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How would you mic this theatre stage (for filming)?

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How would you mic this theatre stage (for filming)?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:38 pm

Hi all

I'm shooting a theatre production with the following layout (quick sketch showing yellow audience blocks and traverse stage)...

https://www.dropbox.com/s/64hlnyk8sw5fwss/reflections-stage.jpg?dl=0

A separate team will manage live sound and can give me a feed of 12 radio mics, the orchestra, plus some boundary mics around the stage. I can add some mics of my own to capture audience sound, but would also like to pick-up chorus (non mic) performers singing, mainly either side of the stage and towards the end of the stage 'walk way'.

Just to highlight, my own mics won't be feeding the PA.

1. Can I expect to do better than the boundary mics on stage? I want to make sure the musical pieces aren't 'solo-heavy' from the radio mics. What about some SDC mics placed at key areas?
2. Maybe just a stereo-pair out front would blend well with the radio mics?
3. Audience mics - stereo pair at the back of the venue? A better option?

Any advice would be appreciated. I understand there will be established ways of doing this properly with a better budget and the right experience - here, the hire budget is minimal (a few mics and small mixer) and I'm having to multi-task somewhat, so I'd appreciate more imaginative ideas/suggestions relevant to this scale.

Thanks
Ben
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Re: How would you mic this theatre stage (for filming)?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:22 pm

If your budget is limited and you're likely to be multi-tasking I'd try and keep it as simple as possible - stereo pair and omni outriggers perhaps (should pick up some audience).
But that's just a wild guess :) smarter folks will be along soon. ;)
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Re: How would you mic this theatre stage (for filming)?

Postby Luke W » Mon Oct 22, 2018 9:29 am

Ben wrote:1. Can I expect to do better than the boundary mics on stage? I want to make sure the musical pieces aren't 'solo-heavy' from the radio mics. What about some SDC mics placed at key areas?
2. Maybe just a stereo-pair out front would blend well with the radio mics?
3. Audience mics - stereo pair at the back of the venue? A better option?

The real problem with recording any theatre performance, is getting mics close enough to the source to end up with something useful, without having them in the way! That's part of why boundary type mics are so commonly used, it's more of a compromise with what looks right than what works best in terms of high quality recording. The last show I recorded I used a pair of Crown PCCs to mic the ensemble, for exactly the same reason (only some of the cast were on radios), and it worked really nicely, and was visually very subtle.

For the audience, as blinddrew suggested, a pair of omnis out in the house will be good, if it's just to capture some applause then any relatively sensible position should work fine!

Apologies as I'm sure you're already aware of this, but in terms of feeds from the sound team, if it's just a mirror of the main mix, then what's going to the room is likely to be rather different to what you would like to end up at your rig. Having a separate mix would depend greatly on how much time you have to set up, how busy those guys are already etc (and sometimes how helpful they are as people in general!). If you don't have much choice about what's coming from the board, then it might be best to record it to a separate device to add later if it's useful, rather than mixing it with what you provide for yourself and being stuck with it.
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Re: How would you mic this theatre stage (for filming)?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:22 am

Ben wrote:A separate team will manage live sound and can give me a feed of 12 radio mics, the orchestra, plus some boundary mics around the stage.

As has been said, it would be best if you can get these as individual direct feeds if their main purpose is for the house PA. The reason is that a mixed PA feed will be balanced for the room, taking into account the contribution of acoustic spill from the orchestra and performers in that room. As a result, the sound might be fantastic in the room for the live audience, but the mix off the PA desk may well sound rather odd and unbalanced and not very useful for a video soundtrack!

Also, with the radio mic feeds, if the PA person is late on fading up a cue it will tend to be overlooked in a live show that the audience only see that one night, but it will ruin a video production that may be watched over and again. So discrete feeds, rather than a full mix or stems, are important for a high quality end result.... and of course the time to do a full remix for the video production.

1. Can I expect to do better than the boundary mics on stage?

The problem with more conventional miking is obstructing sight-lines with mic stands. Boundary mics don'y have that problem, and can five surprisingly good and even sound coverage with very natural perspectives. Just take care to mechanically isolate the mics from the staging to avoid emphasising the footfalls. Placing the mics on foam or similar is usually sufficient.

What about some SDC mics placed at key areas?

Sure... on low stands so the mics poke up just above the sides of the staging is a possibility. Better still, flown in on catenary wires overhead...

2. Maybe just a stereo-pair out front would blend well with the radio mics?

Yes... but you will then have to take care panning the radios to match the spatial positions picked up by the stereo pair to avoid a confusion and muddled sound stage. Sounds great when done well, but it will add to the mix-down complexity and time.

3. Audience mics - stereo pair at the back of the venue? A better option?

Not sure I'd want mics at the back of the venue. They'll be a significant time delay for on-stage sounds arriving at the mics at the back of the room, and when mixed in that will lead to unwanted colouration. Also, people are directional, and audience reaction (applause, shouts, laughter etc) sounds very different when heard from behind compared to the front! I'd go for mics in front of the stage, high up, and facing the back of the hall, or maybe omni outriggers at the sides of the room roughly half way down the thrust stage as a reasonable compromise.

HTH

H
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Re: How would you mic this theatre stage (for filming)?

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:17 am

Thanks for your really thoughtful responses, folks. Yes, I’ll have pre-fade stems from the mixer, probably just lavs, boundaries and orchestra.

Flown mics not possible for this one, sadly. I think I’ll just trust the boundary mics for chorus stage sound, perhaps supported by something out front.
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