Recording Live Music: Questions Of Price, Quality & Portabiltiy

Discussion in 'rec.audio.pro' started by com crumb, Aug 18, 2003.

  1. com crumb

    com crumb Guest

    I'm a documentary filmmaker and my upcoming project is the biggest
    I've ever undertaken: A 35-city, seven week tour across the USA. The
    subject is an indie rock band playing large clubs and small theaters.
    We are a two-person, single-camera crew. The finished product will run
    approximately an hour and half.

    At question is how best to capture the live audio of the actual
    concerts. The budget is limited and portability is an issue. We (the
    band and I) have agreed on the six songs that will be featured in the
    final video. But they like to vary their setlist from stop to stop and
    so I feel it is necessary to try and record all their shows in their
    entirety. Also, the opening band will play a part in the finished film
    and it would be nice to get their sets as well.

    Since we are a small two-person crew, it will be necessary to be able
    to "set it and forget it" whatever the method of recording used is.
    That is, press record and leave the device alone for the length of the
    show while it records.

    The band travels with its own soundman, if that is pertinent info. He
    will be manning the soundboard (I'm really sorry if my choice of words
    betray my lack of experience in live-concert proceedings). I know that
    many folks talk of "plugging in to the soundboard" as a way of
    recording a show and I would assume that this is our best bet, too.

    But what device to use for the actual recording? (For editing
    purposes, I would very much prefer the device to record in digital,
    not analog).

    I guess I could use a notebook pc, right? It would make sense.
    Although I would be uneasy leaving a notebook pretty much unattended
    during the course of a show (the soundman would be at the board, of
    course, but I can't expect him to either babysit my gear or take
    responsibility for it). But at the same time, any device I use would
    have the potential of being ripped off. And a hard drive would seem
    like the ideal place to store what will probably amount to 100 hours
    of live recording...60GB or so of wav's. If the notebook is a decent
    option, then what would be the minimum cpu & memory for such a task?
    Obviously a large hard drive would be essential (I have several large
    capacity firewire-based external hard drives, by the way).

    If at all important, the final documentary will (hopefully) be
    released on DVD and the live recordings will probably amount to 20-25
    minutes of its 90 minute running time.

    So what are my options? I could spend $1500 on whatever the device
    might be. Just please remember that it needs to run unattended without
    interruption for a few hours. I'm also realistic about the results and
    I in no way expect to obtain the results a pro crew with pro gear and
    tons of experience would get.

    Thanks a lot.
  2. Mondoslug1

    Mondoslug1 Guest

    >I'm a documentary filmmaker and my upcoming project is the biggest
    >I've ever undertaken: A 35-city, seven week tour across the USA. The
    >subject is an indie rock band playing large clubs and small theaters.
    >We are a two-person, single-camera crew. The finished product will run
    >approximately an hour and half.
    >
    >At question is how best to capture the live audio of the actual
    >concerts. The budget is limited and portability is an issue. We (the
    >band and I) have agreed on the six songs that will be featured in the
    >final video. But they like to vary their setlist from stop to stop and
    >so I feel it is necessary to try and record all their shows in their
    >entirety. Also, the opening band will play a part in the finished film
    >and it would be nice to get their sets as well.
    >
    >Since we are a small two-person crew, it will be necessary to be able
    >to "set it and forget it" whatever the method of recording used is.
    >That is, press record and leave the device alone for the length of the
    >show while it records.
    >
    >The band travels with its own soundman, if that is pertinent info. He
    >will be manning the soundboard (I'm really sorry if my choice of words
    >betray my lack of experience in live-concert proceedings). I know that
    >many folks talk of "plugging in to the soundboard" as a way of
    >recording a show and I would assume that this is our best bet, too.
    >
    >But what device to use for the actual recording? (For editing
    >purposes, I would very much prefer the device to record in digital,
    >not analog).
    >
    >I guess I could use a notebook pc, right? It would make sense.
    >Although I would be uneasy leaving a notebook pretty much unattended
    >during the course of a show (the soundman would be at the board, of
    >course, but I can't expect him to either babysit my gear or take
    >responsibility for it). But at the same time, any device I use would
    >have the potential of being ripped off. And a hard drive would seem
    >like the ideal place to store what will probably amount to 100 hours
    >of live recording...60GB or so of wav's. If the notebook is a decent
    >option, then what would be the minimum cpu & memory for such a task?
    >Obviously a large hard drive would be essential (I have several large
    >capacity firewire-based external hard drives, by the way).
    >
    >If at all important, the final documentary will (hopefully) be
    >released on DVD and the live recordings will probably amount to 20-25
    >minutes of its 90 minute running time.
    >
    >So what are my options? I could spend $1500 on whatever the device
    >might be. Just please remember that it needs to run unattended without
    >interruption for a few hours. I'm also realistic about the results and
    >I in no way expect to obtain the results a pro crew with pro gear and
    >tons of experience would get.
    >
    >Thanks a lot.
    >
    >


    That sounds like a fun gig. Good luck



    My tunes at:
    http://www.soundclick.com/bands/5/andymostmusic.htm
  3. "com crumb" <lungnut2002@yahoo.com> wrote in message
    news:3b82575e.0308172115.249a8f1e@posting.google.com...
    > I'm a documentary filmmaker and my upcoming project is the biggest
    > I've ever undertaken: A 35-city, seven week tour across the USA. The
    > subject is an indie rock band playing large clubs and small theaters.
    > We are a two-person, single-camera crew. The finished product will run
    > approximately an hour and half.
    >
    > At question is how best to capture the live audio of the actual
    > concerts. The budget is limited and portability is an issue. We (the
    > band and I) have agreed on the six songs that will be featured in the
    > final video. But they like to vary their setlist from stop to stop and
    > so I feel it is necessary to try and record all their shows in their
    > entirety. Also, the opening band will play a part in the finished film
    > and it would be nice to get their sets as well.
    >
    > Since we are a small two-person crew, it will be necessary to be able
    > to "set it and forget it" whatever the method of recording used is.
    > That is, press record and leave the device alone for the length of the
    > show while it records.


    During the actual performances do you need your soundman to be with you at the
    camera? I'd think it would be better for him to deal with the music aspects and
    let you run around on camera mic doing your thing. Get a high quality shotgun
    mic mounted on your camera for this and resist the temptation to use a cheap
    $300 wonder mic. You will do fine with a good camera mic for all of the band
    coming out of the dressing room stuff that may happen just prior to the
    performance. Use your soundguy untill just before the performance than cut him
    loose to deal with the music recording.


    >
    > The band travels with its own soundman, if that is pertinent info. He
    > will be manning the soundboard (I'm really sorry if my choice of words
    > betray my lack of experience in live-concert proceedings). I know that
    > many folks talk of "plugging in to the soundboard" as a way of
    > recording a show and I would assume that this is our best bet, too.



    Mixing for reinforcement is very different than mixing for a recording. Since
    the venues seem to be large to larger you can probably get a bad-to-average
    recording straight out of the reinforcement sound board. That's as oppossed to
    the horrible-to-bad recording you would get in a small club where the quietest
    instrument onstage will be the loudest instrument on your board mix.

    You need to find out what the capabilities of the sound board are. Can the
    soundman give you a separate stereo mix on a pair of aux sends? Will he nurse
    your mix a bit for you and keep an ear on things? Is the band an active partner
    in this venture or at least supportive?


    >
    > But what device to use for the actual recording? (For editing
    > purposes, I would very much prefer the device to record in digital,
    > not analog).


    >
    > I guess I could use a notebook pc, right? It would make sense.
    > Although I would be uneasy leaving a notebook pretty much unattended
    > during the course of a show (the soundman would be at the board, of
    > course, but I can't expect him to either babysit my gear or take
    > responsibility for it). But at the same time, any device I use would
    > have the potential of being ripped off. And a hard drive would seem
    > like the ideal place to store what will probably amount to 100 hours
    > of live recording...60GB or so of wav's. If the notebook is a decent
    > option, then what would be the minimum cpu & memory for such a task?
    > Obviously a large hard drive would be essential (I have several large
    > capacity firewire-based external hard drives, by the way).


    Personally I'd be shy of using a laptop for something like this. You'd be better
    off with a dedicated recorder with a professional audio interface. Unless you
    are running a backup of some sort a computer running a consumer OS is a
    liability. It's not if it will crash, it's when and how often. Likewise I'd be
    warry of committing all of the concerts to ONE large hard drive. DAT recorders
    will record 2 hours on a single tape (3 hours if you use data tapes). You should
    be able to find a professional DAT machine with balanced XLR inputs on the net
    for less than $500 these days. DAT tapes can be had for around $6.00 each.

    > If at all important, the final documentary will (hopefully) be
    > released on DVD and the live recordings will probably amount to 20-25
    > minutes of its 90 minute running time.


    With the live performances making up nearly 1/3 of your planned DVD are you
    appropriating enough resources towards that end? To me it sounds like you need
    some more help and money. Not budgeting properly for sound on a documentary
    dealing with a band tour is a little far-sighted in my book.

    >
    > So what are my options? I could spend $1500 on whatever the device
    > might be. Just please remember that it needs to run unattended without
    > interruption for a few hours. I'm also realistic about the results and
    > I in no way expect to obtain the results a pro crew with pro gear and
    > tons of experience would get.


    Since you lack the audio experience to fully understand what you are asking for
    and what you really need I would suggest enlisting the services of the post
    production sound people you plan on using to get in the loop with your sound man
    and the band's sound man. You need to know what you want before you commit to a
    method or format.
  4. Mike Rivers

    Mike Rivers Guest

    In article <3b82575e.0308172115.249a8f1e@posting.google.com> lungnut2002@yahoo.com writes:


    > I'm a documentary filmmaker and my upcoming project is the biggest
    > I've ever undertaken: A 35-city, seven week tour across the USA.


    > At question is how best to capture the live audio of the actual
    > concerts. The budget is limited and portability is an issue.


    > Since we are a small two-person crew, it will be necessary to be able
    > to "set it and forget it" whatever the method of recording used is.


    Danger! Danger! You're not an audio person, you don't have a regular
    audio suite, and you're setting yourself up for a situation where
    every night you'll have to set up and take down stuff you don't
    understand fully.

    > I know that
    > many folks talk of "plugging in to the soundboard" as a way of
    > recording a show and I would assume that this is our best bet, too.


    I agree, particularly since you won't be paying much attention to the
    recording once the band starts playing. What you'll want to do is
    essentially capture each microphone so that when you get home with
    your recordings, you can play them back through the mixing console
    ("soundboard"), possibly with the help of the engineer who travels
    with the band, and make the best mix you can of each song that you
    want to include in your film. If you want to take this approach, you
    need to talk with the band's sound engineer, find out what equipment
    he's using (do they travel with their own sound system or rely on what
    the venue or local producer provides?) and work out the best way to
    interface.

    An alternative is to just record a "board mix." This usually isn't
    satisfactory (assuming this is a typical pop music band with drums and
    electric instruments) unless you're playing very large venues where
    essentially nobody hears direct sound from the stage and everything
    goes through the PA system and essentially mixed as if the band was in
    a studio. If the drums and guitars are loud enough so that very little
    of them is added to the PA mix, your off-the-board recording will
    consist nearly entirely of vocals, not what you want.

    Also, being as how this is going to be a film about a band performing
    before live audiences, you'll want to capture the sound of the
    audience. This will require a few more mics than those usually used
    with the band. And if there are some instruments that usually aren't
    miked because they're loud enough from the stage, you'll need mics on
    those too, for your recording.

    > But what device to use for the actual recording? (For editing
    > purposes, I would very much prefer the device to record in digital,
    > not analog).
    >
    > I guess I could use a notebook pc, right? It would make sense.


    Not to me. It's too much shit to set up and keep working, and you'll
    be limited to the number of tracks you can record, as well as be
    limited to available disk space.

    I would go for a dedicated 24-track hard disk recorder. There are
    several available, each having its fans (people, not the thing that
    keeps it cool) and foibles. But in general, they're reliable, compact,
    allow you to record individual tracks of the band and a couple of the
    audience, and use interchangeable disk drives, so you can put each
    night's show on its own drive to keep things sorted out.

    Don't worry about digital interfacing, and don't fuss with
    transferring tracks to a computer for mixing. Do it all analog. The
    place to involve a computer for a project like this is is for mixdown
    and editing of the mix, not of individual tracks.

    Something else that you'll need to consider is synchronization between
    the film and audio. Have you thought about how you're going to handle
    that? The good thing about these stand-alone hard disk recorders is
    that they all both send and receive at least MIDI time code, and
    some also have SMPTE time code capability. That can make the
    impossible possible.

    > So what are my options? I could spend $1500 on whatever the device
    > might be.


    That's not enough, but you're getting there. Maybe you could get a
    loan, buy a recorder, and then sell it after the project is finished
    if you needed to do so. I don't know what street prices for those are,
    but list prices run about $2,000, and figure on a couple hundred bucks
    more for cables to connect it to the mixer. Then there are disk
    drives and carriers. And a couple more mics for the audience.

    It's really important that you get everything together and rehearse
    with the rig and the band's engineer a few times before you go on the
    road. That's when you'll learn what cables you need, how to connect to
    the mixer, and how to set things up so that the engineer can pay
    attention to mixing the band to get the best performance from them
    without worrying about the recording.

    Murphy's lawyer will be waiting in the wings to hand you a subpoena.



    --
    I'm really Mike Rivers - (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
  5. Mike Rivers wrote:
    > In article <3b82575e.0308172115.249a8f1e@posting.google.com> lungnut2002@yahoo.com writes:
    >
    >> Since we are a small two-person crew, it will be necessary to be able
    >> to "set it and forget it" whatever the method of recording used is.

    >
    >
    > Danger! Danger! You're not an audio person, you don't have a regular
    > audio suite, and you're setting yourself up for a situation where
    > every night you'll have to set up and take down stuff you don't
    > understand fully.


    Listen to Mike here...





    >> I know that
    >> many folks talk of "plugging in to the soundboard" as a way of
    >> recording a show and I would assume that this is our best bet, too.

    >
    >
    > I agree, particularly since you won't be paying much attention to the
    > recording once the band starts playing. What you'll want to do is
    > essentially capture each microphone so that when you get home with
    > your recordings, you can play them back through the mixing console
    > ("soundboard"), possibly with the help of the engineer who travels
    > with the band, and make the best mix you can of each song that you
    > want to include in your film. If you want to take this approach, you
    > need to talk with the band's sound engineer, find out what equipment
    > he's using (do they travel with their own sound system or rely on what
    > the venue or local producer provides?) and work out the best way to
    > interface.


    I'd definitely add to this at least one good stereo pair and possibly
    some audience mics as well.



    >> But what device to use for the actual recording? (For editing
    >> purposes, I would very much prefer the device to record in digital,
    >> not analog).

    >
    >
    > I would go for a dedicated 24-track hard disk recorder. There are
    > several available, each having its fans (people, not the thing that
    > keeps it cool) and foibles. But in general, they're reliable, compact,
    > allow you to record individual tracks of the band and a couple of the
    > audience, and use interchangeable disk drives, so you can put each
    > night's show on its own drive to keep things sorted out.


    Good advice here as well.




    > Something else that you'll need to consider is synchronization between
    > the film and audio. Have you thought about how you're going to handle
    > that? The good thing about these stand-alone hard disk recorders is
    > that they all both send and receive at least MIDI time code, and
    > some also have SMPTE time code capability. That can make the
    > impossible possible.


    This is a huge deal if you're going to try and sync an entire show. If
    you're not going to sync more than one song at a time, you *might* be
    able to get away with a slate and some careful hand work in post.

    At least go buy a book on the subject and speak with a few experienced
    operators before you jump.
  6. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    com crumb <lungnut2002@yahoo.com> wrote:
    >
    >At question is how best to capture the live audio of the actual
    >concerts. The budget is limited and portability is an issue. We (the
    >band and I) have agreed on the six songs that will be featured in the
    >final video. But they like to vary their setlist from stop to stop and
    >so I feel it is necessary to try and record all their shows in their
    >entirety. Also, the opening band will play a part in the finished film
    >and it would be nice to get their sets as well.


    You could hire me and my truck.

    >Since we are a small two-person crew, it will be necessary to be able
    >to "set it and forget it" whatever the method of recording used is.
    >That is, press record and leave the device alone for the length of the
    >show while it records.
    >
    >The band travels with its own soundman, if that is pertinent info. He
    >will be manning the soundboard (I'm really sorry if my choice of words
    >betray my lack of experience in live-concert proceedings). I know that
    >many folks talk of "plugging in to the soundboard" as a way of
    >recording a show and I would assume that this is our best bet, too.
    >
    >But what device to use for the actual recording? (For editing
    >purposes, I would very much prefer the device to record in digital,
    >not analog).


    How many channels are on the console? What kind of places are you
    working in? Have you talked to the sound guy?

    You basically have three choices:

    1. A direct PA feed from the console. This will not sound very balanced
    at all, but it's a start.

    2. Recording an ambient mike AND a PA feed, then delaying the PA feed and
    mixing them together in post.

    3. Recording individual channels off the PA console using a DA-88 multitrack
    machine. This is the smart way of doing things but will require a lot more
    work in post.

    >I guess I could use a notebook pc, right? It would make sense.


    How will you synch it? No pilot, no timecode. Are you shooting film or
    video, and are you running timecode system? How are you rigged to jam
    code? What are your post guys expecting?

    >So what are my options? I could spend $1500 on whatever the device
    >might be. Just please remember that it needs to run unattended without
    >interruption for a few hours. I'm also realistic about the results and
    >I in no way expect to obtain the results a pro crew with pro gear and
    >tons of experience would get.


    I wouldn't do ANY of this unattended. You need to figure out how you
    are doing synch first off. Then talk to the sound guy.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  7. ryanm

    ryanm Guest

    "Mike Rivers" <mrivers@d-and-d.com> wrote in message
    news:znr1061208727k@trad...
    >
    > I would go for a dedicated 24-track hard disk recorder. There are
    > several available, each having its fans (people, not the thing that
    > keeps it cool) and foibles. But in general, they're reliable, compact,
    > allow you to record individual tracks of the band and a couple of the
    > audience, and use interchangeable disk drives, so you can put each
    > night's show on its own drive to keep things sorted out.
    >

    What Mike said. Listen to him, he knows what he's talking about. Just to
    expand a bit, assuming you are using a film or video format with time code,
    your best bet is going to be to record each of the channels from the PA
    individually along with a couple ambient mics. So, for example, if the band
    runs a 16 channel pa system, you could get an Alesis HD-24 for about $2000
    and record those 16 tracks + 2 to 4 ambient mics throughout the venue, and
    then you can record each gig on a single 40 gig hard disc. You can then go
    back later, after the tour is over, and have the tracks mixed and mastered
    by a professional engineer who can get you a good mix from all the tracks
    you recorded. Your $1500 budget is not going to cut it, though. You will
    need the recorder (generally about $2000 per 24 tracks), the ambient mics
    (anywhere from $300-$3000 each), cables (count on $200-$400 in patch cables,
    mic cables, etc), you will need some kind of mic preamp or small mixer to
    bring the ambient mics up to line level to be recorded ($250-$2500 depending
    on how and what equipment), and you're still going to have to work some
    magic to get it to synch up right. It sounds like you need to sit down with
    someone who has done this before and get a good plan together.

    ryanm
  8. com crumb

    com crumb Guest

    kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote in message news:<bhqsk5$cdf$1@panix2.panix.com>...
    > com crumb <lungnut2002@yahoo.com> wrote:
    > >
    > >At question is how best to capture the live audio of the actual
    > >concerts. The budget is limited and portability is an issue.

    >
    > How many channels are on the console? What kind of places are you
    > working in? Have you talked to the sound guy?


    I haven't yet talked to the sound guy. I just got the "GO" on this
    project. I have eight weeks to prepare (heading out in mid-October and
    stretching out to early December). Talking to him is surely a great
    start. I will do that this week, hopefully.

    And in answering an earlier poster who asked if the band is
    supportive, they are definitely excited about the prospect. I just
    have to make sure it is good. The off-stage stuff I know I can handle.
    I'm here to begin to learn about the on-stage sound stuff.

    > You basically have three choices:
    >
    > 1. A direct PA feed from the console. This will not sound very balanced
    > at all, but it's a start.


    Console = Soundboard (my word), right? I am almost positive that the
    band uses the house console for each individual gig. I will definitely
    find this out for sure this week. I am sure for my puposes one single
    console used for the whole tour would be ideal, but I have to work
    with what I'm handed.

    Thanks to all who've posted so far, by the way, in educating me as to
    how and why direct-from-the-board (at least soley) is not the way to
    go.

    > 2. Recording an ambient mike AND a PA feed, then delaying the PA feed and
    > mixing them together in post.


    Now that is interesting. I had thought of ambient mikes solo OR the
    soundboard feed, but not the two together. I suppose you are talking
    about recording four tracks here, right? Two L/R mikes and L/R from
    the soundboard...Hell, I'm assuming that soundboard separate L/R
    channels for stereo mixes but I guess that's not necessarily true.

    What would a good piece of equipment be to record four tracks (if that
    *is* what you are suggesting) in this way? Could a notebook do it? Or
    should I think dedicated recorder? What would be good examples of mics
    that I could use in an ambient recording situation? I use a Sennheiser
    K6 system with different capsules for my sound recording with camera.
    Would that be a good mic for this?

    (Apologies to all right here, right now if my inexperience is
    frustrating).

    > 3. Recording individual channels off the PA console using a DA-88 multitrack
    > machine. This is the smart way of doing things but will require a lot more
    > work in post.


    The whole entire post-production crew is me-myself-and-I. But that's
    not to say that I would be opposed to recording multiple tracks and
    then hiring someone to mix the tracks for me.

    > >I guess I could use a notebook pc, right? It would make sense.

    >
    > How will you synch it? No pilot, no timecode. Are you shooting film or
    > video, and are you running timecode system? How are you rigged to jam
    > code? What are your post guys expecting?


    Like I said, I am the post crew.

    I'm shooting digital video. Which isn't comparable to film
    quality-wise in some ways, but it has its own attributes. I like
    exploiting video's inherent weaknesses for its own gain...That is to
    say, I like video.

    I will be using visual and audio clues to sync up for short periods of
    time. What I envision ultimately will not be a "concert film" per se
    for the live sections, but live-music accompanyment to live-music
    footage, but synching up for key moments. I am trusting my post
    production skills here quite a bit. But post-production (editing) has
    always been by far my favorite part of filmmaking and it is where I
    shine. (I work as an editor when I work for others).

    If anyone is more interested in my methods for planning to sync up, I
    will gladly share them here. But right now I am primarily concerned
    about getting quality live recordings of the music.

    And speaking of which, for those of you who know film and video: The
    kind of quality audio-wise I am aiming for is audio that is comparable
    to the digital video from a prosumer 3-chip mini-DV cam (used for
    features such as Spike Lee's BAMBOOZLED, DANCER IN THE DARK, CHUCK &
    BUCK and countless documentaries).

    > >So what are my options? I could spend $1500 on whatever the device
    > >might be. Just please remember that it needs to run unattended without
    > >interruption for a few hours. I'm also realistic about the results and
    > >I in no way expect to obtain the results a pro crew with pro gear and
    > >tons of experience would get.

    >
    > I wouldn't do ANY of this unattended. You need to figure out how you
    > are doing synch first off. Then talk to the sound guy.
    > --scott


    I think (as suggested by another poster--Thanks) I will use my sound
    person to man the recording while I shoot the footage during live
    shows. That makes sense.

    The budget for my recording hardware is $1500. But if I can buy
    quality used gear and then sell it after the shoot for minimal loss
    (10-20%), my budget could grow to $5000.

    Thanks to all so far!
  9. Mondoslug1

    Mondoslug1 Guest

    lungnut wrote;

    >The budget for my recording hardware is $1500. But if I can buy
    >quality used gear and then sell it after the shoot for minimal loss
    >(10-20%), my budget could grow to $5000.


    The music biz is slow....you might be able to rent a rig(recorder, mics cables)
    for $1500 for the 7 weeks once you figure out what it is you need exactly.



    My tunes at:
    http://www.soundclick.com/bands/5/andymostmusic.htm
  10. Menaradio

    Menaradio Guest

    i'd go ...a cd..burner...with a sub group mix of your main audio...and a couple
    of live house mics to really pick up the crowd noise...mixed in very low
    through a sub channel....

Share This Page