Recording Good Sound at Event

Posted on 7/17/2010 3:12:00 AM

There're several methods to obtain good sound at event. The best known way is to hook up directly to the location sound board. However, there're situations that it is not possible to do so. Here's our next best solution.

Throughout the years, we have been continue to search for the best possible way to obtain good sound at wedding receptions. As we all know, the best way is to connect your camcorder mic input directly to the DJ's sound board. However, there're times that is not possible. Here's some potential issue,
   Some DJs are not easy to work with. They do not want other people plug cords into their mixer
   Ground-loop humming sound may be recorded
   You have to prepare different type of connectors/cables such as RCA, XLR, etc
   Might not be able to record a lot of live audience response and ambiance sound.
We interviewed 5 wedding DJ's about this. There of them were okay but two do not want to be bothered at wedding reception.
I was once asked for $50 by a DJ to connect to his sound board!
Using on-camera shotgun would be an okay solution. However, sometimes speakers are set up on the side or at the back. Worst scenario is, when the wedding MC decided to grab the mic and walk around interviewing guest. All we can record will be some muffle sound since the shotgun mic are not pointing at the sound source.
We have to come up a solution that can overcome this situation. We placed a portable sound recorder on top of the speaker. To avoid the vibration to be recorded, a small wired lav mic will be hanging in front of the speaker.
We put this setup to a test at a wedding. We continue to shoot with two Rode NTG-1 shotgun mics. Then synchronize the audio clip form the Zoom H2 voice recorder that we placed on top of a speaker. Here's the result, Make sure you use a headphone to listen to the left and right channel.

Cons for this setup
   Need to spend time synchronize the sound clip
   Need to adjust the audio gain at post since we intentionally turn the Automatic Gain in the Zoom H2 to off.
   Forget to take the sound recorder home after the event!! :)
After doing some research online, we found out there are actually wedding videgraphers are doing the same thing.
We will show you more real life clips later on. Stay tune!



Posted by Shaun on 7/17/2010 4:23:00 AM For some of the weddings I've helped shoot we used a zoom H2 set to "concert" mounted on a tripod and placed in front of a PA speaker with enough distance from the speaker that the sound between drivers (tweeter, horn, and woofer) crosses over each other. Also try using the low cut is there is too much bass. The results are surprising natural sounding. Be sure to double check the recording level because the DJ often turns up the jams after things start to play out. In my opinion its safer to record low level and turn it up in post rather than have horrible distortion that is impossible to completely clean up. Haven't tried hanging a lav...
If a tripod out in front of a speaker isn't practical you can place an H2 damn near anywhere and get good results so long as you won't be getting someone yelling a converstation between the mic and the speaker. Ha ha!

Replied by LA Color Pros Shaun, that's really good tip! Thanks for sharing. I have tried once mounting the H2 on a light stand which is about 10 feet away from the speaker. I got good sound too. However, not every wedding I can setup a light stand that close to the speaker.
I also have Automatic Gain turn off. The recording sound will be low. But you are exactly correct that it's easily to increase the volume in post than fixing distorted clipping sound.
Posted by Randy on 7/19/2010 10:38:00 PM I've used the Zoom H2 for loud events also. The great thing about the H2 is its built-in limiter! No clipping period. I have mine set on limiter 2. And the limiter also works when you use the line in on the H2. So you can go out of the mixer directly into the H2, set the recording level manually, and if parts get too loud the limiter kicks in so there's no distortion. This is, in my opinion, one of the best features of the H2.

Replied by LA Color Pros Randy, thanks for sharing the tip. I have AGC off and have "MIC GAIN" setting switch to low. There isn't any distortion occurred. But I would like to try limiter next time. For weddings, would you suggest LIMIT1 (GENERAL) or LIMIT2 (CONCERT)? Thanks
Posted by Randy on 7/20/2010 12:21:00 PM I was debating between the two limiters myself. So I decided to try Limiter 2 since it was more of a concert, and it worked great. Anyway, a couple weeks later I was recording vocals through the headphone out of a mixer and into the line in on the H2. I adjusted the headphone level so I was peaking between -12db and -6 db. Things got a little louder and it was peaking at 0db. I thought I'd having clipping. But no clipping. Then it dawned on me I still had the limiter 2 on from the previous event recording. So I starting testing it (increasing the headphone out level so I would get the signal to ckip) and sure enough the limiter works on line in.
So the Limiter 2 has worked so well for me in both concert situations and vocals that I leave the setting on all the time just to be on the safe side. Both concerts and vocals sound great. In fact, it sounds so good I never tested Limiter 1. Perhaps I should have. I'd have to review the manual again, but if I recall the difference between the two settings is the speed at which the limiter kicks in. Concerts can get very loud quickly and entail a wider dynamic range.
Now there is another setting on the H2 that may be useful to you: the compressor. The limiter lowers the recording level when a signal peaks. The compressor also lowers the recording level when a signal peaks, but it also increases the signal if the level is too low. So the compressor makes sure you have a solid signal throughout the recording.
Personally I just use the limiter because I like the wider dynamic range. And again, I set the record level on the H2 so I'm getting a hot signal (-12 to -6db) on the average sound of the event. If it gets quieter, I'm safe because I started with a hot signal. If it gets louder, I'm safe because of the limiter.
So that's what I've discovered. The Zoom H2 was a great purchase.

Replied by LA Color Pros I am aware of the Compressor AGC settings. Just it wouldn't be something we need as in recording event since it will reduce the audio dynamic range. I might just try AGC1 (General).
You said you adjusted the recording level. Do you mean through the MIC GAIN switch (L-M-H) on the right side of the H2? I'm sure you know when AGC is on, MIC GAIN setting is ignored.
Posted by Randy on 7/21/2010 12:38:00 PM I don't use AGC. I always use the manual method. I set the Mic Gain switch and then I set the record level using the arrow buttons on the front of the H2. I believe the record level goes up to 120. I don't have my H2 with me right now to check. And I always try to go with the lowest Mic Gain setting.
With the line-in, I set the record level using the arrow buttons on the front of the H2, and then I adjust the level coming out of the mixer (e.g., headphone out). So I slowly turn up the headphone out level until I am peaking at -12 to -6 db.
I agree with you about the compressor setting. I don't want to lose dynamic range. I'd rather just prevent a hot signal from clipping.

Replied by LA Color Pros Randy, I am already learning so much from you. It also make me realized how flexible the H2 is. I completely overlooked the manual recording level buttons on the front. :) I will try to record in LIMIT1, Mic Gain to Low and manual adjust the volume. Thanks a bunch!
Posted by Randy on 7/21/2010 2:31:00 PM The H2 is indeed flexible. I can't believe what you get for such a good price. Down the road I'd like to upgrade to the H4N, when I upgrade my HV30 to the T2i. :-) And I've learned a lot from you, not only on this site but on -- which is where I learned about your company and placed a couple orders with. I like your video work.
I'm trying to learn as much as I can to produce higher quality work. I just completed this project for our company using only my HV30, a cheap tripod, and Sennheiser G2 wireless lav:
It was a one-man operation -- literally. I did video, audio, narration, editing, and motion graphics. I learned a lot and now I'm working on a second project covering stolen, recovered burned vehicle investigations. I work for a forensic accident reconstruction company. Anyway, glad I could be of some assistance.
Posted by Ken on 10/25/2011 9:54:00 PM I was just wondering if you still do this and if you found the method effective. I've been burned a couple times now and I'm looking for a better way to get the sound during the reception. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Ken Mountain / AVP

Replied by LA Color Pros Hi Ken, What I found out the best way is to place the Zoom H2 in front of the speaker. Since I also have a light stand where I put the Comer lights on, I will have the zoom and the light stand strategically placed near the speaker. I found out I got the best sound out of this. The sound recorded also has a little bit of ambiance (e.g. applause, audience response).
However, for situation I won't be able to do so, I still place the microphone on top of the speaker and have a lav mic dangling in front of it. That is my second choice. At post, I have to add the reverb effect filter to the clip. Otherwise, the sound is too good that it sounds so fake.
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