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Zoom H4n Audio Balance

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Gary Peterson
Zoom H4n Audio Balance
on Apr 5, 2014 at 5:52:43 pm

I'm the videographer for my church and record our praise and worship service and sermon for our YouTube channel ( fullgospeldenton ). I setup a Zoom H4n on the balcony at the front and record with the Zooms internal microphone and a direct feed from the soundboard, so in the end I get pretty good audio for our situation. By that I mean not all of the instruments are mic'd so what I get seems to be the best for what I have available.

Now to the specific question, when I edit the video in Premiere Pro CS6 the level of the singing during the praise and worship service vs the level of the talking between songs seems to be much greater than actually being there listening to the service live. By that I mean the talking between songs doesn't seem nearly as quiet during the real service as it does when I review the audio creating the video for the service. So if anyone can help me understand why this effect is happening I'd appreciate it.

I end up running a compressor in Audition to get a better balance between the singing and the talking between songs, but I don't understand why the difference in volume level seems so much greater on the audio recording than during a live service.

The Zoom H4n audio is recorded at 48k 24bit and the video is shot on a Panasonic HC-V700 and the audio is synced using PluralEyes 3. I suppose there is another question here, PluralEyes 3 always outputs the synced audio at 16bit so is there a way to make PluralEyes 3 output 24bit audio and not convert the audio from 24bit to 16bit.

Thanks for any help you can give me I appreciate your time.

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Dave Haynie
Re: Zoom H4n Audio Balance
on Apr 21, 2014 at 8:23:42 pm

That's pretty typical of any live event -- voice levels are usually really low compared to music. There are reasons.

Your brain tends to compensate a bit. Voice doesn't have the range of dynamics that you get from music, so we accept the fairly low levels as louder than they are because they're more consistent.

Many speakers aren't as good at vocal projection, or as experienced in using a mic, as are singers.

If you're getting a mix from the board, are the musicians using the same mics as the speakers? Do you have a multi-bus board? The easiest thing to do would be to create a submix for recording that boosts the speakers' mics to your recorder, but leaves it as is for the audience.

You can try using automatic gain control on the H4n. Mostly that's something to avoid -- bad AGC can act pretty much like a compressor, which isn't what you want. But the H4n AGC isn't bad. That would boost the levels for speaking parts, drop them for music.

And the other thing... as long as you're not clipping on the loud parts, you have a 24-bit recording there. There's probably plenty of signal on the speakers, and I assume you're editing anyway.

What I do in pretty much every live event (but particularly if I'm mixing for a DVD or Blu-ray), I duplicate the best track with audio (in the case of multiple recorders), call that voice, then mix that to the center channel in my surround-sound mix (in stereo, you can still set that center).

So then I cut at the transition points, remove the music parts in the voice track, the voice parts in the music track, and of course make the voice track mono (mix both channels, select left or right, whatever gets you good voice). I'll probably normalize each voice clip, and then add enough compression to get the voice where it ought to be. After that, you have independent level controls for all voice and all music, so you can place that voice wherever you like in the final mix. This also frees me up to work on any music adjustments that might be needed without worrying about their effect on voice.


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Gary Peterson
Re: Zoom H4n Audio Balance
on Apr 26, 2014 at 3:40:33 pm


I'm sorry it took me so long to respond to your post and thanks for the detailed information.

What I get from their soundboard is what they record to a cd during the sermon only, so I'm very limited on what I get. And to make it more difficult they don't mic every instrument for the praise and worship service, only the piano. So what I have to do is mix the ambient sound from the H4N internal mics with the soundboard audio, which is the singers and the piano out of all the instruments on stage. They have drums, two guitars, and a bass guitar so that leaves me with less than ideal audio to work with. But that's the best I can get from them so I do the best with what I get.

Your information has definitely helped me understand what's going on better and I thank you for your time and expertise. The speaker is usually the lead singer or one of the pastors and the mic is always the same one used by the lead singer, they just pass it back and forth.

I'm not that familiar with the advanced editing you talked about, can you point me to a way to take the soundboard audio (singers and piano) and remove the piano from the track? I could duplicate the track and then create piano and voice tracks. I use Audition CS6 and Audacity so any help there would be good.

Thanks again for your help.


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