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getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system

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David Payne
getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 10:26:47 am

Hi all. I film weddings and where venues often insist that speakers use their awful in house PA systems with no visual outputs at all on the front, and an inaccessible rear I always get frustrated that I can't connect my Zoom recorders or wireless G3 setup to their machine to get a semi-decent audio feed (well, I can't get any feed).

The handheld mic has no frequency displayed on it and the units appear self contained and not able to accept any kind of connections, or they're rack mounted and its virtually impossible to get to the rear.

All I can think of doing is using some sort of frequency search on my G3 and hope the frequency falls within my range however Im not sure if this scanning is a feature of the G3.

Does anyone have any advice on how to cope with these more amateur systems? Taking a sound engineer to every shoot is just not an option for me.

Many thanks
David


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Peter Groom
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 11:08:10 am

Taking a sound engineer wouldnt really help.
I have similar issues and ive been in broadcast sound for 29 years!

Scanning your g3 would only help if the transmitter that they are using was also a sennheiser. then you could find the transmitter freq and couple into it. Chances are it isn't - why
because
1) Theyre probably cheao skates and went with the cheapest option they could
2) There are infact many other manufacturers of radio mics out there
3) Cant think of 3.

Bottom line. If there isnt an available output socket, or its inaccessible then you can't - so do what i do.

Never use anyone elses kit! It will be rubbish anyway and probably fail, be wrongly configured, pop like mad, be riddled with interference and hum, and be generally unsatisfactory.

I take multiple radios to a wedding. 3 speeches = 3 personal g3. 4 speeches = 4 etc etc. - up to 6 then i struggle.

Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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David Payne
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 11:40:26 am

Pete,
I do the same as you but if they virtually eat the venues cheapo microphone and the PA speakers are directly behind the top table you're not going to get nice quality audio! :(


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Peter Groom
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 12:24:30 pm

I agree.
Id have a word with the bride and groom. At the end of the day they want everything to be as good as it can be. if you explain that the venues horrid PA is going to cripple the sound (and especially if its not a big venue where the need for a PA is questionable at all) then Im sure they can be persuaded not to use it at all!
Ive done that many times. I know exactly the problems youre taking about.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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David Payne
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 12:45:03 pm

Peter,

yep I always do that. Often I manage to talk them out of it but I never want to insist incase guests can't hear.

It's just something that drives me mad and I figured there just must be a way around it as I never hear anybody else complaining about it but I think they're not as fussy as you and I!


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Peter Groom
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 12:53:20 pm

I agree.

"I think they're not as fussy as you and I!"

I KNOW theyre not as fussy about sound as me.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Eric Toline
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 4:29:32 pm

Tape a wireless TX & mic to a PA speaker set the level and be done with it in those instances.

Eric

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"


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Peter Groom
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 5:01:59 pm

Im afraid Id never record any sound from a speaker, under any circumstances.
If theyre using a horrible pa and mic, thats their look out but id still mic them up myself. atleast all id get is couloured sound from the speakers, but taping a mic to a speaker...........

Id never even do that if i wanted a speaker effect in post - there are plugins thatll do speaker sounds better than speakers themselves, and its still controlable.

Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Eric Toline
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 6:14:16 pm

Peter,

Obviously you don't work in the event video market where taping a mic to a speaker is always the fall back position. It's better than nothing and when used with what the camera mic picks up is more than acceptable for wedding, party, etc videos.

Eric

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 3, 2014 at 9:44:17 pm

Eric,

Literally tape a mike to the front of a PA grill? What type of mike do you use? An omni lav?

Where exactly do you tape it? I have pointed a hypercardioid on a stand at a house speaker when I had no other option.

Don't most PA speakers have some form of audio out that you can tap into send to your own field mixer?

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Eric Toline
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 2:07:29 am

"Eric,

Literally tape a mike to the front of a PA grill? What type of mike do you use? An omni lav?<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

A lav works just fine.

Where exactly do you tape it? I have pointed a hypercardioid on a stand at a house speaker when I had no other option.<<<<<<<<<<<

Anywear you can. Mostly on the side of the enclosure with the head just past the front of the cabinet

Don't most PA speakers have some form of audio out that you can tap into send to your own field mixer?"<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Only the powered ones do and the DJ really doesn't like anyone plugging into his system because they have zero audio knowledge.

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 6:09:33 am

So off the surface though to avoid picking up vibration? I'm really surprised this will work. I'd have though it would get overwhelmed by the sheer volume. I have powered speakers in the studio and omni wireless lavs. I really want to try this out. I don't have to worry about the lavs getting damaged?

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Eric Toline
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 1:28:58 pm

I have a number of friends who are "wedding videographers" and they do whatever needs to be done to get the audio from the DJ. While a line feed is best from the DJ's mixer more times than not and for various reasons they can't get the feed. Their fallback is the TX on a PA speaker, sometimes it's clean and sometimes it's distorted. None of them have ever said anything about lav damage. It's an uphill battle regardless.

Eric

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 5:16:27 pm

Thanks Eric. I'll give it a shot.

What I have found with a hypercardioid aimed at a house speaker is it sounds pretty much what the audience heard live. Not very good. But no worse. It's as good as the person mixing the live performance from the house board. An acoustic solo singer can actually sounds pretty good. Anything complex usually becomes a mess. Schools do not have the technical skill or enough cordless mikes to get more than a few performers miked and mixed correctly or even decently. When I say not worse that's assuming the settings of the field mixer are set correctly. House board guys tend to get carried away with their own power and boost the bass too high and the overall sound levels to the point of distortion. Added to that is poor mike placement and inexperienced talent and you get what you get. Just the same people want copies of the performance and with no tech rehearsals you need to capture the event. There are certainly environments in which a mike on a stand would be in the way and its always nice to have other options.

Another thing I've noticed about house boards: A lot of times they are not in a location that sounds the same as what the audience (or recording) will hear. Move from the booth (which tends to be higher and more isolated than the actual audience seats or in the case of an event like a dance or party or wedding off to the side) and it sounds very different to the actual audience.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Bill Davis
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 7:08:34 pm

First, I second Mr. Toline's advice.

Understand the point of this is not to maximize fidelity and quality - it's to enhance indelibility.

You're not making a production for the ages, you're making an important keepsake for a small family audience. So the fact that they can HEAR what's being said trumps the quality with which they can hear it.

So don't get overly caught up in trying to push for audio perfection. Make it SIMPLE so that you can do this whoever you run into the common reality that there's actually no other way to get better sound.

You might Stick something inexpensive like a Zoom H2 on a stand and put it 6 inches to a foot in front of the PA speaker - and adjust it's input accordingly. That's all you need to do. Problem solved for under $100. Yes, if you have an extra body pack with a lab that will work fine too. And it doesn't matter if the lab is omni or cardiod. The point is that the mic is close to the loudspeaker and far away from everything else.

Expect a reasonably clean recording of whatever comes out of the speaker. Will it be perfect? Heck no. But if it's INTELLIGIBLE - and you marry it with images of the people speaking then the audience gets what it wants, which is the ability to distinguish what's being said.

And that's the goal of the whole thing, right?

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 8:12:14 pm

Yes content is king. If the sound is good enough.

Play two clips for a client and ask them what they would prefer. That way they don't feel you are being an impractical perfectionist, but just the opposite. As Eric just said, sometimes what you get is good enough and sometimes it's a distorted mess. No matter what the gig, it's best to test in advance of the event.

What I did on my last shoot in an auditorium was to go on-line and download a copy of the manual for the house board. I found the picture of the boards inputs and outputs and saw that there was an empty output. I brought a yoga mat and flashlight so I could climb under the thing and plugged in an XLR. I couldn't control the mix but at least I had a feed from the board that was better than miking a PA. We used the on-board mike of the camcorder for the ambient sound.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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David Payne
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 11, 2014 at 1:11:42 pm

[Craig Alan] "Yes content is king. If the sound is good enough."

could not agree more


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Bill Davis
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 11:02:25 pm

[Bill Davis] "Understand the point of this is not to maximize fidelity and quality - it's to enhance indelibility. "

Ugh,

My apologies to all for the iPad auto-correct in play here.

Inteligibility, not indelibility. Lav not lab. etc, etc, etc,

Sorry.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 11:10:40 pm

I started to write a post with iPad at lunch and after several mistakes, including the overly zealous auto spell correction that created unwanted words, I went back to reading and left my posting when I could get back to my "legacy" computer and keyboard.

Besides, Bill, no one was confused. We all got what you meant and point well taken. Except, I don't think we should set a low bar if we don't have to.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Ty Ford
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 4, 2014 at 11:36:11 pm

Hello David and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

"Never use anyone elses kit! It will be rubbish anyway and probably fail, be wrongly configured, pop like mad, be riddled with interference and hum, and be generally unsatisfactory."

Peter has a great deal of experience and is 90% correct, however, I have been in situations where the house system is workable and very occasionally quite good.

In general, especially for wireless use, I want to use my kit because I know how to use it and know what shape it's in. House systems can suffer in all sorts of ways, as Peter, notes. Figuring them out can be frustrating and time consuming, but sometimes that's what you've got. So it's a good idea to collect a bunch of different adapters that will let you "McGyver" a solution. XLR to 1/4" to RCA, male to male and female to female adapters, a variety of Y cables for inserting or extracting audio to or from an existing system.

Here's a link to a "simple" kit. http://tinyurl.com/q4na397 It won't solve all of your problems, but it's a good starter kit.

If you come up with a good PA that meets most of your requirements and you don't mind humping it to the gigs then that's great and please let us know what you come up with.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Peter Groom
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 9:43:17 am

re
"I have been in situations where the house system is workable and very occasionally quite good."

I have also come across "quite good" in house systems, but still would never use them unless there is absolutely no alternative (which never happens).
My kit will always be my favourite, and id never tape a mic to a speaker. Thats never going to give me the sound im looking for.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Ty Ford
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 11:47:55 am

Peter,

I appreciate your position, but (an this is why I choose not to work on wedding and other "social" video shoots) You roll in and that's what you've got. It's a totally different playing field from yours, but you do learn a LOT from it.

Last time I tried something like that here's what happened.

Video guy says, "Simple shoot. A gal will sing from a stage. We can put up a mic stand. We shoot her and go home." Sounds easy.

We get there and find two walls of the venue are 30 foot high glass. Fortunately, the back wall behind her has a drapery. She and her accompanist show up. We chat. She goes on stage and says, "Where are the monitors?"

Oh, an accompanist….playing a grand piano.

Um, what monitors? We're a video shooting company, not a PA company.

There are two XLR jacks on a wall near where we have the camera set up; a male and a female. We are told we can not use the house system.

I connect the male XLR to my Sound Devices 442 mixer and hear AC buzz and the house mic. Totally unusable.

I connect the output of the Sound Devices 442 to the female XLR and plug in a mic to the 442. I open the mic and hear my voice through the overhead Lo-Fi ceiling speakers.

Not knowing exactly what to expect. I had brought a Neumann U 89 with suspension mount and two Schoeps CMC641 with a stereo bar and two mic stands. (and some other stuff I don't recall)

Put both Schoeps on the piano and the U 89 up for her, in hypercardioid.

The three mics came through the Sound Devices 442. Mono outputs went to the camera and to the wall jack. I used the ceiling speakers to fill the room so she could hear herself. I prayed that the directionality of the Schoeps and Neumann would save me from feedback. We did get 20 minutes of rehearsal before the doors opened and several hundred people arrived for the benefit dinner and concert.

She was good with the "overhead monitors", but I had to do some very active mixing to feed the camera and the overheads properly because they were both getting the same feed from my mixer. I think we had a wall-mounted volume control for the overheads, but it was in a closet in the tech room several rooms away. I had the shooter help me by adjusting the overheads so I could also send a good feed to the camera….any prayed.

I had set the U 89 high pass filter to 80Hz for the first set. Oh, right. When we first met her, she said she'd be doing two sets. One of show tunes and one of torch songs and for the torch songs she'd want to be closer to the mic. In the break between sets, having heard her first set and knowing she'd me closer to the mic this time, I switched to the 160 Hz high pass filter. I've never used that setting before (or since).

During both sets, I was mixing levels and EQ on the Sound Devices 442 to keep her in the pocket. Changing to 160 Hz was a good move because when she moved in and crooned, I had to use the Sound Devices 442 variable high pass filter to keep her from clouding up. (I'm making all of these decisions over a pair of Sony MDR 7506 headphones and listening to the room overheads.)

At the end of the event, the gal and her accompanist were very happy, the crowd was very happy and the client was happy. My best work? No, but it achieved its purpose. I did have one short feedback ring at the beginning of the first set when the pianist began playing because he was so quiet I brought up the Schoeps mics and caught a bit of ring from the overheads. That moment taught me how much room I had between a rock and a hard place and I didn't have any more feedback problems.

Thinking back, there was no other PA. I had basically hijacked the ceiling speakers and they were her monitors as well as what the audience heard her on!

End of Story

I continue to be hired by the video company. They were very appreciative of my "wizardry" that night and quite honestly, I amazed it actually worked.

Oh if you do get a PA system, please remember that you'll also need someone to run it.

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 4:05:40 pm

Ty,

1) Could we use a mike with a Sennheiser plug-in and two receivers set to the same channel, one for the house board and one on our field mixer?

2) Or a Y-splitter and an XLR for each?

3) Could we use a splitter on the output of the house board to feed a PA and our mixer?

4) Does splitting an audio signal effect its gain?

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Ty Ford
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 4:24:00 pm

[Craig Alan] "1) Could we use a mike with a Sennheiser plug-in and two receivers set to the same channel, one for the house board and one on our field mixer?

A1. Yes if the receivers and transmitter are compatible.

2) Or a Y-splitter and an XLR for each?

A2. Yes, if the split is done at an XLR. (probably with 1/4" or miniTRS, but wiring is less consistent with them)

3) Could we use a splitter on the output of the house board to feed a PA and our mixer?

A3. Yes for simple things, or just use a sub-mix out on the board if it has one, but you'd want to get a pre-fader send so when the board op changes the mix, your levels don't change. This presumes there's nothing going on that actually needs mixing, like a music mix of vocals and instruments. Then you'd probably want the post-fader mix.

4) Does splitting an audio signal effect its gain?"


A4. It can. Depends on the particular circuits. Sometimes not a problem, Sometimes a problem. If you do it regularly, maybe look at a splitter. Radial makes some very solid ones. This one runs at mic level but has a pad so you can also run it at line level. http://tinyurl.com/q7mzrkq

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Craig Alan
Re: getting a line out of a cheap in house PA system
on Jul 5, 2014 at 4:38:57 pm

Thank you!!!

I found a splitter in an old small rack mount case someone was throwing away. They had some of those cheap receivers (2 channels) in there which were either broken or they upgraded. But there were some perfectly good interconnects inside the box. When I get back to work I'll do a search on the splitters and see if it is like the one you are recommending. That's what I love about audio -- everything could be ok or NOT.

I wish I could go back in time. When I worked in the studios I paid attention to what the lighting designer/gaphers were doing, what the talent and director were doing, set designer, etc. Can't even recall the audio techs -- like they were this invisible crew that somehow never had a problem. Now if i get good sound or even decent sound in a run and gun situation, I am proud of myself or my students for pulling it off. The hardest part of production bar none.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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