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Pick 1
Old 21st July 2022
  #1
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Pick 1

There are many dimensions to location recording. For example, choice of mics, choice of mic "geometry", the hall, the players, the placement of the mics, etc.

If you had to pick the single most significant aspect to achieving an excellent recording, what would you say it is?

Would determining the critical distance and placing mics at that distance from the performers be at or near the top?

Curious,

DG
Old 21st July 2022
  #2
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Wavefront's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dgpretzel ➡️
There are many dimensions to location recording. For example, choice of mics, choice of mic "geometry", the hall, the players, the placement of the mics, etc.

If you had to pick the single most significant aspect to achieving an excellent recording, what would you say it is?
From the list you provide above: The Players.
Old 21st July 2022 | Show parent
  #3
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavefront ➡️
From the list you provide above: The Players.
Thank you for your response.

I don't mean to limit opinions to just those I listed.

DG

P.S. I would add that my list of example dimensions is probably not the best-- the intent was more about getting a good recording than a good performance.

Last edited by dgpretzel; 22nd July 2022 at 01:17 AM.. Reason: Add P.S.
Old 22nd July 2022
  #4
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
No question for me, players it is. Followed by room, then mic placement and lastly, mic brand.

But good players in a good room with good mics? That's where skills show up.

D.
Old 22nd July 2022
  #5
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jnorman's Avatar
What Doug said.
Old 23rd July 2022 | Show parent
  #6
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
No question for me, players it is. Followed by room, then mic placement and lastly, mic brand.

But good players in a good room with good mics? That's where skills show up.

D.
I used to have a cartoon drawing in the editing room here which showed a recording engineer at work. Underneath it read - "Recording engineer listening to a wonderful recording of a terrible row". I wish I still had it, I'd upload it here.

Obviously the playing department was lacking on that recording. No one else saw the cartoon, only me, but now it's gone the way of all flesh.

Last edited by Geoff Poulton; 24th July 2022 at 12:01 PM..
Old 24th July 2022
  #7
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🎧 10 years
Is this an armchair hypothetical or a more tangible and realistic poll. How much control do you have over the players….are you a conductor or orchestral manager….can you sack or replace them if necessary ?

If not, please remove that as an option…it’s one less ‘variable’ to weigh against all the rest. I’m guessing it’s easier to vary your mic height than get a new 1st violinist …in your case at least ?

In short, what factors are in your control to vary in your typical recording situation, and which are outside your influence and authority to change ? This helps a lot in assignment of relevance to the multiple variables at play
Old 24th July 2022
  #8
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🎧 15 years
The acoustic. Good playas are assumed.
Old 24th July 2022 | Show parent
  #9
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
depends on situtation...

when going on air live from a venue, familiarity with the overall sound image of the programme, reliability, meeting the technical requirements and speed of use or even just to keep the sight lines for the video clear (unfortunately) often beat any other criteria, meaning it absolutely doesn't matter how you achive goals but that you meet them in the first place!

in more relaxed situations (such as multi-day recording sessions with small ensembles), i consider the ability to (help) decide whether it is worth recording another take to be more important than the exact microphone position - if you're in a (acoustically speaking) unsuitable hall however, mic technique, mic selection and positioning are match decisive.

sometimes, it's just about keeping the patron or donor happy - or the musicians...


(...but yes, good players are assumed)!
Old 24th July 2022
  #10
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Plush's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
For me it is the hall.

I pick and specify the most beautiful sounding and most appropriate hall for that music.

Then I hire that hall.
Old 24th July 2022 | Show parent
  #11
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apotheosis's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Is this an armchair hypothetical or a more tangible and realistic poll. How much control do you have over the players….are you a conductor or orchestral manager….can you sack or replace them if necessary ?

If not, please remove that as an option…it’s one less ‘variable’ to weigh against all the rest. I’m guessing it’s easier to vary your mic height than get a new 1st violinist …in your case at least ?

In short, what factors are in your control to vary in your typical recording situation, and which are outside your influence and authority to change ? This helps a lot in assignment of relevance to the multiple variables at play
I have sent players home to practice. On one occasion the conductor, after I gave private feedback, even cancelled the day.
When I am hired for a CD recording (as engineer and producer) and the performance level is not what I would consider market-ready and my instructions are either not followed or not helping in the right direction, I feel it is my responsibility to call things for what they are. It also shifts the responsibility from the editing task to the artistic director of the players.

Besides the obvious good-enough musicians, I would pick the mic position. A skilled engineer can make things work in lesser acoustics with lesser material.
Old 24th July 2022
  #12
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Good player are NOT expected, alas. I work with many who are sweet, caring, musically educated, emotional, even practiced. But there are only so many spaces reserved for top-ranked players, and many more players than spaces.

This is not judgmental, only factual. And there are many that I work with in the amateur ranks who I adore and really appreciate.

But if DG was speaking about what I consider important in making a top-tier recording, my ranking still goes.

That isn't to say that an enjoyable, and even artistic recording can't be made with less. We all know that it can.

But when all these elements come together in one place, at one time, the experience can be divine.

D.
Old 25th July 2022
  #13
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🎧 10 years
I apologize for the overly general and unfocused question.

I record community classical performances. I can not specify the hall or the players. I have to do the best I can to record the players as they are, in the hall in which they perform, to achieve the best recording of whatever is in front of the hall. I can choose the mics, the microphone geometry, and the position of the mics.

In that limited scenario, I'm thinking placement is key.

Again, my apologies.

DG
Old 25th July 2022 | Show parent
  #14
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joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dgpretzel ➡️
... I'm thinking placement is key.

...

DG
It is a critical factor, one that determines the quality of everything downstream, and having some "options" built into the placement (with a few different mics in different places) is also very helpful... stereo sets all over, I've found... just keep in mind that "downstream" you have a wealth of processing options: levels, for one thing, touches of EQ and touches of compression, and fiddling enough with this stuff-- just enough, not too much and not too little-- can lift the recording into a realm where it's holographic, three-dimensional and close-your-eyes-and-they're-right-infront-of-you, which the raw capture probably will not have, all on its own.
Old 25th July 2022
  #15
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🎧 5 years
Placement by far #1 .

Balance of early reflections to direct sound can make or break a recording. Almost nothing can be done about an overabundance of early reflections, and artificial reverb is much more effective at adding insufficient late reflections/reverberation than it is early reflections that sound natural and appropriate.

The biggest effect that choice of pattern has, is on this crucial direct-to-early reflections ratio, so placement and pattern work closely hand-in-hand, but between the two, placement is more important.

The stereo image, spread of sources across the soundstage, is much more a matter of taste than is whether a recording is too off-mic, blurry, indistinct, etc. - or too dry, oppressive, in-your-face.


As was said before, very few of us have any say on the quality of the players, or even what hall the recording will take place in. We can make recommendations on the hall, but the final decision is rarely ours to make - Plush may be in a rather rarefied position on that, compared to most of us.
Old 27th July 2022
  #16
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One or two quick comments from the cheap seats.
I'm going to go out on a limb here to say that the most important part is listening and adjusting to get the best possible sound. Everybody has their preferences about microphones and systems, but it fundamentally comes down to listening and making judgements about how to best capture the recording. Formula's and maths are all well and good, but it is the listening and adjustments that separate balance engineers from technicians.
As always, YMMV
All the best,
Mark
Old 27th July 2022 | Show parent
  #17
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpdonahue ➡️
One or two quick comments from the cheap seats.
I'm going to go out on a limb here to say that the most important part is listening and adjusting to get the best possible sound. Everybody has their preferences about microphones and systems, but it fundamentally comes down to listening and making judgements about how to best capture the recording. Formula's and maths are all well and good, but it is the listening and adjustments that separate balance engineers from technicians.
As always, YMMV
All the best,
Mark
Thank you.

Just so I understand you better, when you say "adjustments", you mean setting or changing the position of the microphones, right?

DG
Old 27th July 2022 | Show parent
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dgpretzel ➡️
Thank you.

Just so I understand you better, when you say "adjustments", you mean setting or changing the position of the microphones, right?

DG
The one thing I hammer into all my assistants is that you need to know and understand how to use the tools presented to you. It doesn't matter much what gear you are presented with, the fundamentals are all the same.
This is classical recording 101.
  1. Listen to lots of recordings made by great engineers and understand how good recordings sound.
  2. Understand how adjusting the spacing, vertical angle, and splay of a pair of microphones effects the width, tone and spread of the sound.
  3. Understand how height and distance effect the front to back balance, width and character of the sound.
  4. Understand that all these things are interdependent and everything effects everything else.
  5. Once you master this, you can start adding outriggers and spot microphones.
  6. Once you master that, consider working with an LCR or Tree. Apply all the same principals to the LCR that you applied to learning simple pair recording.
There are no shortcuts or formula's that will do these things for you. Practice and attention to detail is your friend here. If you get the opportunity, work with more experienced engineers that get consistently good results. You steal from the best and make up the rest.
All the best
Mark
Old 27th July 2022 | Show parent
  #19
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpdonahue ➡️
  1. Listen to lots of recordings made by great engineers and understand how good recordings sound.
  2. Understand how adjusting the spacing, vertical angle, and splay of a pair of microphones effects the width, tone and spread of the sound.
  3. Understand how height and distance effect the front to back balance, width and character of the sound.
  4. Understand that all these things are interdependent and everything effects everything else.
  5. Once you master this, you can start adding outriggers and spot microphones.
  6. Once you master that, consider working with an LCR or Tree. Apply all the same principals to the LCR that you applied to learning simple pair recording.
This is the syllabus for an entire apprenticeship. But if you can't work under Mark, study these things diligently on your own. Then get on with the important work of trying various ideas and techniques in real world recording situations. I'll give you a few suggestions that should help.
  • Experiment when you're not "under the gun". Show up for rehearsals and try different mic arrangements and placements. Keep a record of what you try when, so you can review the results later.
  • Set up decent monitoring on site so you can hear what you're getting and make adjustments on the spot. A small pair of powered nearfields, some basic volume control, and enough cable to reach the green room is all it takes.
  • Keep learning. I try to always put up an extra pair of something new that the client will never hear, just for my own education: a different mic pair, alternate main array design, extra ambience mics, sectionals I don't strictly need, or surround pickup on a stereo date.
  • Document everything. Add notes later about how it worked. Some day you'll be faced with a 45 minute advance load in before a performance. That's when you'll appreciate being able to open a notebook and review your past experiences in the hall.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 28th July 2022
  #20
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🎧 10 years
Picking a mic and placing it is the most important skill for a recording engineer. Since many mic's are close to the same sounding, mic placement wins as the most important piece. listening to headphones while placing mic's is important to me.

Yeah yeah, a bad player or room can make anything bad.
Old 28th July 2022 | Show parent
  #21
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
if you're aiming at broadcasting, i suggest that - in addition to what mark and david mentioned - you learn practices, protocol and language of the live sound world: at least on large scale live productions, chances are that you'll heavily depend on the live sound folks for the majority of your signals - in some areas, location recording can benefit from long established practices of live sound though (such as using a festival patch, fast change-over between artists, flying main mics from the pa rig, putting up a pair of ambis at foh, using mic splitters etc.)
Old 28th July 2022
  #22
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🎧 10 years
Thank you, all.

DG
Old 28th July 2022
  #23
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Wire Grind's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I don't think finding the critical distance is important per say. It depends your objective. Bringing the mics in close will give a dryer more studio-like sound, and further back will better capture the acoustics of both the hall and the crowd. Mics vary substantially, and the type chosen will also have a big impact. I'm hesitant to lump in performers/artists with the more technical aspects of recording.
Old 28th July 2022
  #24
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🎧 15 years
Interesting that your mention of "critical distance" is the first in this thread. It's a concept that every classsical recordist should understand as a property of any particular hall. Technically, the critical distance applies for omnidirectional mics, so if you're using directional mics, it gets increased according to the particular pattern's "random energy efficiency"; it decreases somewhat if you rotate the microphones as you would for many stereo techniques.

I don't think one needs to measure critical distance down to the centimeter, but it does affect one's work insofar as "dry" mics will be closer than that distance and "ambience" mics will be well beyond. The person who cares most keenly is the recordist who's trying to get a good direct / reverberant balance using a single pair of microphones. If such a person begins with a placement well beyond Dc, they can waste a lot of time doing minor adjustments that don't make a meaningful change in the balance. Knowing an approximate value of critical distance, even if it's just estimated by listening to an assistant while covering one ear, gives a starting point from which one can make quick moves to get the desired sound.

David
Old 29th July 2022 | Show parent
  #25
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tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rick ➡️
Interesting that your mention of "critical distance" is the first in this thread. It's a concept that every classsical recordist should understand as a property of any particular hall. Technically, the critical distance applies for omnidirectional mics, so if you're using directional mics, it gets increased according to the particular pattern's "random energy efficiency"; it decreases somewhat if you rotate the microphones as you would for many stereo techniques.

I don't think one needs to measure critical distance down to the centimeter, but it does affect one's work insofar as "dry" mics will be closer than that distance and "ambience" mics will be well beyond. The person who cares most keenly is the recordist who's trying to get a good direct / reverberant balance using a single pair of microphones. If such a person begins with a placement well beyond Dc, they can waste a lot of time doing minor adjustments that don't make a meaningful change in the balance. Knowing an approximate value of critical distance, even if it's just estimated by listening to an assistant while covering one ear, gives a starting point from which one can make quick moves to get the desired sound.

David
This!

D.
Old 29th July 2022
  #26
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🎧 5 years
Handy Critical Distance graphics.

Many are surprised that the C.D. for fig8 is the same as that of cardioid; the difference, of course, being that in a reverberant space, a card will reduce late reflections/reverb from the back of the hall, but an '8' will reduce earlier reflections from the side walls.

The baffled fig8 is interesting - furthest C.D. of all; even further than short shotgun.
Attached Thumbnails
Pick 1-critical-distance-polar-patterns.png   Pick 1-critical-distance-ii.jpeg  
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