Thursday, February 23, 2023

Recording music for film

Over the weekend we recorded the music for The Drowned Girl. We recorded using students from the Bard Conservatory at Bard's Chapel of the Innocents in Upstate New York.

A version of the paperwork we used as a guide.

Decca tree

I put an AEA R84 ribbon as the center microphone with a pair of Neumann omnidirectional mics on either side. The upside is that ribbon always sounds amazing. The downside is that the lighting caused a large buzz in the ribbon microphones. We figured out what circuit it was and turned those lights off, but it made it somewhat harder to see when the sun went down. 
As always, most of the sound is from the tree. 

Harp; Tammam Odeh, flute; Rea Ábel, piano; Pei-I Hsu, cello; Chris Van Zyl.


Cello and piano got ME-1 personal mixers (not for any particular reason other than the cable runs were easier that way). Harp and flute got little Donner headphone amps driven by a pair of auxiliaries on the A&H SQ5. 
I wore my Sennheiser headphones (600? 650? I forget actually) and I had a little condenser mic on a boom with a mute switch so I could talk to everyone on headphones without yelling. That, I think, worked out quite well. 
Cables or netting? This is the mess between the conductor and the orchestra. It's actually fairly well organized there's just lots of it. 


We put the AKG C12A aimed (sort of) at the cello. As always, the music stand is in the way. I'm not quite smart enough to figure out a way around that. But again, the tree was most of the sound. 
Andrew Bellware wonders what exactly the computer is saying to him.


I was just going to put an Oktava 012 on the harp. But at the last minute I added my kit U47 clone as a second microphone. Together they're kinda nice I think. I spread them out in the stereo field a little, not all the way. Again most of the sound is from the tree but sometimes you just need some closer sound. 

View from the piano to the front of the church with a dorkus at the mixing board.


For a long time I wasn't going to put a separate mic on the flute because, I figured, it was so close to the center mic of the Decca tree. But I put an Oktava 012 overhead. And then forgot to patch the microphone to the USB output that feeds the computer. Because I am a dope. However I haven't really run into a place where I'm really screaming internally for that mic. 
We had a bit of an adventure where something went massively wrong with the mechanics of the alto flute on the first day, but a new one was borrowed for the second day. 
Decca piano recording method. 

The piano 

The piano is a nice Mason & Hamlin grand piano. 
I will admit I read a book on recording classical music to prepare for this recording. And apparently the Decca method of recording grand piano is to have these two mics almost parallel shooting right along the strings from the far end of the piano. So I figured I'd try that with a pair of Schoeps hypercardioids. 
But I didn't fully trust that that would work because I'd never tried it before. So I put a pair of AKG 460's right over the harp of the piano, with the Blue ribbon mic in the center. 
The piano had its lid removed when we showed up, and I figured we'd keep it that way just to avoid reflections off the lid. Also that makes it easier to put those close mics in there.
Verdict? The Decca pair sound very natural and mix really well with the tree. Sometimes, though, the huge warm sound of the three close microphones sounds great too. So having those options is very helpful in post (unless you're trying to limit your options, which is also a legitimate way to think.) But 5 mics on the piano gives you both the "classical" sound and the big "soundtrack" sound too. 


At one point I thought I was going to put outriggers on the Decca tree. Ha ha! No. Not with a tiny quartet. So instead we put Rode NT1's in the hinterlands -- one at the back of the church sort of facing up into the ceiling aimed at the back, and the other way in the (what's it called?) the very front part of the church (also aimed up and toward the wall.) 
So far that's pretty fun. But that's only with me having mixed about 1/4 of the material. 

Does a Decca tree work with such a small ensemble? I think so. The weirdest thing about my microphones is that the more expensive they are, the noisier (or rather, the more susceptible to noise they are).

The whole soundtrack should go up on Bandcamp, no? Anyway, that's for later. 

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