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Author Topic: Front of stage mic height?  (Read 2858 times)

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Offline thatjackelliott

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Front of stage mic height?
« on: August 11, 2017, 10:42:20 AM »
Despite having been a professional musician (electric bass) for a decade in an earlier life, I have no idea what the stage sounds like at anything other than ear level. I do know that guitarists would play a lot softer if their amps were at head-level instead of firing at the backs of their knees. But anyway. Grousing about guitarists will have to wait for another time.

So at an upcoming music festival I'll be setting a mic stand right in front of the stage for radio broadcast. They'll be on a sturdly lighting stand set on the lawn in front of the stage and I can raise them to stage floor level or above. I'll use an M-S setup with an omni Mid mic and a Figure-8 for the Side mic. I'll be mixing in the feed from the sound board on top of the Mid signal for clarity and to pick up things, like voices, that the mics are unlikely to hear. I'll do mixing for broadcast live.

My question pertains to how high above the floor level of the stage I'll want to raise the mics. The higher above stage floor level, the more they will be visually obtrusive to the band and the audience, esp. if I have to strap on an umbrella if rain threatens.

So I'd like to keep them as low as possible. But floor-bounce comb filtering and suchlike. Do we have any tapers here with experience placing front-of-stage* mics at or above stage floor level here who can offer some advice?

* Is "front-of-stage" abbreviated to FOS here? Y'alls have developed your own shorthand.

Offline 2manyrocks

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2017, 11:04:57 AM »
I would listen on headphones while raising the stand to choose the height.  Higher up should record less crowd noise. 

Wonder if you would benefit from having your station info displayed on the stand so maybe folks would be more respectful of not bumping it?



Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2017, 12:02:45 PM »
OR- seriously- how about an "On the air" poster? Also on the height issue, most onstage stands are about 18-24 inches at mic level. This is not my avenue of expertise, so hopefully more will chime in.
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Offline nak700s

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2017, 01:21:44 PM »
I wouldn't have the mics any lower than head height.  Without seeing the PA configuration or knowing how high the stage amps and PA are, it is near impossible to determine the best height for your mics in this situation.  The lowest I would want to go, given the option, is 8 feet...but higher would be better depending on the factors mentioned above.
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Offline heathen

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2017, 01:30:48 PM »
Could you hang/clamp the mics from the lighting stand (assuming it is not just at ground level)?
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2017, 02:17:07 PM »
Mics at the front of the stage are generally referred to as "stage-lip" around here.  That's typically done using a stand just in front of the stage and often right up against it, or a short stand on the stage itself near the front edge "stage-lip"

I've done this a lot.  You can arrange the mics very low so they are right or only a few inches above stage level without problems, or you can go higher.  Best option is usually determined by the situation.

There are actually some advantages to having the mics right at or close to stage level-
Very low visibility
No floor bounce reflection
Extended "reach" and clarity of on stage sources (the direct sound sort of hugs the floor in a boundary-layer way)

Issues to be aware of-
Guitar amps- very directional sources, which also follow the "reach" thing mentioned above to an extreme.  Try to stay off axis to the guitar amp cabinets unless they are far back on stage and need the help.
Protection from audience members if there is not a rail in front of the stage, photographers if there is, stage-hands either way.
Clear view around or over stage monitors, and not too much direct sound from them.
Subwoofers- can be very boomy up there, especially if the subs are under the stage.  Height can somewhat reduce the intensity, but you'll probably want to use the low pass filter we discussed previously on the omni Mid for what you are doing regardless.

Going higher may be a suitable work around for some of those issues.

At stage-lip I usually don't worry about being in line with the kick drum as it's typically far enough back.  I do if on stage and closer to the drums where I like it partly off axis and shift slightly to the snare drum side.  I generally try to get a good clear line of sight to the snare drum and any other acoustic sources which benefit especially from having some of their sound clearly recorded with the on-stage or stage-lip mics.
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Offline bombdiggity

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2017, 04:24:55 PM »
I end to like the direct vibe that comes with keeping them toward the low side.  As GB says it is best to assess all the direct sources of sound and see what sort of on-axis/off-axis/lines of sight are summing at the point you choose.  In a festival setting where bands are swapping out that is more difficult to estimate.  I'd disagree with going high for GB's reasons and since I think it is general courtesy not to obstruct the sight lines of the patrons.   
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Offline thatjackelliott

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2017, 10:05:35 AM »
Nah, I don't have neither the permission, the agility, the rigging background, nor the equipment needed to hang my mics from the overhead.

"First do no harm." I'm going to have to give priority to the performers and the audience and not block their sightlines. Two mics stacked vertically on a light stand in Mid-Side configuration, with dead rats on them aren't terribly obtrusive, but if weather threatens and I have to strap on an umbrella, then that would be uncool IMO. Our broadcast is a side show, the main act is the artist/audience relationship. So I'll keep the setup low at stage lip.

In the low end, this event doesn't have giant subs on the ground below stage lip like the 4 Peaks Music festival we broadcast in June. These smaller events use smallish sound systems and the subs are part of the PA stack that flanks the stage. So with the 500Hz first-order low-cut filters that I built into the Mid mic phantom power supply (thanks for suggestion GB) should be okay. It says here.

Floor bound-induced comb filtering should be at a minimum and pushed up higher in the bandwidth with the mics down low like that. There's nothing I can do if any of the instruments sound weird or shoot "over the head" of the mics when they are down there, but I will be supplementing the sound with the direct feed from the board.

It's all "make it up as you go" with these festivals. No telling from year to year how the stages will be set up, how much latency the sound boards will have, whether the sound guy has ears or not (some of them are brilliant and coax a great sound from the stage, others seem to have been deafened for years and need to have their attention drawn to feedback, or inaudible instruments, or muddy sound). We have little to no control over any of it. It's my job to overcome problems and make it all work.

That said, when you get down to it, it's about the music and there's even greater variability with the acts. The next festival, Bend Roots Revival, at end of September (date, time, live stream details in my earlier post about using a shotgun mic as the Mid mid in a M-S setup) is all local bands, some good enough to get paid to perform, some absolutely rank beginners, and some you'd like to pay to stop performing -- thankfully no Scream Metal! -- and they are all part of our community. Bend is a hotbed of musical talent with lots of venues and opportunities for young musicians to get started in their careers. I view it as sort of a musical incubator.

I totally love the suggestion that I hang "ON THE AIR" signs on the mic stands (plural: two stages, one stand per stage). Something like http://tinyurl.com/yau7jl44 should work. (Are tiny urls okay here? it points to a $7 plastic sign on Amazon).

Thanks for all the help, guys.

Offline goodcooker

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2017, 11:26:20 AM »

Above and pointed down towards the musicians is better than down low by the stage floor. If you are not comfortable clamping to a lighting truss or don't have the gear to do it then obviously that's out. If it was me I would go buy a Superclamp, extension arm and a safety cable and do it that way. Maybe ask one of the rigging crew to set it for you?

 I've done it a bunch. It's not real complicated and it keeps your stuff out of the way of sightlines. You just need enough cabling to get to your recorder/mixer/laptop whatever.


At a minimum get your mics over the height of the monitors. I usually shoot for level with the top of the kick drum and angle a little upwards. Use tent stakes to secure the legs of the stand to the ground.
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Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2017, 11:44:32 AM »
Thos On Air signs are perfect! I'm going to grab one or two for open taping situations-just to fuck with people!
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2017, 12:14:09 PM »
Cool idea.  But asses the audience, it may attract shout outs and direct-at-mics yelling!  Maybe mount the signs somewhere other than on the microphone stand.
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Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2017, 01:15:07 PM »
Cool idea.  But asses the audience, it may attract shout outs and direct-at-mics yelling!  Maybe mount the signs somewhere other than on the microphone stand.
jeeez; how probably true! people!  :smash:
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Offline thatjackelliott

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2017, 10:35:28 AM »
Well, for old radio days drama, I should flank each stage with a pair of tall light stands each bearing a red 300-watt incandescent bulb atop it. Hang large "ON AIR" signs under the bulbs, and light the bulbs remotely from our broadcast booth whenever we switch focus to that stage.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 10:49:01 AM by thatjackelliott »

Offline thatjackelliott

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2017, 11:10:05 AM »

Above and pointed down towards the musicians is better than down low by the stage floor. If you are not comfortable clamping to a lighting truss or don't have the gear to do it then obviously that's out. If it was me I would go buy a Superclamp, extension arm and a safety cable and do it that way. Maybe ask one of the rigging crew to set it for you?

I have zero memory of how they constructed those stages last years. Do they have trusses above the front of the stage for lights, banner hangage, and other functions? I honestly don't recall. Assuming they do put up such trusses then I'd need to bring whatever bits needed to assure that I could hang my mics from pretty much whatever truss I encounter. Clamps, safety cable and whatever else is needed to do a sturdy and safe install.

My Mid-Side mic pair mounts to a single vertical pole, one above the other using clamps, one mic above the other, kind of like this: http://www.taconic.net/~fkennedy/stereo-bar-ms-1.jpg

so I need some way to drop a single vertical pole about a foot long from an unknown truss thingy.

Oh, rain in is not all that rare in Oregon's High Desert. Let's also consider that I might want mount umbrellas above the mics. I'm thinking photog's lighting umbrellas with simple rod shafts.

Perhaps the community here could put together a gear shopping list?


Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Front of stage mic height?
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2017, 09:53:36 AM »
Well, for old radio days drama, I should flank each stage with a pair of tall light stands each bearing a red 300-watt incandescent bulb atop it. Hang large "ON AIR" signs under the bulbs, and light the bulbs remotely from our broadcast booth whenever we switch focus to that stage.

[thumbs up]!
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