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Live Sound in the Time of COVID

For performing musicians and engineers: stagecraft, engineering and gear.

Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby twotoedsloth » Fri Aug 28, 2020 7:59 pm

Hello,

Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully respond to my message.

I work at a University, and many of our students are inquiring about doing live performances over Zoom. Due to COVID live performances in person are hard to arrange.

We will obviously need to purchase some equipment:

For example, a string quartet would need four mics, stands and cables as a well as a small mixer and computer to handle the live stream. For a small Jazz ensemble we would need 3 mics for the drums, two mics for the piano and mics for the guitar, bass and solo horns.

Which mixer do you think would be best for this application? I was thinking the Soundcraft Signature 22 MTK would be good as it has a USB interface built in.

Would any of you recommend some workhorse all-around mics for this purpose? I was thinking that Shure Beta 57as would do the job, but some of you might favour the Sennheiser e614s.

I already have suitable closed back headphones.

Is there anything else I might be missing?

Many thanks,

Peter
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Re: Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby AlecSp » Fri Aug 28, 2020 9:28 pm

What's the budget? How good are the performers? Do you have willing technical people?

As we'll all have seen from looking at the many streamed performances over the last five months, production standards vary hugely - and often not in line with the level of act.

At the cheapest, you can simply prop up a phone and broadcast what's in the room. I've seen many streams of biggish artists, who appear to be doing just that. Typically, it's not fab.

Step up and do some mixing/production into a PC and the world is your oyster. Your choice, though - one mic for the room, everything micd, a barebones mix or a fully produced mix.

i've seen some amateur musicians put out some exquisite sounding streams, and some big names put out shockers.

If you've got the capability to drive it, use a digital mixer and whatever mics you have handy. You'll benefit from using the built in effects wisely to give some dimension in what might otherwise be a very dry mix. Spend some time getting the mix right before streaming, and you can get a great result.

Note, I've recommended no equipment detail - that's the least important part of this. Most important is to have a quality act, a decent sounding room and a capable mix engineer. As long as you've got a way of feeding the mixed audio into your PC, either direct from a mixer's USB output, or via a simple USB converter, and some mics, you can get a great result. Using the "best" kit will have the smallest impact on the quality of the output.
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Re: Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby resistorman » Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:25 am

“ Most important is to have a quality act, a decent sounding room and a capable mix engineer.”

Yeah.
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Re: Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby Aural Reject » Sun Aug 30, 2020 9:49 am

twotoedsloth wrote:I work at a University, and many of our students are inquiring about doing live performances over Zoom. Due to COVID live performances in person are hard to arrange.

It may be because it’s Sunday morning and I’m still asleep...but can you define what you mean a little more?

Are you talking about them being all together in a room and streaming that performance over zoom? Or trying to broadcast a live performance with them all in separate spaces over zoom?
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Re: Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby twotoedsloth » Mon Aug 31, 2020 1:27 pm

Hello, many thanks for your replies.

In response to your question, we are hoping to live stream live performances though Zoom. We have received many requests for live music before and after Zoom meetings (or MS Teams). It would be possible to borrow equipment from either of our concert halls, or our recording studio, but I'd rather have dedicated equipment. Budget is about $10k CDN, that will have to include the video camera as well.

The performers will all be in the same socially distanced room, while the rest of the people "attending" the event will log into Zoom to view the stream.

I appreciate you taking the time to offer your insights,

Peter
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Re: Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby Dave Rowles » Mon Aug 31, 2020 11:27 pm

That's approx £6k.

Well, are you buying everything? stands, cables, mics, mixer? If so that budget will be eaten up right quick.

I think given that budget needing a camera as well, I'd probably see what you can beg, borrow, or steal from the venues you'll be using though. Means you can get a decent camera. Also bear in mind that you may not need the USB capabilities of the mixer if you buy one with decent audio in. You could run it all through the camera and send it to the laptop for transmission.

If you want to get a bit of gear though, yes a mixer that will output the Main L+R to USB is probably the best bet. Remember that the audio will have to be effectively on input 1+2 of the USB connection otherwise Zoom and others won't see the inputs. For instance, for zoom meetings I can use my Focusrite Clarrett 4pre inputs 1+2, but if i use 3+4 it doesn't make it to the meeting.

Think about what mics will give you best bang for your buck. Think in terms of studio mics as with social distancing there will be less bleed. I'd probably look at the Aston Stealth mic wise, as I've been very impressed with the audio quality I've heard that mic produce over meetings.

Don't skimp on the cables and stands. Drooping mics won't pick up much, and no sound goes through a broken cable.
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Re: Live Sound in the Time of COVID

Postby erock2k@gmail.com » Fri Sep 04, 2020 7:00 pm

If I understand all the details, I highly recommend trying the Zoom Q8. Its a great starting point and will handle a good performance without much engineering. By that I mean as long as the room and balance of performers is sounding good at the point where the camera is placed- it should sound good to folks watching and listening on streaming platforms. I have used this setup going into a laptop for Live Streaming and pre recorded bands of several types and it shines. It has a wide angle lens (before setting any digital zoom settings) that helps capture everyone in the room. The included mic is very good and the video quality at 2k resolution looks very good to me on phones and tablets.
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