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I have a small studio and recently someone asked me to record an orchestra. There will be about 80 members in 4 sections, and there will be solo vocalist. They want to record to multitrack on location and mix it later. Here are my questions. What type of mics are usually used and how are they placed? Do you use big mic stands and have them up high? Are baffles used between sections and members? And how would they be placed. Would a 24 channel 8 bus mixer and 2 DA-88's handle the job? Where could I rent this gear? It would be to much to take the equipment out of my studio. There budget is limited and I would enjoy doing this. It would be a great learning experience so we would be helping each other.
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Dennis
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Dear Dennis

It is not clear from your post what kind of classical music you are doing, so most of what follows must be taken with several handfuls of salt, as I'm just noting some general practices that may not work in your situation...

\Also, it's not clear what level of experience you are at here, so if I tell you somthing you already heard, just skip ahead or sumpin'...

Assuming good mics on the main pair with good pres, the big factor is the ROOM. Generally, live is better. Generally, the older the music, the livlier the room may (had better) be. "Early Music" requires way more "room" than 20th century stuff (generally). DON'T USE REVERB- USE THE ROOM (unless, in mix, you must verb because the room sucked.)

What type of mics are usually used and how are they placed?

Use the best condensors you can. Get a main pair to sound like 90% of the "right sound" before going to spot mics. If you only have one good pair, this is where they get used.

If mono compatibility is an issue, try ORTF. If "big" is the objective, and mono comp is less important, go for A-B omnis.

Do you use big mic stands and have them up high?

Totally- at least for the main pair. About 12 feet should be sufficient, depending on the day of the week, whether the players are dressed in black, if the conductor sweats, the material, and the barometric pressure.

Are baffles used between sections and members?

Unlikely, unless seperation is more important than sound-

Would a 24 channel 8 bus mixer and 2 DA-88's handle the job?

In my opinion, avoid the mixer except for listening. Use dedicated pres and send each one to a seperate track. If you get the right sound in the mics, the DA88s, though not the best, should work.

The important thing is that the mics and the room be of high quality, and the spot mics are NOT TOO CLOSE. I'd be very suspicious if they were closer than 5 feet from the source- vocalist spot especially. Don't worry about bleed here, as the blend in the main pair is paramount- the individual mics are just to add in if balance is out a bit.

BTW- the balance should NOT be out much. It is between you and the conductor (and a producer?) to get the balance in the room with the players and the singer. Unlike a pop project, here your job is to capture the balance that is already there. If you find the main pair going lower than, say, 70% of the mix in yur monitors, there is something wrong, IMO.

best of luck- keep us informed how it went!

Mark L

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The reason I'm using DA-88's is that is what I have in the studio and would be mixing on. Would a pair of 414's or TLM 103's be ok? I would have to rent or purchase one of them I don't have a pair. Could I go through a stereo mic pre and have the other mics through the mixer? (cost is a factor) I have a pair of Akg c1000s's If I used them I wouldn't have to rent a 414 or 103 or I could use them for the spot mics. I know this is probably not the best way to go but I'm trying to get a good recording without breaking the bank.
Thank you for the help
Dennis

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Try to get hold of a November 2K Mix Magazine - it has an extensive article on this topic - mic choices, placement, media, etc. Should help get you up to speed on a lot of the issues.

[This message has been edited by stevepow (edited 11-18-2000).]


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A couple of technical things you'll need to know -- but if you're not familiar with doing string dates... I'd suggest you turn down the gig and let them go somewhere where they're set up to do them.

1) Mono headphones with spares for every player.

2) Mono headphone boxes to accommodate the headphones in (1) without shorting out one side of the cue amp.

3) Podium for the conductor.

4) Stools for the bass players (if there are any).

5) In the mono headphone mix - No strings! They'll hear the orchestra in the room.

6) The conductor will get a Stereo mix on a separate cue and the talk back should be able to only go to the conductor so that you can communicate from the control room privately.

7) A Urie click is preferable.

8) Sufficient parking.

9) A lot of coffee (rent a turine).

10) Fire exits to accommodate that many people in the room.

As for room mics, I'd suggest you rent a good pair of M50's, on the Violins & Violas C12's or KM54's, on the Basses u67's.

I'd suggest you pass though -- if anything should go wrong, you may end up having to foot the bill for the whole session which could cost you $15,000

Good luck.

Rail

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Rail Jon Rogut
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[This message has been edited by Rail Jon Rogut (edited 11-19-2000).]


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Dennis

Rail Jon Rogut is describing a phones rig I have not needed to use as of yet with my sessions, but your people may need it if the producer wants to use phones for the group. This will incur a rental expense, as you might guess. I have usually gotten by with a TB speaker for communication back to the stage area- and occasionally conductor's phones for privacy. My experience has been with classical & early music where no one would want a click, & phones are not expected or wanted. RJR: is this rig more for orchestral overdubs and for picture work?

Dennis: clearly, you must find out what your clients expect.

As for the infrastructure noted above (fire exits, parking, coffee...) it has never been my responsibility to provide them as engineer. It may be yours. Again, ask your clients.


Your mic collection as described will not suffice AT ALL for this gig unless your orchestra is an amateur group who expects little. None of the mics you listed even come close, IMNSHO. Rail Jon's mic list is more what I use.

Also consider this: Every thing you bring should have a double /replacement in case of failure. This effectively doubles your equipment budget, but this is a gig where failures will be unthinkable, delays intolerable. Too much $$$ is riding on it.

That said, it has not been my experience to be responsible for the session's outcome to the point of being presented a bill for everyone's time if I screwed up, but then again maybe it COULD happen if I did. At the least, you'd have a pissed off client and a useless tape. They'd be out a lot of maney and it would be on you. This is not a situation you would enjoy, to say the least.

I suggest you consider with great care before committing to this. This kind of gig is very different than a pop gig, as is abundantly clear. It requires specialized gear you will have to rent, skills you haven't had time to get. And, as R.J.R.'s post makes clear, the responsibility is to many, many more people spending a lot more money ALL AT ONCE than the handful at a pop session (who can be demanding enough, of course). It took me years of doing location recordings with much smaller chamber groups to get to the level you are describing this gig to be. It may serve you to consider "plan B":

Plan B: If I was in your shoes, I'd find the people qualified to do this gig and present them to your client as the best for the job. Then I'd ask to be there- and watch how it is done. Your client will think well of you and you will get some experience.

Sorry to be such a down, but this is better than to see a train wreck.

ML

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Thanks for all your help and advice. I will seriously consider your warnings. As for the gig it is a local amateur orch. There budget is under a $1,000.00. I thought it would be good for me and them, but I don't want to give them a bad mix.
Dennis

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just my two cents here, I think that for an amateur orchestra a pair of 414's and a stereo preamp would be fine. Even the C1000's, while not a high end mic by any means, would work for the highlight. It's only there to add presence and clarity to the track if needed. I'd suggest multitracking since you are less experienced mixing classical. Run the highlight through the mixer and the main pair through preamps if possible. Put the mics up 12 ft. or so in X-Y stereo configuration. If you use 414's you can experiment with the different polar patterns, start with cardiod, then hypercardiod or figure eight if the room sounds good. You can adjust the amount of room sound vs. direct sound by moving the mics closer or farther from the orchestra. The vocal highlight should be 4-5 feet from the singer, as Mark said. Hope this helps,

Jeremy Smith
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just my two cents here, I think that for an amateur orchestra a pair of 414's and a stereo preamp would be fine. Even the C1000's, while not a high end mic by any means, would work for the highlight. It's only there to add presence and clarity to the track if needed. I'd suggest multitracking since you are less experienced mixing classical. Run the highlight through the mixer and the main pair through preamps if possible. Put the mics up 12 ft. or so in X-Y stereo configuration. If you use 414's you can experiment with the different polar patterns, start with cardiod, then hypercardiod or figure eight if the room sounds good. You can adjust the amount of room sound vs. direct sound by moving the mics closer or farther from the orchestra. The vocal highlight should be 4-5 feet from the singer, as Mark said. Hope this helps,

Jeremy Smith
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im guessing you are recording on location where they rehearse? 80 people are a LOT of people and studios that deal with sessions of this type and size have very large rooms.

i would probably [as a total amateur of orchestral gigs] put an XY over the conductors head up in the air. basically to capture what s/he is hearing. and maybe a spaced omni pair. a couple "insurance" mics near the first chairs [all to discrete tracks] but definately get your sound in the room mics, whatever they may be.


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A lot of the suggestions I was going to make are out now that you've qualified this as an amateur orchestra wanting a recording.
Just make sure they understand what they are going to get for their money. If they pull out some movie soundtrack or an audiophile classical recording and say "Make is sound like this" then tell them to give you $50,000 and you'll find a studio.
As far as two DA-88's go, here's what I would do. Rent a great pair of mics (see others posts) and rent two 8 channel mic pre's (Millennia, Grace, good for the cost).
Go spaced omni 10 feet above the conductors head and about 10 feet apart for rooms.
Put close mics over each section in the front (best players are in the front). Violins/Violas about 8 feet high (could use your 414's, 1 on 1st violins, 1 on 2nd violins, 1 on viola). Celli, two feet above the music stand (use one of your TLM 103's). Bass, under the stand, 3-4 feet away (other 103). Brass, use your cheap mics here (sorry brass, this is a budget) Some well placed SM-57's can cover them, unless you have a condenser mic left over, then put it on Fr Horns. Put everything direct to tape, don't touch the mixer except to monitor.
Brass and perc will be in everyone's mics, nothing you can do about it. Room balance is everything.
Save a good single mic for the vocalist, depending on style, find a distance, but I will say it's easier to mix a mic that's a little closer than be stuck with a sound from 8 feet away.
No cue system, no talkback, rent, borrow, beg, for gear, DA-88 not my first choice but maybe you could find an Apogee or a Studer A/D, that'll help. You could rent the gear and do this for $1,000 but you'll be doing it for free. Don't forget cable runs, you'll need some fairly long ones, and good mic stands. Don't have a stand fall on some amateur musician dot com millionaires' wife with a $250,000 viola.
Good Luck

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Tiny G


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Hi Dennis!

Here is a good site about getting depth and dimension when recording a orchestra.
http://www.digido.com
Go to the "depth and dimension" link.

Swede


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