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Author Topic: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?  (Read 2455 times)

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Offline two2the8

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Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« on: June 05, 2016, 04:55:28 AM »
Hey all, thanks for running a great forum! I'm glad to be here.

I'm a grad student in ethnomusicology, doing some recording as a major part of my fieldwork. I'm often recording situations that involve two non-professional choirs that take turns singing, seated opposite one another, exchanging verses every couple of minutes. The atmosphere is generally festive, and when one choir is singing, typically the other choir is chatting & coughing & being noisy. I can't really ask them to be quiet, for all sorts of reasons.

I've tried using a single stereo pair to record both choirs as a unit, but the chatter in the off-side is really distracting. If I pull the chatty mic down in the mix, I mess up the stereo image for the whole group. It's a bit tough!

I've been thinking about how to get relatively clean (ideally stereo) recordings of both groups, and in particular how to minimize the chatter captured from the off-group. So far I've been thinking that I'll set up two stereo rigs using cards, one for each group. If I set these two rigs up facing away from each other, I'll maximize the rejection of the off-choir in each. I'll record the two stereo pairs using a four-track recorder of some variety. Then, when mixing later, I can duck the levels on the off-group with each alternation & mix down to a clean(ish) recording of both groups with minimal chatter.

Does that sound feasible? What would you do in a situation like this?

I'm partly asking because I'm spec'ing out a kit to take into the field, so any considerations about gear that would suit these situations are welcome too.

Thanks, tapers!

Offline GLouie

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2016, 01:56:40 AM »
I think your plan sounds viable based on your scenario. Questions:
-what do you mean by "...using cards, one for each group..."
-Is this a Western choir as such, or something else?
-Outdoors or indoors?
-Budget?
-Climatic conditions?
-Power available?
-What school are you at? I get similar questions from our Ethno program, although video is more the rage.

Offline two2the8

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2016, 02:48:09 AM »
Hey GLouie, thanks for the response. A few answers:

-what do you mean by "...using cards, one for each group..."

Sorry, ya, that does read a bit funny. I meant "I'll set up two stereo rigs using (probably) a pair of cardiod mics in XY or ORTF or something like, one for each group." I've also been thinking of using two integrated stereo mics, one for each group, something like the Audio-Technica BP4025 or Rode NT4.

-Is this a Western choir as such, or something else?
-Outdoors or indoors?
-Climatic conditions?
-Power available?

Not a Western choir, no. I'm working in rural Southeast Asia, and the choirs accompany events like funerals. The gigs are often outdoors, and often at night. When I've been before it's been hot & dry & dusty, though I may do some work there over the wet season, too, when it will be hot and wet and muddy. There's usually some power available, but it's spotty and I generally prefer to run on batteries if I can. I often don't know exactly what the venue will be like—usually it's the front porch of a house, somewhere I've never been, so I'm not always sure what's available.

-Budget?

Well, I don't know, really, I'm still working it out. I'm building up a kit from scratch—the work I've done before is with other people's gear, which has been a great luxury. I'm trying to find a good balance between cost and reliability. I'd love to get into Sound Devices gear, but it's so expensive (the 552 only does two tracks, the 633 only has three preamps, & the 744 only has two preamps, so I'm stuck with some really pricey options if I go that route). I'm more likely looking at something like the F8, maybe with a used 442 in front + some decent mics + batteries, stands, wind protection, etc.

-What school are you at? I get similar questions from our Ethno program, although video is more the rage.

I'm at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. You?

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2016, 09:37:58 AM »
^^^^^^ First of all, great school. I spent some time there in the mid 90's as I fell in love with a woman studying environmental sciences there. Traveling from Dallas TX to Vancouver almost 5 times in 18 months, unfortunately, she didn't fall in love with me! Canadian women are so much cooler than Americans if you'll allow me a generality.

Now to your quest: How about a pair of cards and a pair of hypercards? Also, don't forget, dynamic microphones don't require p48 which will reduce your battery consumption. A pair of Beyer M201E hypers like in my sig line would do nicely as they are dynamic and travel well. They are full bodies so if you are looking for a low pro set up wouldn't work.

As to configurations- it does almost sound as if you should place each pair close to each choir as opposed to in the middle as it sounds like you have done in the past. Aside from needing two stands, shouldn't be too problematic.
I'd put either cards or hypers in a 110' NORTF type pattern to reduce off axis chatter. you could do this with one stand facing each pair opposite each other, but I'd opt for two stands if possible that way you'll get a bit of separation between the channels.

As far as recorders. I know it isn't the most high quality device compared to SD products, but the DR 680 has been quite a good bit bucket for us over about 10 uses so far and can often be found used for less than $400. That gives you four balanced XLR inputs as well as two unbalanced 1/4 inch inputs. The record level and monitoring abilities of this device are great.

Edit to add: Gutbuckets idea of one pair each cards/super cards (or 2 pair of supers) might be better idea than cards/hypers. Also, without photos I was not aware of the distance between choirs, you can probably do it with one stand as GB suggests. Traveling long distances is always best to keep number of items such as stands to a minimum!
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 12:01:06 PM by rocksuitcase »
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2016, 11:03:52 AM »
I suggest a four channel recorder along with a wide mic bar and two pairs of cardioids, or two pair of supercardioids, or one pair of each (which will provide useful options for recording other things as well).  The wide bar will allow spacing the microphones widely enough so that you needn't use much angle between them.  That in turn will be beneficial in two ways- it's a traditionally more optimal stereo configuration for recording a large distributed-voice source such as a choir to begin with, and given the specifics of your scenario it will provide far less pickup of noise from the inactive choir on the opposite side.  You can't achieve that kind of minimal angle between mics with a coincident X/Y mic setup, since X/Y works best with a particularly wide angle of 120 degrees or so, nor with typical near-spaced microphone configurations. ORTF specifies 110 degrees between mics, DIN and NOS 90 degrees.  If you can space the mics at least 15" or more, preferably a couple feet apart or so, you can reduce the angle between the to closer to parallel and achieve both a better blend of voices withing chorus while retaining good stereo width, while gaining far better rejection of sounds arriving from behind the mics at the same time.

An integrated stereo mic is compact and convenient, which may end up being the more important overriding factor, but any single point mic will have a quite wide angle between it's mic elements and therefore appreciably less rejection of sound from behind.

If the choirs facing each other are close enough together, you'll only need one mic stand and mic bar and can simply mount both pairs to the same bar, with the mics of each opposing pair pointing in opposite directions at either end of the bar.  If you need to get in closer to each choir, then you'd need two separate stands and mic bars.

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Offline two2the8

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2016, 12:39:33 PM »
I suggest a four channel recorder along with a wide mic bar and two pairs of cardioids, or two pair of supercardioids, or one pair of each (which will provide useful options for recording other things as well)...

Thanks @Gutbucket, this is excellent. I can see what you mean about the increased rejection from having the mics parallel. With a spaced pair like this, I think the general rule is three feet apart & three feet away from the source, is that right? It's often the case that the people in each choir are seated pretty close to each other, so a whole choir takes up a footprint of about a 9' semicircle. With a spaced pair, my only concern is that I might end up too close to a couple of the singers nearest to each mic & throw the lot out of balance. Of course, no plan will suit every situation perfectly :P Any thoughts on achieving a good balance with a spaced-pair setup?

Also, anyone have thoughts/knowledge about using some kind of baffle behind the mics to minimize bleed? I'd need something fairly portable, but if a solution like that exists (or could be made) perhaps it could help a little.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 01:37:19 PM by two2the8 »

Offline two2the8

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2016, 12:52:17 PM »
^^^^^^ First of all, great school. I spent some time there in the mid 90's as I fell in love with a woman studying environmental sciences there. Traveling from Dallas TX to Vancouver almost 5 times in 18 months, unfortunately, she didn't fall in love with me! Canadian women are so much cooler than Americans if you'll allow me a generality.

@Thanks @rocksuitcase, too. Sorry about your luck with the environmental scientist! I don't know about cooler, but I can say that there sure are a lot of cool Canadian women, and I'm glad to count many of 'em as my good friends :)

Now to your quest: How about a pair of cards and a pair of hypercards? Also, don't forget, dynamic microphones don't require p48 which will reduce your battery consumption. A pair of Beyer M201E hypers like in my sig line would do nicely as they are dynamic and travel well. They are full bodies so if you are looking for a low pro set up wouldn't work.

As to configurations- it does almost sound as if you should place each pair close to each choir as opposed to in the middle as it sounds like you have done in the past. Aside from needing two stands, shouldn't be too problematic.
I'd put either cards or hypers in a 110' NORTF type pattern to reduce off axis chatter. you could do this with one stand facing each pair opposite each other, but I'd opt for two stands if possible that way you'll get a bit of separation between the channels.

As far as recorders. I know it isn't the most high quality device compared to SD products, but the DR 680 has been quite a good bit bucket for us over about 10 uses so far and can often be found used for less than $400. That gives you four balanced XLR inputs as well as two unbalanced 1/4 inch inputs. The record level and monitoring abilities of this device are great.

Edit to add: Gutbuckets idea of one pair each cards/super cards (or 2 pair of supers) might be better idea than cards/hypers. Also, without photos I was not aware of the distance between choirs, you can probably do it with one stand as GB suggests. Traveling long distances is always best to keep number of items such as stands to a minimum!

This is great, too. I hadn't considered dynamic mics, and that M201 looks really interesting. (Is the M201TG the same as the M201E?)

As for setup, I will probably need to bring two stands/bars if I go this route (even though that gets expensive for travel), because the choirs set up in all sorts of different configurations relative to one another and I never really know what I'm going to get. Sometimes I can get away with one stand/bar, but often I'll need to/be able to come in closer like you suggest. I'm really glad to hear your endorsement of the 680, too—I'll have a close look. I probably don't need the 8 inputs of the f8, but if I can get something that's decently rugged & with at least equivalent preamps, I'll be happy. Something like the DR 680 + 442 is a very attractive option.

Thanks all, I'm learning lots!

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2016, 01:39:01 PM »
^^^^^^^^
re DR 680 pre-amps: we have the stock ones. I think they are pretty solid and relatively low noise, but we tend to record PA based rock n roll which rarely gets down so low the pre-amps would be an issue.
re Beyer Hypers: Yes, The M201TG is just the newer production model of my 201E. https://www.gearslutz.com/board/reviews/674303-beyerdynamic-m201.html
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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2016, 03:39:19 PM »

You could do double mid/side with two cardioids and a single figure eight. Would involve some post work but after you got your work flow down you would have the flexibility of adjusting your recording angle after the fact.
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2016, 04:19:47 PM »
Thanks @Gutbucket, this is excellent. I can see what you mean about the increased rejection from having the mics parallel. With a spaced pair like this, I think the general rule is three feet apart & three feet away from the source, is that right? It's often the case that the people in each choir are seated pretty close to each other, so a whole choir takes up a footprint of about a 9' semicircle. With a spaced pair, my only concern is that I might end up too close to a couple of the singers nearest to each mic & throw the lot out of balance. Of course, no plan will suit every situation perfectly :P Any thoughts on achieving a good balance with a spaced-pair setup?

Three feet out in front of the choir is probably as close as I'd want a stereo pair of mics, perhaps appropriate for a smaller choir.  No problem doubling that, but a lot depends on the room, the setup, and the material.  Three feet apart is good if the mics are A-B parallel, and is typically my starting point for a pair of spaced omnis out in the room.  But a spacing of only a couple feet apart is probably fine for this, which I suggested above because you can support both mics from a single stand more easily that way.  Mic setups for choir can use more mic spacing than what would be appropriate for other sources, so even wider may be appropriate.  Choir is somewhat unique in that it's sort of one very large multi-voice instrument and sometimes being able to hear and track individual vocal lines on playback is appropriate for a small group, but many times it's best if the mic setup helps contribute towards more of a blending of voices into one large sort-of amorphous cloud of sound which has stereo dimension and space to it, yet not necessarily pin-point imaging of individual voices.  Using stereo mic setups which rely more on time of arrival differences rather than level differences can help with that, and having two (or more) mics spaced across the front of the choir helps balance all singers to that no one singer is highlighted over the others.  A single coincident or near-spaced mic position places both mics closest to the front row singer in the middle, emphasising that person over the others, and requires a wide mic angle (or virtual mic angle if recording Mid/Side) to both de-emphasise those center singers and to get enough stereo width make for an interesting not-mostly-mono stereo recording. 

Raising the stand up so the mics point down slightly from above can help blend the voices, and if using supercardioids that placement can also position the opposing choir near a null of the supercardioid polar pattern.

Oh, you'll probably come across some talking about the 3-to-1 rule for appropriate spacing of the mics.  Ignore that.  It does not apply to recording using a stereo pair of microphones.  It only applies to the use of multiple microphones electronically mixed together into the same channel(s).  When recording a stereo pair the two channels are kept separate all the way from recording through playback.  Mixing the two opposite facing stereo pairs, and fading between them as the two choirs trade off, still keeps the left and right channels of each pair isolated from each other at all times.  Right(1) fades to right(2) and left(1) to left(2), but there is no mixing of left and right.

Quote
Also, anyone have thoughts/knowledge about using some kind of baffle behind the mics to minimize bleed? I'd need something fairly portable, but if a solution like that exists (or could be made) perhaps it could help a little.

Can work but going to be big and bulky and not very portable.  If there was some sort of low wall between the two choirs you could use that and keep the mics below the wall.  Even a row of chairs could work that way, with the mics on the seats of the chairs and the padded backs of he chairs forming a baffle.
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Offline GLouie

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2016, 01:53:07 AM »
Many good suggestions to try to find what works for you. Some thoughts:
-How many people typically in the choirs?
-I have heard that many condensor mics will die in humid conditions, and that Sennheiser RF condensor mics are the solution. I have no experience here.
-Outdoors, make sure you have really good wind protection for mics.
-I use a couple of Tascam DR680s and they have been really good at that price point. They have compromises, but you just have to understand them and work with them. Some shortcomings are well documented in other Tapersection threads. BTW, the ch. 5/6 1/4 inch inputs are fully balanced and work just like the XLR inputs. They apparently just ran out of panel space. We also use SD722s.
-I'm at the UW-Seattle. I work for the whole School of Music, not just Ethno.

Offline mepaca

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2016, 10:41:24 AM »
I would set up one pair of figure of eights in the blumlein pattern. That way both choirs would be recorded in stereo
with a minimum amount of equipment and both choirs would have the same recording characteristic because there
would be no variance in setups. As far as the chatter I would tell them to be quiet and not waste your time.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2016, 10:44:15 AM by mepaca »

Offline rigpimp

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2016, 03:29:16 PM »
I'd try all kinds of stuff but I'm a geek.  What I might begin with would be split omnis and panning them in post.  I also like the idea of M/S since you can do a lot in post as well.  I'd love to hear some samples of what you try.
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Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2016, 03:44:00 PM »
-I have heard that many condensor mics will die in humid conditions, and that Sennheiser RF condensor mics are the solution. I have no experience here.
-Outdoors, make sure you have really good wind protection for mics.
This makes another case for dynamic mics. I used my old Beyer M201nc's in pouring rain on a stand with no umbrella many times back in my GD/BT taping days. Of course, we kept the connectors covered with plastic baggies, and the mic inputs at the decks were kept dry inside of rainproof bags BUT I never worried about the rain with those mics and they were never compromised sound quality wise. (Before people start throwing flames here, we typically did this because of lack of preparedness or no reentry venues etc, not because we preferred to do this)

If the environmental conditions are like you describe, two2the8, you may wish to consider rugged dynamic mics such as the M201's. 
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Offline two2the8

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2016, 02:31:44 AM »
Hey all, I just want to say a quick thanks for all this advice! It's very helpful. I'm on the road for a few days so i can't respond in full, but I'll get you back when I return next week!

Offline 2manyrocks

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2016, 09:32:58 PM »
The tascam dr70 is a 4 xlr input recorder less than half the size of the dr680, will run for hours on an inexpensive 5v cell phone battery, and could be had for about $220 recently new.  Powering the 680 has been a topic of discussion.  Let's just say a 5v cell battery easily powers the 70d, but not the 680. 

If the choirs talk all over each other, isn't that part of the musicology to be recorded? 

I would think hard about portability with as few stands and mics as I could manage. 

Offline two2the8

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Re: Recording two chatty choirs—How would you do it?
« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2017, 09:35:53 PM »
Hi all,

Sorry to revive an old thread—I realize that I said I would reply here, but I never did  :-[

By way of update, for anyone who's interested, here's my current plan:

I've got a Zoom F8 & 2 pairs of KSM141 mics, and I'm going to bring two lightweight stands & two wide stereo bars, per the suggestion from @gutbucket. (For stands, I've ordered 2x Airturn GoStands with booms & will see how those look later this week. I've been looking at the 24" stereo bars from @followinbob, but they might be too big for travel—the manfrotto dado or something similar seems like a really versatile solution, especially since I can mount a GoPro in the center of each really easily.) I anticipate recording lots of different material, and that should give me a good range of options. For the chatty choirs, I will likely run a stereo pair of cards for each group, probably using one stand and bar for each. I'll have to experiment with AB options & ORTF etc & see what works depending on the situation. I'll try to remember to share some samples when I'm back.

Thanks again, Tapers! I don't post often, but I get a LOT out of searching around the forum here. I've just ordered up a bunch of cables from Ted, and I've got a few other things to get before I head back to the field in October... I'll probably hit you up for ideas about those, too :)





 

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