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In a SBD/AUD matrix, what should the mics capture?

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Hi all,

I have an opportunity to do my first SBD/AUD matrix coming up in November for a band that will be playing electric/amplified. I am aware that people mic to stage lip, etc, but I'm unclear on what exactly it is that I'm trying to capture so close to the stage. Just from going to shows forever I know that the monitors point toward the band, and stage lip or on-stage is way too close to be getting the stacks, so what am I getting up there? I can't get my head around what I'm capturing in what seems like a nether region in between monitors and stacks.

A followup question would be if I'm only using one pair of mics along with the soundboard feed, is it better to go coincident or spaced? I would have the option for either (most likely not both), either with my AT853s or my new CM4s. My gut says I'd probably want the CM4s to pick up more ambience. Thanks all.

You're getting guitar/bass amplifiers pointing out towards the crowd at a level different (and likely higher) than what is coming through the PA. Depends a lot on the band and how big the venue is, but typically there is less guitar and bass going through the PA than you would like for a balanced SBD recording. The louder something is on stage, the less of it is going to be coming through the PA.

Stage lip recordings capture the sound coming off the stage which is NOT coming from the PA system.
A loud band in a small club might only have vocal mics running through the PA speakers. A SBD patch from that system would only give vocals, so you'll want your mic pair to capture everything else.
Stage monitors aimed at the band provide the vocals they need in order to hear each other, but that sound doesn't cover the audience.
Knowing you'll be getting good vocals (for instance) from the SBD feed, you now have the option to position your mics "UNDER" the stage monitors to keep that vocal (mostly) out of your mic feed!
I have found it easier to mix stage lip recordings with a symmetrical setup, whether closely spaced, or split.
My personal rule of thumb is that the kick drum is probably going to be one of the loudest sounds on the stage, so I endeavor to make sure my stage lip mics are evenly spaced from the kick drum. If the kick drum is off center, I'd probably aim at the center, but the kick drum gives me a bit of a target since it's often right in the middle.

As jefflester points out, anything NOT loud on stage will probably be added to the PA mix in a sort of inverse proportion. This typically includes acoustic guitars, electronic keyboards, electronic drums, sample playback, and any sound effects added to the vocals. So that's what will most likely comprise your SBD feed. Position the mics to get the "BLAST" and feel of the band. Depending on capsule type, and stage layout, you might get better results on the corners, in the center, or midway. Other things to consider with stage lip recording are fans placing drinks, and guitarists clicking pedal boards or kicking mics over!?

Great question! which there is no single comprehensive answer.  But it makes for a great opportunity to discuss what's going on and how one might think about and approach various real world situations.

Morst and Jefflester's posts above note good tactics for the kind of acts, venues and taping commonly focused on at TS.

Taking a step back.. So much depends on the type of music, the venue, and the situation.  Have you made audience recordings of this or similar bands in this performance space?  What is your assessment of those past efforts?  Have you made any that leave you wanting for nothing more from inclusion of a SBD feed?

So much depends on what the SBD feed contains and how much reliance you can place on it.  Can it be the foundation atop which you recording might be built?  Might it only be relied upon as a possible source for sweetening vocal clarity?  Do know what exactly it will be lacking, or have too much of?  Can it be relied upon at all? 

What can you reasonably expect? How lucky you feel?  Getting something of a handle on these things allows you to determine the appropriate tactics to get more of what you want without too much disappointment along the way.

Recording from an audience position is simpler and more straight-forward in a lot of ways than recording from up close or on-stage.  Audience recording is essentially about capturing the audience listener's perspective present at the recording position.. and that generalized out-in-the-audience position sound is what the band, PA and soundguy are all working actively to support.  However, the sound up close can be more energetic and exciting, more intimate and intense.  It can be more akin to what listeners expect from a studio recording or professional live recording. When done right it can produce a better recording than from an audience perspective in many situations.

Here's one uncommon hypothetical-
You are given access to a totally complete, well balanced soundboard feed.  It contains all instruments in balance, some stereo effects and perhaps even some minor stereo panning on the drums or what have you.  In this case all that is really needed to make an outstanding recording is to flush it out with audience reaction and hall ambience provided by your own microphones and mixed in proper balance.  You don't need to record the direct sound from the band at all with your own mics, you need to record the audience and room.  You'll actually do best to set things up so as to exclude pickup of direct sound from on-stage and PA into your mics so that you can mix in as much audience and room as you like to taste without conflict with the dry direct-sound provided by the SBD.   You've likely seen bands doing multi-track live recording.  What kind of audience mics are they generally using in addition to the close mics? Typically a wide-spaced pair at the outer edges of the stage facing out at the audience to get the audience reaction and room sound.  Everything else is SBD.

Here's another more common one-
You have no idea what the SBD feed you are provided might contain, what kind of balance it might have, or how helpful it may be.. or you discover the SDB feed you were excited about getting totally sucks, or is is otherwise useless.  In this case you'll want to set things up so as to get as good a balance of everything from your microphones alone, but still record the SBD if possible as it might end up being useful but no love lost if you toss it.

The first scenario is unusual, especially with smaller acts in smaller rooms, but in my experience is becoming somewhat more common as soundguys and small venues move to digital boards that provide them more control.  If they have the time, skill and inclination, they can more easily provide a custom feed for you that may differ from what is sent to the PA.  But you need to be pretty sure of that before compromising your efforts at recording the direct sound from sound the band as well as that of the room and audience.

Generally you need to assume the SBD may not pan out at all and set up accordingly.


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