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Issues recording Audio from live wedding band

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Reynaldo MartinIssues recording Audio from live wedding band
by on May 29, 2012 at 7:56:31 pm

I'm still relatively new to event videography and I ran into a problem during my last wedding when it came to recording audio directly from a live band's mixer.
I'm accustomed to recording sound from receptions that have a DJ where I'd plug into his RCA out (I think it's the "tape out" on his mixer) and run that to my mixer (for the purpose of adjusting the signal level which is usually too loud from the DJ), then connect my mixer to my Zoom H4N to get great sound from the speeches and dance music.
With the band, however, I was warned that I shouldn't trust purely the audio from their output because sometimes, not all instruments are fed to the mixer, or the balance of the mix heavier in the vocals. I was advised to combine my recording from their output along with a microphone recording from the room which makes sense, but here's the problem. The sound from the band's mixer was nowhere sounding good. I was plugged into her RCA tape out, and the sound had a ton of reverb applied to it that it sounded like a cave. We then tried the Headphones out, which sounded a bit more natural, but there was a crackle in the line that was heard sporadically. all I have to work with is the room recording from my Zoom's microphone along with a shotgun placed near a speaker.

Can someone please tell me the proper way to connect to a band's audio?

Thank you,
Reynaldo Martin

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Mark SuszkoRe: Issues recording Audio from live wedding band
by on May 30, 2012 at 2:07:53 pm

The advice you were given was essentially correct. The guy mixing the band audio is making a custom mix that takes into consideration the acoustics of the room, and his job primarily is to make the band sound good over the speakers and as it echoes around in the space. The settings he chooses to make that successful do not often correspond to a good mix for use in a VIDEO.

A second issue you bring up is using your own mixer in line. There is no need for that. The feed coming out of the band mixer is a line-level impedence level. Your camera needs a mic-level impedence level. There's a simple gadget you can buy at radio shack ro better, from Markertek, called an impedance matching transformer. It just connects to the audio cable and lets you attenuate the signal or adjust to correct impedance, so the sound hitting your camera input is not overly "hot". This is easier than hauling your mixer over to the band mixer.

As to mic'ed and non-mic'ed instruments, well, a more comprehensive solution is to mic a speaker cabinet (use a dynamic mic that won't get blown out by high SPL) or place a mic in the sweet spot just ahead of the band's stage, (probably a wireless), to get the actual house sound plus the drums, audience ambience, room ambience, etc. and mix that with the "dry" feed from the band's mixer in post to get a balance that sounds good to you.

It is hard to place that mic or zoom recorder in the sweet spot because that's where people usually will be dancing, and if that's the case, put it closer to the stage. It will have to be wireless because a cable is a tripping hazard.

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Reynaldo MartinRe: Issues recording Audio from live wedding band
by on May 30, 2012 at 5:49:03 pm

Thank you! That was very helpful and I'll also look into the impedance matching transformer. Much appreciated!

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Jonathan ZieglerRe: Issues recording Audio from live wedding band
by on May 30, 2012 at 2:10:23 pm

Actually it sounds like you've tapped nearly everything (no pun intended). The only other option is to set up condenser mics at each room speaker and remix that audio, but for a wedding that sounds like overkill.

The only thing I can tell you is that you need to get audio straightened out before you shoot. Most DJs know music but not about levels or mixing audio. Ideally, you want a sound technician to work with your DJ to get the audio properly balanced. If possible, you provide the audio and the DJ hooks into your system so you can record. I think you were on the right track with the zoom recording the room - maybe try a couple condenser mics running to the zoom so you can do a 4 track recording with the internal mics running, too. You want instrument mics like you'd use on an amp for live play.

Jonathan Ziegler

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Mark SuszkoRe: Issues recording Audio from live wedding band
by on May 30, 2012 at 3:50:21 pm

Condenser mics can become overloaded at high sound levels, if the band is really rocking, or if for example you mic a speaker cabinet. Dynamics are cheaper than condensers, and you don't have to fret about a phantom power supply or onboard batteries. I think I would use dynamic hypercardioids which would reject some of the echo behind them and get the loudest parts cleanly. Condensers IMO are for quieter jobs where you have more control over the sound environment.

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Brent DunnRe: Issues recording Audio from live wedding band
by on May 30, 2012 at 5:16:41 pm

First, the Zoom isn't very good at handling audio at various levels that may clip. Go buy a Roland R-44. Or their smaller recorders. Roland has a much better preamp than the zoom and controls to handle clipping.

It sounds like you covered your basis. I never rely on the mix of a DJ or Band sound man, since I've been left with poor audio from people who don't know their equipment. Still you try to get the best sound and cover your basis.

I put a mic on the speaker, get a direct feed from the mixer, lower the output to -12 db from the mixer if they can. The problem with all of this, if their equipment fails, bad cords, bad wirless mic's, then your audio will also be bad. Nothing you can do about this. I also have an on camera mic.

You can sometimes tap into the back of a speaker for a direct out.

As they say, crap in - crap out. You can on do so much. They used to say "Fix it in the mix" but you have to capture something first.

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Films
Video Marketing

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Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 7D
Mac Pro Tower, Quad Core,
with Final Cut Studio

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