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Thread: Show Choir DSLR Microphone Suggestions?

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    Show Choir DSLR Microphone Suggestions?

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    Hi Everyone!

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    While I'm pretty competent at still photos, I'm just starting to use the video capabilities of my camera (Nikon D750), and realized I don't even know what I don't know about sound - so please forgive me if these questions are beyond basic!

    I'm going to be recording my local high school show choir, and need recommendations on a good mic for the DSLR. I'm guessing a single mic is not a good solution, but I don't have the budget for much else. The venue sound very good, and the choir (about 60 kids), will have hand-held microphones for the soloists and the ensemble will have microphones as well (they hang down from the ceiling). There is also a combo of about 15 instrumentalists. In the past I have set the camera on a tripod towards the back of the house (back section has theater type seating) so the entire stage is captured in the shot.

    So I'm basically looking for a single mic that will capture everything (realizing that a single mic will probably not capture everything very well) - basically a step up from the on-board DSLR microphone. Any thoughts on what I should look at or consider?

    Again, sorry for such basic questions, and any help is appreciated!

    Scott

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    If there are already microphones hanging down and handheld mics, can you just get a feed from the sound board, i.e., the house PA, and capture that on a digital recorder, then sync to the video later? That will be easier than having a stereo mic at the back of the house IME.

    You could also place a digital recorder in front of one of the house speakers, assuming it's high quality and the recorder can handle the SPL, and sync that to the video. That's, after all, what you'd be recording from the back I assume.

    If those options are simply impossible, then a small stereo electret mic placed on a boom well above the immediate crowd and away from the camera operator is about the only thing that I've used that's going to be pluggable directly into the camera.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    Thanks Keith - do you have any recommendations for the mic? Getting a feed from the sound board (or doing about anything else other than recording directly to the camera) won't be an option.

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    I do videos of live music and I record audio on a Zoom H5, then sync it to the video in post. Video cameras (including DSLRs used as video cameras) aren't particularly good at capturing audio, and their placement is often less than ideal for sound.

    A mic in the room is often too "roomy" sounding. A direct feed from the house system is often too dry and poorly balanced as some things on stage may be loud enough not to need amplification. Capturing both and combining them after the fact is a pretty good solution. The Zoom H4n and H5 recorders and similar devices from Tascam etc. do this well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by trasmc View Post
    Thanks Keith - do you have any recommendations for the mic? Getting a feed from the sound board (or doing about anything else other than recording directly to the camera) won't be an option.
    I don't really. I'd search at some of the bigger photo/video places like B&H and filter on price/reviews. I used a Sony many years ago, but didn't see that model show up, though they have something similar (only works with 48v phantom power it seems).

    My preference would be to find something you can put on a boom if possible, but you'll find that many/most are camera-mount designs, i.e., the ones with a 1/8" stereo plug come with a hot-shoe bracket. That location will still capture some of your own camera futzing and noises right around you. Getting a bit above the crowd can really help, but your best selection will be among the camera mount ones. Might be worth a try, if nothing else shows up, and just return it if it's a disappointment.

    There are also shotgun mics but most of those are mono, so that might not be the best, but if it's suitable, one with a battery power and specifically designed for camera use, i.e., with a 1/8" stereo plug, might be worth considering.

    I'd look at the big names like Sennheiser, RØDE, Audio-Technica, et al, unless there's a highly reviewed & rated brand that's popular in the camera world.

    Me, I record separately and sync later these days.

    For direct recording into the camera, I'd suggest that's probably a topic that's been better covered in some video/camera forums!
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    Mic, as in singular and mono?

    The venue sound very good, and the choir (about 60 kids), will have hand-held microphones for the soloists and the ensemble will have microphones as well (they hang down from the ceiling)
    Sounds to me like a recipe for disaster, recording wise. I do theatre, and theatre sound people are always complaining about being asked to mic up choirs. Their complaints usually pan out like this.

    Choirs should have a natural balance. If they need miking up, this indicates the natural balance is bad. PCCs on the edge of a stage can make the natural balance a bit louder for the audience - but - inevitably compromises the sound. Soloists with microphones in their hands is a definite "Dangere Will Robinson" moment. They will hold it too far away, then suddenly ram it on their lips, they'll cup the mic like rappers do, and the sound operator will be franticly trying to find out which person on stage is wrecking the sound. More than one makes it even worse, because finding the culprit is even harder. Hanging mics are frequently seen in amateur productions and extremely rarely in professional ones. The reason is the same physics that generates the 'never use a shotgun indoors' rule the video people swear by. Reflections. People sing out, they don't sing down, so very little of their voices goes downwards, but their feet noise does, and the flown mics hear far too much. You can get flown mics that come with small wire adaptors that bend the cable at the end so you can mount them in front of the performers, pointing upstage - these work better, but are very rarely seen. Normally they just dangle vertically. Worse case is you will be recording a bad blend of real and amplified sound. In many cases, a single mono microphone might actually be better, because a PA system will almost certainly be mono, wrecking the stereo image anyway.

    In a choral or orchestral professional event, the best sound is always close to the conductor - because their job is to balance the sections, so what they hear, is best. Rather like the person mixing in the studio - they are at the optimal position, and only they can correctly assess stereo and balance. You microphone(s) need to be close to this position if the aim is to record what the conductor hears. Tall stands (cathedral stands) or flying from wires is best. Both very tricky to implement. Success depends on your rehearsal time, and the willingness of the organisers to change things to suit the recording. if the recording is secondary, then it's compromised - might still be acceptable, but it will have flaws. Recording direct to DSLR cameras is very tricky because many have dreadful audio capabilities, and lots won't even have an AGC that can be switched off! A small zoom or similar audio recorder works best - and frankly, the small mics they are fitted with are pretty decent. Maybe you can mount this somewhere nice?

    Potential problems?

    The sound engineer at the venue who is making to louder. They can at best not annoy you, at worst spoil it totally (for which you get blamed as the permanent record).

    The choir. If they are keen and established, it inevitably means that some front row people will be the choir stalwarts, and have incredibly bad, or just distinctive voices, and they sing with gusto. The wonderful young soprano who has been in the choir for three weeks will be back row, off centre and totally wiped out by the problem voices.

    The conductor/choir leader. Can they really conduct? Can they tame the loud sections, can they compensate for the lack of altos and basses, do they pull back those horrid voices? Worst of all, do they talk constantly, encouraging the choir, thinking their voice won't be picked up by the mic above their heads?

    Technical/operational problems
    If you use a zoom or similar, can you get to it to switch it on?
    Is the best mic position the worst for the camera?
    Will the audience behave?
    Will the sound engineer help or hinder?
    How much rehearsal time will you get?
    Can you record the rehearsal too, and if possible run it with the same clothes and lighting, so what sound you record is complete and full, and the performers will perform as close as they did before - just in case you need to borrow a few bits for creative edits - and this is handy for the video too.

    You have picked the hardest thing to do - live acoustic recording. Everyone works against you, and so does the machinery!

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    Here's a handy accessory for the Zoom H5 and H6:

    Zoom ECM-6 Extension Cable - 6 Meter | Sweetwater

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