted the poor editor.

To add to the mess the director, who was paying for the whole affair, wanted to renegotiate my fee after the shoot. He did this with all the technical people. I don't think he even paid the actors.

To the OP just make sure everything your are responsible for is spelled out in advance and make sure the check clears before releasing any audio.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Warehouse location---could be boomy inside and may let in outside traffic noise depending on level of insulation and proximity to traffic.

Warehouse lighting may not be that great for video, either.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
MAXX VADA's Avatar
Quote:
Thanks @ MAXX VADA for the encouraging reply. I'm aware of phasing risks but thought a 416 would be too noisy for this or not so suitable for indoor use?
Noisy ? no ... ive used them as a boom before and they can pick up dialogue from 20 feet and very little ambient noise. The polar pattern is super focused.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Listen to Mr Bigler. The only way to get your client what they think they want in that situation is to wire everyone. Get them used to the idea right away, both re: expense and operational issues like visibility of mics and transmitters. Get out to the location with some gear an do an RF scan so you can see who's home on the air there. The other mics will give you a nice sense of space, but to get intelligible dialog spoken dramatically in wide shots in an untreated space like that you have to wire the actors.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #20
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by philper ➡️
to get intelligible dialog spoken dramatically in wide shots in an untreated space like that you have to wire the actors.
Yep, and tell 'em that rentals will be expensive.

Multi-track everything and make certain every wire works. Ugh!

This has "nightmare" written all over it. Sorry to be a Dougie-downer. I'd say "no thanks".

D.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
I agree with the last few comments, This needs lavs for all the actors and is quite a bit of work for one person. If you are expected to hide the mics you really need an A2 to help with 10 actors, unless there is too plenty of time. which there never is.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #22
Gear Guru
 
jwh1192's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by anearisanear ➡️
Thanks @ MAXX VADA for the encouraging reply. I'm aware of phasing risks but thought a 416 would be too noisy for this or not so suitable for indoor use? I might get my hands on some 8060s or 8050s though, I think they're more readily available here than the Schoeps.


So true!



In my (limited) experience your point on hanging setups is very true. Assuming the DOP wants a 'clean' frame, I guess a mix of plant mics and lavs will do it… so I'll keep your other tip in mind and try to work together with the costume person (not department ) from the get-go.

At this point without a proper script it's hard to tell, but I'll try and sneak in some plant mics with the stage props. Would I be right to assume that omnis would be safer in this situation?

Thanks for chiming in guys!
How Staged is this Thing ???? how Professional are these Folks ???? how Rehearsed are these Peeps ???? you should be at these Rehearsals !!!!

can you Guarantee that the actor(s) will hit their "Mark" Every time !!!

have any of the "Actors" ever Worn a Wire ????

What size Crew can you Afford to have with You - A2's, an RF coordinator with 10 Lavs (plus Spares) !!!

Crazy Can be Fun, and some Good Hard Lessons can be learned without a Heart Attack !!!

# lesson is: be prepared for Anything !! especially when there are CAMERAS inVolved .. and Potential non-professional Camera People - haha ..

have I done something like this .. "yes" .... live from the Groundlings .. maximum-11 people doing improve on stage with Live Audience .. was like Monday Night Football crazy !!! getting a break was when only 5-6 people decided they would perform the Skit the Audience just Yelled out - No Rehearsals for this !!! you could only memorize very quickly Who was on Which Wire and then stare at the camera shots as never look down at the Mixer .. and Don't make a Mistake !!!

that the Foreward to my Book .. "How not to have A Heart Attack on Every Job, including the High Budget Ones !!!"

I am with Thomas from Ohio .... "Nightmare Potential is high"

cheers John
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
This doesn't have to be a nightmare if you both plan and discuss with your clients realistically. They may not like what you tell them, that's common enough. There are other ways to record the dialog for sure, that are simpler and cheaper but all of them will have lower intelligibility, higher ambient noise and be far more uncontrollably reverberant than wiring everyone. Your client may be ok with an ambient sound when the shots are wide. When a camera makes a close up or even a waist-up, are they still ok with the sound being wide and ambient? This issue is something the filmmakers bought into when they chose this location, and unfortunately it often falls to the sound dept to make them understand the issues they've made for themselves.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #24
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Communications about what is possible and the pros and cons of any of those situations are all important. And even after you have had a hard and fast agreement on what can be expected vis-a-vis what you can do with budget and time constrains, you will still get blamed when things don't turn out like the fertile mind of production thinks they should.

D.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #25
Gear Guru
 
Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Best of luck to the OP. These types of productions can be a fun learning experience or can be a nightmare.

I did a production of a live concert in a large auditorium. We were doing both the audio recording and the video. I had two very inexperienced interns working with me. They did the video shoot and I did the recording. We have recorded in this auditorium on numerous occasions. This was supposed to be a normal recording setup but due to some "video projection problems" we could not setup in our usual place. The director of the children's choir informed us after we arrived that at one point in the show all the lights would be turned off on stage for the video projection. So the only source of illumination was the red "Exit Signs" She also did not like my stereo microphone "sticking up in the middle of the projection" and said it look "phallic". Not much I could do so we recorded the show and the audio came off well but of course the video was "noisy". The director was not pleased. She invited me to her house and showed me some video she had shot of her children playing in the back yard in full sunlight. She then showed me my video and said it was not done to "professional standards". When I tried to explain that there was less than one foot candle of illumination in the auditorium she said "well you should have done something differently". Shortly there after I stopped doing the recordings for her. I will always "take the blame" if I screw up but in this case I did nothing wrong. The OP may face the same problems...

FWIW
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
We filmed Pam Jems' Piaff,' a RSC production for BBC2 at Stratford.
We did it all on stage and to playback for the music on a boom.
In the evening the audience arrived and we shot it wide with their reaction.
The intercut stage close ups and the auditorium wides were most convincing.
Roger
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #27
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 ➡️
We filmed Pam Jems' Piaff,' a RSC production for BBC2 at Stratford.
We did it all on stage and to playback for the music on a boom.
In the evening the audience arrived and we shot it wide with their reaction.
The intercut stage close ups and the auditorium wides were most convincing.
Roger
Recording singing in a boomy space is a very different task than (highly variable) dramatic dialog recording. You mentioned "stage". The OP is in what is termed a "warehouse", so a much tougher less predictable space. Of course, in my town, people call truly ridiculous spaces a "stage", so who knows?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
We did a live National Theatre production of Larkrise to Candleford featuring the Albion Band at the Cottleslow Theatre.
We radioed all the participants (this was 79 ish)
They all failed just before , we reverted to stage mice. and a band feed.
Worked out well, but the Piaff sounded much better, and it was on the RSC rehearsal stage ,the Other Place, not the main theatre
You cant beat a boom on a proper stage in a proper theatre , it sounds excellent with stage projection and an inert acoustic.
On another RSC live Shakespear our Audio Ltd mixer failed just before curtain up, the PSU burnt out, luckily we could revert to 12vdc battery power
The perils of live theatre , always fun down the Dirty Duck afterwards though.
Roger

Last edited by Rolo 46; 1 week ago at 10:28 AM..
Old 6 days ago
  #29
Gear Nut
 
If wireless on every actor gets ruled out for one reason or another, here's my experience in a similar situation.

Was hired to do audio for archive videos for a community theater company. There was not the time, the budget, nor the appetite for the intrusion of micing any of the actors. Mics on the floor across the lip of the stage turned out to be impractical due to this company's frequent use of the stage lip, with actors sitting on it, clamoring over, etc. After trying many arrangements and patterns for hanging mics, I ended up getting the best intelligibility from four boundary mics across the width of the stage, hung just high enough to not cast any shadows on the set. No budget for four Neumann GFMs, so just made four plexi boundaries the same size and shape as the GFMs and taped small omnis to them. Panned the outside mics 75% L/R, and the inside pair 50% L/R. One could get by with three, but with less focus.

If larger boundaries are practical, the directionality will extend to lower frequencies.
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #30
Gear Guru
 
jwh1192's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by k brown ➡️
If wireless on every actor gets ruled out for one reason or another, here's my experience in a similar situation.

Was hired to do audio for archive videos for a community theater company. There was not the time, the budget, nor the appetite for the intrusion of micing any of the actors. Mics on the floor across the lip of the stage turned out to be impractical due to this company's frequent use of the stage lip, with actors sitting on it, clamoring over, etc. After trying many arrangements and patterns for hanging mics, I ended up getting the best intelligibility from four boundary mics across the width of the stage, hung just high enough to not cast any shadows on the set. No budget for four Neumann GFMs, so just made four plexi boundaries the same size and shape as the GFMs and taped small omnis to them. Panned the outside mics 75% L/R, and the inside pair 50% L/R. One could get by with three, but with less focus.

If larger boundaries are practical, the directionality will extend to lower frequencies.
Crown PCC's on the Lip of the Stage !! amazing how well those work ...
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