December 22, 2014 at 10:06PM

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Audiophiles: Any Advice For Shooting Through A Soundboard?

Hey folks.

Last month, I was hired by a local heavy metal band to film their set. They're incredibly pleased with the product, however, I think there could be some improvements.

I spent hours watching Live DVD recordings of my favorite bands, and some of the proshot videos from Wacken Open Air. Before the shoot, I met with the audio tech at the venue and asked if he would let me record sound straight from the board and into my Zoom H4N. When I arrived, he already had everything set up for me and I just had to plug and go. He advised me that I test the audio during the first band's performance (Awesome advice that I never would have thought of.) and the levels seemed perfect. However, when I threw it into Premiere, it sounded nothing like I thought it would. Any ideas on what I could do to make it sound better in the future? Here's the specs.

Yamaha M7CL 48 ch. Console
EV DC-1 PROCESSOR

Finally, here's a video from the shoot, because I doubt it'd be possible to give good advice without it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdaM1zf-SNo

Thanks in advance.

12 Comments

I won't have time to properly play with this until after the 26th, but taking a quick look at your audio there are a couple of problems that stand out right away...

- Your audio is heavily compressed, so much so that there is no dynamic range left in the waveform, almost everything is mastered at 0 dB which makes the performance sound very "flat" to the ear.

- It sounds like the vocals are clipping because the recorded levels are too high, this might be fixable if some of the compression can be reversed.

I am working from a crappy Lenovo laptop right now, so I can't really judge the sound quality, but I'm sure that a little be of paragraphic-EQ could also help improve the sonic quality of the recording.

If I can find time after the 26th, I'll take another look at this...

- Guy

December 23, 2014 at 11:45PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31184

As another person responded make certain your levels are good. With the H4n it's a good idea to use as little on board gain as possible. A good signal from the sound board will mean you can leave the inputs turned all the way down. It's important to know the gain structure of your recording chain.

Chances are you'd actually get a better recording using just the mics. I'm making the assumption this isn't a 4,000+ capacity venue and a lot of the sound getting to the audience is from the stage sound itself. A live sound engineer is naturally going to have proportionally more vocals in the PA than drums since the drums are naturally acousticly louder. In that case a feed from the PA will have loud vocals and little in the way of drums except what's picked up in the vocal mics. Often guitar players will have their amps so loud that they aren't even in the PA. In most small venues there's no drum overhead mics and the PA's version of the drums will be just what's needed to beef up the sound to compliment the natural sound in the room. I could go on...

When a live performance is recorded professionally a "splitter" is used. Mics are fed to a recording board and live board independently. Also, extra mics are frequently added that the live engineer doesn't use at all, like overheads, bottom mic on snare, etc....Ohhh and don't forget the audience gets mics and mics to capture the room ambience....

often PAs are mono, especially in smaller venues. The stage sound provides surround sound ('cause it's real). You might be able to record dual mono for a safety track, or devote an extra input to an audience mic. Finally, most boards have more than one mixing bus. What that means is sometimes you can get a custom mix strait from the board, tailored just for recording. Most of the time though they are used for monitor feeds and effect sends.

Some boards feature wifi and have accompanying ios/android apps for a band member to mix their own monitors. If you get lucky you might be able to get exactly what you want and stay out of the engineers way.

Finally, musicians and engineers can't resist knob twiddling. A mix will change over the course of a performance.....

December 24, 2014 at 6:01AM

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Band recordings require a solid mix especially when recording stereo to a recorder like the zoom recorder. I would encourage you to have all instruments recorded separately or create submixes to recorded instruments differently from vocals. As said above, when you are mixing for the house things change, the temperature change, air pressure change so that means the properties of sound changes and the engineer will have to reconfigure the gain structure and alter fader. So next time id suggest that you get all the waves for all the instruments with a multi track recording device (Check out the zoom r16) and then you take the direct out of the main sound console and group the mixes based on the amount of inputs.

December 24, 2014 at 7:22PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2341

Thanks so much for all of your answers! Hopefully the next production will sound better.

Guy, I look forward to your extended response.

December 25, 2014 at 9:26PM

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Christopher Brazil
Audio/Video Tech
463

Robert de Buys & Wentworth Kelly; What are some ways that I can improve my live audio quality on a smaller scale? The only audio equipment that I have is that Zoom H4N and I'm still in the "starting out" stages of my career so I can't exactly afford some new equipment.

December 27, 2014 at 3:30PM

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Christopher Brazil
Audio/Video Tech
463

To improve your live audio on a smaller scale I'd encourage you to record live music with just the on board mics on the H4n. Experiment moving the mic placement and with stereo width (twist the mics).

Listen to the recordings and try to figure out what's too soft or too loud. What instruments get washed out from untamed room reflections? Experiment with adding a single mic, then two. Then, go back to the console and see what you can get from there.

Specifically the Yamaha mixer you mentioned in the original post is more than capable of creating a separate mix for recording. Moreover the mix can be controlled by an iPad.

Honestly though, you'll likely fare best with a minimalist approach. How would you answer someone asking how to be a better editor and color grader?

Robert de buys

March 1, 2015 at 10:47AM

>>>What are some ways that I can improve my live audio quality on a smaller scale?

To improve the quality of your Zoom H4n recordings when connecting to soundboards, you should own a pair of 20 dB inline XLR pads, as the Zoom overloads when the recording level goes past -10 dB. ( which happens when you are connecting to the LINE out from a mixer or soundboard )

Whirlwind IMPAD20 : In-Line XLR Barrel Transformer with 20 dB Pad : $17 Each
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/351406-REG/Whirlwind_IMPAD20_IMPAD...

January 1, 2015 at 5:24PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31184

Guy, what do I do with those? Plug one end into the Zoom H4N, and the other end into the XLR cable?

Christopher Brazil

January 1, 2015 at 5:35PM

Hey, Guy. Thanks for getting back to me.

What do I do with those? Plug the XLR cable into one end, and then plug the Transformer into the Zoom H4N?

Christopher Brazil

January 2, 2015 at 12:31PM

Hey Guy. Thanks for your response.

What do I do with those? Plug the XLR cable into one end of the Transformer, and then plug the Transformer into the Zoom H4N?

January 2, 2015 at 12:32PM, Edited January 2, 12:32PM

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Christopher Brazil
Audio/Video Tech
463

>>>What do I do with those? Plug the XLR cable into one end of the Transformer, and then plug the Transformer into the Zoom H4N?

Professional LINE level outs from a soundboard or mixer are normally 0 dB or +4 dB, which is too strong for your Zoom H4n recorder to handle. What these pads do is reduce the signal level by 20 dB before it gets to your H4n recorder and you will end up with a much better recording.

Normally I would connect these pads to the XLR outputs from the soundboard or mixer and then connect your XLR cables to these pads that connect to your H4n recorder. If that's not possible then I would plug the XLR pads into the XLR inputs on your H4n recorder, and then connect your XLR feed cables from the soundboard or mixer to the pads.

Physically the pads are a little awkward to work with as they are about 3-4 inches long and made entirely out of metal, so you will have a 3-4 inch metal extension sticking out of the bottom of your H4n recorder.

If you take a look at the Zoom H5 or H6 recorders you will notice that they have built-in 20 dB pads beside each XLR input, so you can adjust the input to either 0 dB (no pad) or 20 dB (include pad).

January 3, 2015 at 10:12AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31184

I'll buy those pads, and test them out on my next shoot. I'll look at upgrading my audio gear soon as well.

Thanks again, Guy. You've posted on nearly every question that I've had and you always have so much advice to give. I really appreciate it!

Christopher Brazil

January 4, 2015 at 12:43PM

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