Pretty soon I'm going to be tracking and filming a live performance in a studio with my good friend Mike and mutual acquaintance Jordan (a.k.a Millow Pye). In a previous blog I compared this performance to an MTV Unplugged performance, and this was mainly to do with the fact that we were recording in a large live space, which would've taken a lot to achieve a good sound. Our initial thoughts were to make sure we weren't over doing it, as in we weren't going to over produce and polish the audio to the point of it sounding like a studio recording. We wanted it to be as unpolished and true to the performance as possible. However, because of some unforeseen challenges relating to our project, we've had to change the location and are now doing it in a studio. The film students are still going be there filming it and we're still going to try and capture that live emotion and feeling, but we now have access to an actual studio for the recording, and a different space. This makes me think that we should reconsider our original trajectory and maybe think of another way to tackle this project in terms of the recording. In this blog I'm going to reflect on what our current situation is and then in a later blog I'll be following it up with some research and hopefully solutions.
What we're looking at is a huge reduction in the space we have to do the filming and recording. The original space was essentially built for what we are trying to do, nice and open, really flat sound so we wouldn't have to worry about over baring room reverb and could easily add our own in post, and we could pretty much put our musicians wherever we want. The space we're now going to use is significantly smaller, so we're somewhat limited in terms of musician placement while making room for cameras and a film crew. The upside is that it's actually a studio, so if anything the space is actually built for recording, so we no longer have to worry about getting a huge PA system rigged up and hooking up a bunch of complicated cabling to a mixing desk, because it's all already set up in the studio.
With all this in mind, my main concerns are; creating enough room to move for cameras and film crew, and mic placement to avoid spill for louder instruments.
I think the best thing I can do for making sure there is enough room to move is to chat with the film students, get them a basic map of the room and have them organise the space best for their needs. However this doesn't really accommodate for my concern about spill between microphones. For the guitars and vocals I'm not too worried because we can DI the guitar and feed it back through headphones if it's too much extra noise in the room. The loudest instruments are going to be the brass and drums, and in a live environment they would work fine because we could spread them out and give everything it's own space. But unfortunately we don't have a lot of room to do that in a studio live room so we're going to need to think about that.
With a nice big live environment we were most likely looking at using some basic dynamic mics, stuff the doesn't really need to be worried about too much. But now that we're in a studio I guess there are some positives; now we can choose some condenser mics that we really like and spend a bit of time figuring out what sounds best. Again, I'm just reflecting on issues in this blog, and my project partner knows more about this stuff than I do so I'll be consulting him and doing a bit of my own research before I present some solutions. Other than actual microphone choices, I think we need to consider the positioning of our performers and more importantly, how we're going to position a bloody drum kit without flooding every other mic with cymbal and snare sounds. For the most part the drum parts in our artists songs are pretty minimal, where they do exist they kind of lend to the background of the song rather than being a prominent element. This could be used to our advantage by just letting most of the drum sound come through as spill in the background, but this would mean that mixing the drums in post could be a real problem. As for the guitar, as I mentioned, either a DI with headphone playback or an amp in the room would be the way to go, but having to rig up headphones for each of our performers could prove a challenge.
I think these are our main points of concern:
- Space for artists/film crew
- Microphone choices for a live performance in a studio
- Artist and microphone placement to maximise track separation for mixing post
If we keep these things in mind during our planning I think we can really make something great happen, and i'll be back shortly with another blog going through our solutions for these problems after a few more production meetings with our film crew.