Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Thunder Audio Supporting Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke World Tour
Tour supported by two identical control and monitor systems
Thunder Audio (Livonia, MI, and Nashville) is supporting the legendary Dolly Parton on her current “Blue Smoke” world tour that kicked off in Palm Springs CA, and has her performing in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the U.S.
The tour went into rehearsals in mid-November at the Nove Entertainment rehearsal space in Nashville that’s jointly owned by Thunder Audio and CTK management.
“We built two identical control and monitor systems due to the geographies and timeline of this tour, which was quite an undertaking,” notes Thunder Audio VP Paul Owen. “This kind of build is something that Thunder Audio is quite used to doing after many years of providing audio support to Metallica with the same type of duplicate demands.”
The systems both include a Midas PRO9 console for monitor engineer Bryan “Opie” Baxley and a PRO6 for front-of-house engineer Patrick Johnson.
On stage, each monitor system incorporates 18 Meyer Sound MJF212 wedges, with an HP500 for drum and bass sub. Performers are outfitted with 14 Shure PSM900 personal monitoring systems and 20 channels of Shure UR4D receivers.
The main system is made up of Meyer Sound MILO arrays, with MICA arrays for side hangs and HP700 subwoofers.
The systems engineer for the tour is Jonathan Winkler, while the monitor tech is Paul Scodova.
Juilliard School Implements Clear-Com’s Tempest900 Wireless Intercom
The Intercom’s Unique Frequency Technology Allows Wireless Systems to Operate Simultaneously Without Interference
Clear-Com has revamped the wireless setup at New York City’s prestigious Juilliard School.
The school installed three Tempest900 digital wireless intercoms in its production department and one additional system in its recording department. The two-channel Tempest systems provide coverage within each of the facility’s three performances spaces, operating independently of one another without signal interference.
Previously, only one Julliard theater, the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, had a wireless communications system with wired Clear-Com being used in the other production venues. The wireless system also could not provide full coverage in every production area within the Sharp Theater. For wireless to work in the school’s Stephanie P. McClelland Drama Theater, it would require the installation of an expensive and complex antenna system with long coax cable runs to get sufficient coverage.
Clear-Com’s Tempest900, however, offers reliable coverage that is free of dropouts wherever the production team needs communications. One remote transceiver is connected over a common CAT5 cable to enable communication in the drama theater’s production space, allowing for a cost-effective setup. Additionally, each of the Tempest900 systems operates independently of one another without interference, even though all of them are located within the same facility.
“Julliard’s previous communications system placed a lot of restrictions on production staff members’ ability to perform at their best,” explains James Schaller, Clear-Com’s Regional Sales Manager for the Northeastern United States. “The Tempest900 system offers a wide range of reliable coverage, ensuring that personnel can remain in constant contact within each theater.
“Due to the system’s advanced RF technologies, it experiences no interference from wireless devices, cell phones, or in this case, other Tempest systems. It also easily integrates with the facility’s existing Clear-Com partyline systems utilized in the facility’s three theaters.”
As with all Tempest products, the Tempest900 features Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology to ensure interference-free communications despite other wireless devices operating in the vicinity. With FHSS, each Tempest900 BaseStation employs a different frequency while at the same time changing frequencies every five milliseconds. This prevents interference between the independent systems.
The easy-to-use Tempest900 wireless system helps crew members keep up with Juilliard’s hectic production schedule of roughly 800 productions a year. It can be up and running in a half hour or less so crew members can focus on the production at hand without worrying about equipment setup.
With Tempest’s T-Desk management software, the technical crew can also rapidly reprogram the system and customize communications for each production or project. The three theater systems typically use a setup that assigns one channel to stage management, sound, and carpentry on the scene. The second channel is given to the lighting board operator and Lighting Designer. Another of Julliard’s Tempest systems gets conveniently moved from venue to venue by the Recording Department for remote recordings.
Posted by Julie Clark on 02/05 at 01:45 PM
Monday, February 03, 2014
Lectrosonics Brings Out Humor Of “Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues”
Lectrosonics utilized to record during the filming of Anchorman 2
When Atlanta, GA-based Production Sound Mixer Whit Norris, CAS, was tasked with capturing location sound for “Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues” he utilized Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from
With a pedigree that spans twenty-five years, Norris’ background encompasses industrials, documentaries, commercials, independent films, and episodic television in addition to his work on feature films.
For Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues, Norris used a sizeable amount of Lectrosonics gear, including six SMQV and four SMa Super-Miniature transmitters, and two UM400 bodypack transmitters.
On the receiving end, his setup consisted of two Venue mainframe receiver systems—each fully stocked with six VRT receiver modules—as well as three UCR411a compact receivers. He discussed the project and his use of the Lectrosonics equipment.
Norris also used an HM plug-on transmitter with a push to talk microphone and a UCR411 receiver attached to a portable loudspeaker. This served as VOG (Voice of God, communication between the director and cast) for director Adam McKay.
Norris’ team, which consisted of Doug Cameron, Boom Operator and Dana Simmons, 2nd Boom/Sound Utility, used Lectrosonics R1 and R1A IFB receivers for private communication and monitoring along with an IFB T4 transmitter.
“First and foremost is audio quality, in this regard, the Lectrosonics gear is top notch” Norris explains when asked about his use of the gear. “Secondly, the build quality is terrific: the SMa and SMQV transmitters are really solid. I’ve also been very impressed with the equipment’s easy-to-use design. Both the transmitters and the Venue receivers are very easy to operate.”
“Range is another important consideration,” he adds. “Dropout-free performance is critically important and distance is always a concern for someone in my line of work. In my experience, the Lectrosonics equipment has better overall distance capability than other wireless systems I’ve used.
“I also like the fact that with either the Lectrosonics RM remote or the Lectro RM app for Apple’s iOS, I have the ability to adjust transmitter level, change frequency, or just put the units into sleep mode. It’s really handy so that you don’t have to disrupt an actor’s wardrobe.”
With a film like Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues, one never knows what surprise lines may occur that really help a comedy deliver the laughs. For Norris, capturing everything is critically important.
“These days, when you’re filming comedies like Anchorman 2, there are always two to three cameras to cover the many adlibs that occur when you have a cast this creative,” he reports. “No one wants to miss a performance or line. Even with multiple booms, you may not capture every line unless you’re miking and tracking everyone.
“This is what Lectrosonics wireless helps me do—keep everyone miked! As a sound department, I consider our main job is to capture each and every performance. Giving the post production staff options really helps them in terms of cutting the dialog.”
“I have been very pleased to have owned and operated Lectrosonics products for over 20 years,” Norris concludes. “Everything about Lectrosonics is first rate. The company’s customer service and support is outstanding. They are always listening to their customers, which I think is very important. I really enjoy the great sense of humor the company has, such as those crazy April Fools’ announcements they always seem to come up with.
“Overall, I believe they have been very supportive to the sound for picture community. My experience with the company has been great and I’m looking forward to the future with Lectrosonics.”
Posted by Julie Clark on 02/03 at 09:37 AM
Saturday, February 01, 2014
Behringer Expands ULM Series Of Wireless Systems
Four new systems available with selection of transmitters, single- or dual-channel receivers
Behringer has expanded the ULM Series of wireless systems. The new ULM200MIC pairs a single wireless mic with the ULM200R single-channel receiver, while the new ULM202MIC comes with two handheld wireless mics and a dedicated dual-channel receiver.
In addition, the new ULM200LAV package pairs a lavalier mic and belt-pack transmitter with a single-channel receiver, while the new ULM200GTR is designed for guitarists and bassists, made up of a belt-pack transmitter with a dedicated single-channel receiver.
All microphones contain transmitters operating in the 2.4 GHz range. All signals are digitally encrypted to help insure the highest-quality reception, without random artifacts.
All systems have a range of up to 400 feet (120 m), with dual-diversity technology. Front-panel LEDs on the receiver show signal presence and strength, while indicators on the transmitter inidicate when it’s time to change batteries.
Audio outputs are balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4-inch TS, allowing connection to PA and conference room systems, or high-quality instrument amplifiers.
“These wireless mic systems offer an option for almost anyone, from presenter – to pastor – to performer,’ says product manager Bert Niedermeyer. “They have outstanding build quality and are an exceptional value. Try one and you’ll discover what total freedom can do for your performance.”
The ULM202MIC, ULM200MIC, ULM200LAV ULM200GTR are available at a suggested MAP of $149.99, $99.99, $99.99 and $99.99, respectively, and are covered by MUSIC Group’s 3-Year Limited Warranty Program.
Friday, January 31, 2014
Shure Now Shipping GLXD6 Guitar Pedal Receiver With Integrated Tuner
Designed to easily integrate with any pedal board, incorporates LINKFREQ Automatic Frequency Management as well as intelligent lithium-ion battery rechargeability
Shure is now shipping the new GLXD6 guitar pedal receiver with integrated tuner, designed to easily integrate with any pedal board and offer “tank-like” durability.
The GLXD6 combines the leading-edge technology of LINKFREQ Automatic Frequency Management with intelligent lithium-ion battery rechargeability, and durable construction.
Shure GLX-D digital wireless systems debuted at NAMM 2013 with traditional bodypack and handheld configurations, including vocal, headset, and presenter systems. The new pedal-board-mounted guitar receiver has a built-in chromatic instrument tuner with both strobe and needle tuning views to suit user preferences.
The combined pedal tuner and receiver operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency band. Additionally, the foot switch enables shifting between wireless display and tuner mode with the option to mute or pass the audio signal while tuning.
“The most important attribute of a wireless system is its audio quality. GLX-D’s digital wireless technology is transparent, capturing every nuance of a guitarist’s sound from the attack through the sustain,” said Erik Vaveris, category director for wireless products at Shure. “With a rugged metal construction, the GLXD6 guitar pedal receiver was designed to survive the abuse of the stage. And the tremendous cost savings of the wireless transmitter’s intelligent rechargeable battery make it the perfect system for a guitarist.”
GLX-D digital wireless systems also utilize Shure LINKFREQ Automatic Frequency Management, a technology that seamlessly analyzes the RF spectrum to determine the best available frequencies, and automatically switches both transmitter and receiver to new channels should problematic interference be identified.
Additionally, each GLX-D transmitter is powered by an intelligent lithium-ion battery for up to 16 hours of continuous use at full charge and can be quickly recharged in 15 minutes for up to 1.5 hours of use.
GLXD6 single-channel receiver highlights:
• Guitar pedal form factor for easy mounting and powering from pedal boards
• Rugged metal chassis design
• Built-in chromatic instrument tuner with strobe and needle tuning views
• Adjustable reference pitch (432—447Hz)
• Foot switch to shift between wireless display and tuner mode with option to mute or pass signal while tuning
• Operate up to 4 compatible systems in a typical setting, up to 8 maximum under ideal conditions
• Range: Indoors 100 feet typical, 200 feet under ideal conditions; outdoors 65 feet typical, 165 feet under ideal conditions
• Highly visible LED display
• 1/4-inch output connector
GLX-D system configurations vary globally.
Shure GLX-D digital wireless systems and GLXD6 receivers are available through authorized Shure resellers. System Pricing begins at $449 MAP.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Carrie The Musical Counts On Countryman Microphones
E6i Omnidirectional Earset microphone delivers superior performance and fit under challenging theatrical conditions
Presented by Ray of Light Theatre from October 4th - November 2nd at The Victoria Theatre in San Francisco, Carrie The Musical—Based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel—kept its audiences on the edge of their seats.
To ensure the utmost clarity for both dialog and the musical performances, Countryman E6i Omnidirectional Earset microphones were deployed.
San Francisco-based Sound Productions was contracted to provide sound for the West Coast premiere of Carrie The Musical.
For this project, Anton Hedman, owner of San Francisco-based Hedman Sound and general manager of Sound Productions, used 21 Countryman E6i Omnidirectional Earset microphones.
“In my experience, Countryman E6i and B6 microphones are the best in their class and have terrific sound quality for theatrical applications,” Hedman explained. “Because the E6i is so small, flexible, and available in a variety of skin tones, it is remarkably easy to conceal on the talent, which is a key consideration for theatrical use.
“They are barely even noticeable when mounted directly against the face. And actors love them because they hardly notice they’re wearing a mic. This allows them to concentrate on their art while we focus on ours—making them sound good.
“We typically use these mics with Shure SLX, ULX, UR and ULXD wireless systems and, together, they make a great combination.”
For the iconic prom scene where Carrie ultimately retaliates, there is blood everywhere. Hedman was challenged to conceal a mix on the actress that would survive having about four gallons of blood dumped on it – right before the closing solo.
“We decided to use an E6i mounted to her tiara so we could conceal it,” he explains. “We positioned the mic face down and protected it with a simple funnel-shaped wrap of medical tape around the capsule and a solid wrap around the ear connection in order to repel most of the liquid. We were all amazed at how well it worked!”
Hedman notes that one of the most important considerations for any product is its reliability and customer support.
“In this regard, Countryman product is first rate, and the same goes for the company’s support services,” Hedman says. “It’s always nice to know that the manufacturer of a product you’re using is there to support you. Countryman’s staff is very nice and is always available to help with any questions you may have.”
Posted by Julie Clark on 01/30 at 02:25 PM
Monday, January 27, 2014
Audio-Technica Introduces System 10 Wireless Guitar Stompbox
Pedalboard-mounted wireless system streamlines signal flow and reduces stage clutter, and provides an A/B switcher for multiple signal options
Audio-Technica introduced the new System 10 2.4-GHz digital guitar stompbox wireless system (ATW-1501) at the 2014 NAMM show.
The System 10 Stompbox streamlines onstage signal flow by making the wireless receiver part of the pedalboard, and provides an A/B switcher for multiple signal/amp options.
The system combines the advanced 24-bit operation, easy setup and clear, natural sound quality of other System 10 wireless configurations with unique functionality for guitarists, bassists and other instrumentalists.
Operating in the 2.4 GHz range, far from TV and DTV interference, the System 10 Stompbox offers a rugged, metal, pedal board-mountable receiver with foot switch, two switched TRS balanced 1/4-inch outputs and an output mode selector. With the tap of a foot, musicians can toggle between outputs (e.g., for switching amps) or mute and unmute one output without muting the other (e.g., for tuners without a self-muting feature).
A single receiver can be paired with up to eight UniPak® body-pack transmitters, allowing users to easily switch between instruments without having to move a body-pack from one instrument to the next.
System 10 wireless ensures clear communications by providing three levels of diversity assurance: frequency, time, and space: Frequency Diversity sends the signal on two dynamically allocated frequencies for interference-free communication. Time Diversity sends the signal in multiple time slots to maximize immunity to multipath interference. Space Diversity uses two antennas on each transmitter and receiver to maximize signal integrity.
Each ATW-1501 Stompbox system includes an ATW-R1500 Stompbox receiver, an ATW-T1001 UniPak body-pack transmitter with an AT-GcW guitar cable, and Velcro strips for adding receiver to an effects pedal board. The ATW-R1500 is a digital receiver with sturdy, metal-body construction, easy-to-read digital ID and transmitter battery level displays, and AF Peak and Pair indicator lights.
The System 10 Stompbox system will be available spring 2014 with a U.S. MSRP of $614.95.
Friday, January 24, 2014
AKG Launches WMS420 Wireless Microphone System At 2014 NAMM
Available in vocal, head-worn, lavalier and instrument packages
AKG has launched the WMS420 wireless system, a versatile and high-performance single-channel wireless system designed for smaller venues, and available in four specialized product packages: Vocal Set with AKG D5 handheld microphone, Head-worn Set with AKG C555L, Lavalier Set with AKG C417 and Instrument Set with AKG MKG L cable.
“This microphone family enables smaller venues to get just the right system for their needs at the right price they’re prepared to pay without having to compromise on performance, quality or reliability,” states Stephan Scherthan, product line manager, Wireless Systems, AKG. “It’s an extremely flexible single channel package and, I am certain, will advance the quality of sound in smaller venues where one or more channels are required.”
WMS420 includes the SR420 UHF stationary receiver with two external and detachable antennas on the rear side and BNC connectors at standard 50 ohms. The HT420 handheld transmitter’s and PT420 pocket transmitter’s charging contacts, like the AKG WMS470, are compatible with the AKG CU400 charging station.
“AKG’s WMS420 is a high-quality wireless system, with a rugged and reliable Austrian-built D5 microphone to ensure performance quality for on-stage users,” Scherthan continues. “WMS420 addresses the quality void in small-venue wireless systems, with a price point all users will find very appealing.”
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Harmony In Action: Live Sound For The Band Perry Headline Tour
The Band Perry’s meteoric rise has officially hit warp speed, with the country group now in the midst of a headline tour of arenas following a stint as the opening act for Rascal Flatts in one of the top tours of 2013.
Siblings Kimberly Perry (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Reid Perry (bass guitar, background vocals), and Neil Perry (mandolin, drums, accordion, background vocals) are backed by a group of tight, seasoned musicians to present a “modern throwback” style combining classic country with rock, gospel and soul.
The “We Are Pioneers World Tour” launched in Sweden last November with new sound, set and lights, and then hit North America in early 2014, kicking off in Canada in early January before moving on to the U.S. through at least March, joined by opening acts Easton Corbin and newcomer Lindsey Ell.
Directing the sound reinforcement effort for The Band Perry are seasoned Nashville-based touring sound veterans Jon Garber (FOH) and Justin Beckstead (monitors), working with the Nashville division of Sound Image, headed up by Everett Lybolt.
The vocal harmony between Reid, Neil and big sister Kimberly is one of the keys to The Band Perry live, captured with Shure KSM9/HS condenser microphones on ULX wireless systems. The arrival at the KSM9/HS came after a journey lasting a couple of years that began with Kimberly on an SM86 and the brothers on Beta 58As, with an occasional appearance by Shure Super 55s for certain songs.
Jon Garber at his Studer Vista 5 SR at front of house.
“The KSM9s absolutely capture the full nuance of their voices while being very transparent in nature,” notes Garber. “Their supercardioid pattern also helps reject stage noise, particularly from the drums.”
Speaking of stage noise, it’s actually a relatively quiet space, with The Band Perry on Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems and the rest of the musicians on PSM 900s, with all systems feeding custom Westone earpieces. There are no wedges and minimal fills, and that’s just the way Beckstead likes it from both sonic and mixing perspectives.
Justin “JB” Beckstead with wireless transmitters staged and ready to go.
“There are more challenges in mixing for ‘ears,’ but on the other hand, it allows me to deliver full mixes to everyone rather than just select parts, which was the case with wedges,” he notes. In addition, the CueMode function of the systems allows monitoring of up to 20 different channels on one bodypack, which comes in handy in monitoring the RF landscape.
“I use CueMode if we go out on fly dates and we have a limited number of packs and units. It’s very helpful, because you not only monitor the mix; you monitor the frequency that it’s on. So if they’re taking hits, you’re hearing it,” Beckstead explains. And receiving the information via the bodypack leaves him free to move about when needed.
The monitoring systems are fed by Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) helical antennas, pole-mounted for direct line of sight, positioned adjacent to the transmitters. Frequency coordination for all wireless is done with an assist from PWS IAS software.
Garber and Beckstead note that the overall RF environment they’re finding in North America is “tightening up a bit but workable,” and is best addressed with careful RF planning and quality equipment.
Guitar amps are miked with Shure SM57s or taken direct via Radial J48 mk2 active direct boxes. Drums are handled exclusively with Shure as well, with a Beta 91 half-cardioid condenser inside the kick joined by a Beta 52A, SM57s on top and bottom snare, Beta 56As on top toms and Beta 132s below, and KSM 137s for hi-hat and ride.
Garber’s rack of outboard effects gear assembled for specific applications.
No Matching It
Beckstead does his monitor mixing on a Yamaha PM5D console outfitted with an additional DSP engine, which he uses pretty much to the exclusion of outboard effects gear.
Meanwhile at front of house, Garber utilizes a Studer Vista 5 SR console that’s he’s chosen since it was introduced more than five years ago, including for a long-time stint with Rascal Flatts before joining The Band Perry. “It really comes down to sonic quality. There are simply not a lot of consoles that can match it,” he states directly.
He also prefers the Vista 5 SR’s straightforward Vistonics interface and ergonomics, as well as its workflow. It’s got all of the processing he needs except for select effects pieces chosen for very specific applications. This includes a t.c. electronic reverb fed to the console via AES, as well as an Avalon VT-737SP compression on Kimberly’s acoustic guitar, a BSS Audio DPR-901ii dynamic equalizers on vocal groups, ADL 1500 stereo tube comp/limiters split between kick and snare, and a Summit TLA 100A tube leveling amplifier on mandolin.
Another look at the “dynamic trio” in concert, backed by a tight, top-notch band.
“These effects units, the compressors in particular, deliver a good warm sound on the acoustic items and the drums while keeping them right in the mix at all times,” Garber says.
Sound Image is supplying JBL Professional VerTec line arrays, driven by Crown Audio IT12000HD amplifiers, all under the management of the Harman HiQnet Performance Manager control suite. Typically, main arrays are comprised of 15 VT4889 full-size elements, with 12 of these for auxiliary arrays and 6 more for side fill arrays. Low end is bolstered by VT4880 subwoofers on the deck.
Garber notes that this package has delivered consistently over a long-standing affiliation with Harman that goes back more than a decade, furthered by the high level of service delivered by Sound Image and Lybolt. “Studer, JBL and the entire Harman organization helps us tremendously, especially on these long tours,” he states. “It’s a great way to deliver consistently high-quality sound to both artists and fans at every tour stop.”
Monday, January 20, 2014
Audio Technology Redefining Art
Wireless innovation to support a first of it's kind live theatrical production at LA's Union Station
Theatrical productions have been staged in many forms and venues over the years, ranging from traditional proscenium arch theatres to outdoor Shakespearian-inclined stages, from theaters-in-the-round to “black boxes,” and plenty more.
But I recently checked out something altogether different, a new avant-garde opera production entitled Invisible Cities that was staged inside the general transit area of Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
The show, which ran twice nightly for about a month late last year, was the result of a cooperative effort among production company The Industry, the Los Angeles Dance Project, and Sennheiser, which worked closely with rental company Bexel ASG. The latter pair comprised the technical pivot point in this ambitious project, providing a transformation from initial concept into working reality of what was billed as the first “headphone” opera.
Putting It Together
The concept is radical and challenging. The staging of the Invisible Cities is based on the cast moving throughout the train station during the performance, while the audience members follow them as they wish. But first you have to find them…and that’s not easy.
Artistic director Yuval Sharon instructing the wireless-equipped cast at a dress rehearsal.
The opera is based on a 1972 novel by Italo Calvino. The narrative, accompanied by a musical score from an 11-piece live orchestra located in a remote room, took audience members on a multi-sensory journey throughout the terminal as the lead character, legendary traveler Marco Polo, described his quests to Emperor Kublai Khan.
Yuval Sharon is the artistic director who conceived of this work and brought it to life. When we spoke, he expressed a profound desire to blend everyday life with artistic expression. He talked about how the headphone experience would bring a new element into play. Initially, he was not fully convinced that headphones were the key so he explored, perhaps in the same vein as Marco Polo, and came up with a means of delivering this all-new form of theatrical content.
The Sennheiser- and Neumann-miked orchestra performing in a remote room.
Advanced wireless technology played a huge role in bringing the production to life. There were no loudspeakers; the audio was delivered to the audience via Sennheiser model HDR-120 wireless consumer headphones, and to the performers via Sennheiser 2000 series IEM systems, which handled in-ear monitoring duties for each of the singers and dancers, helping ensure their performances were in lock step with the musical score.
The EK 2000 IEM receivers, IE 8 earbuds and SR 2050 IEM twin transmitters were accompanied by a complex antenna system. Seventeen antennas for wireless mics, IEM and headphones were allocated among four concentrated locations throughout the station to achieve seamless RF coverage for both the performers and audience members.
Depending on the zone, model A 2003-UHF passive directional antennas were deployed with A 5000-CP circularly polarized antennas, effectively minimizing signal strength variations while eliminating multipath issues.
The “technology star” of Invisible Cities was the Sennheiser Digital 9000 wireless mic system, which delivered eight channels of uncompressed, artifact-free audio throughout the facility and captured the nuances of the libretto. The components of the Digital 9000 system included the EM 9046 digital receiver, SK 9000 beltpack transmitters and MKE 1 clip-on mics.
A fully digital transmission system, the 24-bit/96 kHz analog-to-digital conversion takes place in the transmitters. The clarity and sonic quality of the system was excellent, virtually identical to listening to wired mics in a studio control room, and it delivered rock-solid wireless performance in the notoriously tough RF environment that exists in downtown LA.
One of the four wireless antenna stations.
Sound designer Martin Gimenez specified a diverse collection of Sennheiser evolution mics to capture the orchestra’s brass and percussion as well as overall room ambience. For woodwinds and strings, including a harp, he called for several Neumann KM 184 small-diaphragm condensers, and for piano, selected a pair of Neumann U 87 Ai large-diaphragm condensers.
“Between the sonic immediacy of the headphone concept and Christopher Cerrone’s haunting orchestration, sonic transparency was paramount on our minds,” Gimenez says. “Having access to the entire range of Neumann and Sennheiser microphones proved vital and necessary in order to convey the amount of detail to each and every audience member.”
How It Works
Union Station is a busy, fully working transit station that host upwards of 30,000 passengers per day. And like it or not, for a month or so, the thousands of people who used the station were a part of the production, if only for a moment or two, as they made their way through the building. Most were completely unaware of what was taking place around them.
An actor outfitted with Sennheiser mic
I attended a dress rehearsal of Invisible Cities prior to its official opening. The concept could be called something like a “moveable production.” With your ticket comes the pair of Sennheiser wireless headphones. You put them on and wait for something to happen, perhaps feeling a little odd that you’re wearing a conspicuous over-the-ear set of headphones in a public place. But there are others around you with the same headgear—each performance accommodates 150 to 200 theatre-goers.
The cast members blend in with the travelers, especially at the beginning of the performance when they first appear, wearing ordinary street clothes. Then, out of nowhere, you hear a musical passage from the orchestra playing in a real room that’s hundreds of feet away. The sound grows in intensity, then diminishes, and then takes flight in various musical modalities. It’s an overture. This is the start of the experience.
Now a solo voice appears in your headphones, and you’re eager to see where it might be coming from. It’s by no means obvious. There’s a lot of space around you. You see a bustle in the crowd of your fellow headphone wearers, so you follow them for a while. Do they know where they’re going? Are they just guessing? Before too long you find the source of the voice. It’s a man in a wheelchair singing a poignant passage in operatic style, backed by the invisible orchestra.
Soon he is joined by another voice, a man dressed in typical transit station clothing, and wearing a shabby backpack. Again, it takes a while to realize where the second voice is coming from and who might be the vocalist. You visually explore the area and it’s very hard to separate the legitimate passengers in this rail terminal from those who might be cast members. The search is on for the tell-tale IEMs and headset mics, but both are well disguised. If you don’t have a close-up view of the performer, you cannot be sure if he/she is in the cast…or just a passenger wandering by.
The first actors have drifted away and new voices appear. Dancers augment the vocalists. Some are pushing brooms, wearing maintenance staff jump-suits. Others are exotic women in beautiful all-white gowns. They begin to appear in and around the large interconnected halls and the outside garden areas of the train terminal. Who do you follow? Where should your attention be directed?
The audience on headphones surrounding a facet of the performance.
And this is exactly what the producers want you to experience. A highly interactive event, that while scripted and choreographed, becomes a personal experience depending on what catches your attention, and what you decide to do about it. How you determine where you will focus on the different activities that are going on all around you is what makes it unique to each audience member.
Behind It All
The show could not be held without the foundational technology. The folks at Bexel, a company that is accomplished in serving complicated events, closed the loop between top-quality products and the successful deployment of them.
The wireless antenna cables were one of the numerous challenges of the project. They were routed to equipment racks in the control room where the Managed Antenna System components were located. MAS-500 Series equipment, which Bexel manufactures, was used to combine or distribute the various signals as needed. The use of ultra low-loss cables was impractical due to the public space issues, so the tech team had to be creative with amplification and signal routing to deliver the maximum allowable energy to each transmitting antenna and provide the cleanest signal possible for the wireless mic receivers.
“While the science is well known, and one in which Bexel has much experience, we had to apply our knowledge and expertise to an environment that required more than our customary methods,” states Andrew McHaddad, chief engineer for Bexel. “The greatest challenge was working in a public space with such a large, long-term installation. Cables and antennas had to be set up and torn down before and after each night’s performances, risking misconnected cables, incorrectly aimed antennas, and damage to cables due to pedestrian traffic or other forms of stress. The show’s audio department embraced these challenges with great professionalism and skill.”
Senior technical editor Ken DeLoria has mixed innumerable shows and tuned hundreds of sound systems with an emphasis on taming difficult acoustical environments, and he’s also the founder and former owner of Apogee Sound, which developed the TEC Award-winning AE-9 loudspeaker.
Friday, January 17, 2014
RF Venue And Professional Wireless Partnering On Products & Services
RF Venue antennas, distribution equipment, and other accessory products for wireless now available through Professional Wireless Systems
In a unique supply agreement, RF Venue remote antennas, RF distribution equipment, and other accessory products for wireless microphones, in-ear monitors, and intercoms are now available through Professional Wireless Systems, a Masque Sound company.
“The Professional Wireless team is among the elite groups in wireless audio system configuration, coordination, and management worldwide,” states RF Venue CEO Chris Regan. “We’re thrilled to add our products to their RF toolkit and now be able to offer our customers the best in class frequency coordination and onsite RF services.”
RF Venue’s Diversity Fin, RF Spotlight, and CP Beam antennas represent new approaches to solving signal dropout and interference problems for wireless audio systems of all sizes. Professional Wireless offers a complementary range of RF hardware and software systems in addition to a wide range of consulting, design, and show management capabilities.
“Quite simply we found kindred spirits with Chris and his team at RF Venue,” states Geoff Shearing, president of Masque Sound and Professional Wireless. “We share a passion for solving RF problems for users of wireless audio products and I am greatly looking forward to the exciting things that will come from this collaboration.”
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Once Upon A Dream: Bridging The Tech Gap With The Rascals
Imagine a wildly successful blue-eyed soul group of the 1960s, pushing back against the British Invasion with many chart-topping hits including “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin.”
They became household names thanks to Top 40 radio, The Ed Sullivan Show, and the power of television. They performed to sold-out audiences across North America and Europe, and would eventually be inducted into the Songwriters Hall and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet they were unable to escape the disillusionment that came with all this success; the principals simply disbanded by 1970 and did not play together as the original foursome for another 40-plus years.
This is the story of the Rascals, aka the Young Rascals, who placed their careers on hold in the midst of a technological revolution, our revolution, only to return after the performance audio industry was born, developed, and matured. Now imagine the original members, who began their careers using primitive PA systems, reuniting after four decades of technological innovation had occurred, including developments by professional audio equipment manufacturers, solutions by touring sound companies, and the combined expertise of 40 years of house and monitor engineers. The contrast would be profound.
It may surprise some that high-impedance microphones plugged directly into guitar amps were the sound reinforcement systems of the day. Mark Prentice is musical director and bass player for the recent “Once Upon A Dream” tour, and has played with Rascals organist Felix Cavaliere for many years. He personally witnessed a Rascals show as a teenager, and recalled a system typical of the period.
Not so young but still kickin’—the Rascals in concert presenting “Once Upon A Dream.”
“I’m a fan as well as a guy in the band,” he told me when I met up with the tour in Toronto. “When I saw them in 1967 at Watertown (NY) High School, and the only reason I know this is because a friend of mine recently showed me a photo from that show, I think they were singing through a couple of Fender Bandmaster cabinets. Maybe a 4-channel Shure mic mixer running into a dual Showman head. No individual EQ on mics or anything, only on the guitar amp head. Possibly high impedance Shure microphones. There was certainly nothing resembling a monitor, and absolutely no one was running sound from offstage. I don’t think anyone conceived of that until Woodstock.”
Unlike many Broadway pop music revivals, these musicians are playing as a foursome with all of the original members—Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli, Gene Cornish and the aforementioned Cavaliere. Assisted only by two sidemen and three backing vocalists, “Once Upon A Dream” is combination musical retrospective and 60s counterculture multimedia extravaganza.
The marquee for tour dates at Chicago’s Cadillace Palace Theater.
Miles And Miles
Directed by Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt, with concert design by veteran Marc Brickman, the show leverages technology in a manner that simply could not have been imagined when the band cut their teeth playing tiny clubs in New Jersey. Almost every piece of equipment we take for granted would look foreign to these four when they released their first record in 1965.
No parametric EQs, no solid-state power amplifiers, no condenser mics built to survive the road, no networked system control, no in-ear monitors, no hanging loudspeakers, no digital…well, anything. Shure hadn’t even released the Vocal Master system when these guys started out.
“There was nothing in those days, oh no,” notes Danelli, the band’s drummer. “It’s come miles and miles, that’s for sure. I never sit down and think about it too much, because you just get caught up in the trip of it all.”
Fortunately, the tour is made possible by generations of sound system improvements, improvements we use and take for granted every day, guided by a fine 4-person audio staff charged with reinforcing a musical tour-de-force consisting of 30 songs and Brickman’s first-class video retrospective.
Monitor engineer Mark Hutchins pre-show at an Avid VENUE console, with Avalon 737 compressors applied to vocals mounted below.
Mark Hutchins serves as monitor engineer, and the technology he uses provides an ideal contrast between the stage of today and the performing environment of 1965. He keeps the band comfortably ensconced in an all in-ear environment essential to creating the right performing conditions, managing stage levels and facilitating timing with video content.
Mixes are done on an Avid VENUE digital console with every source miked. The deck is wedge-less save one tiny back-up monitor on the drum riser. Guitars and Leslies are isolated offstage in sound absorptive enclosures. Bass and keyboards are taken direct on DIs. A significant departure from their 60s upbringing, the Rascals stage is almost silent except for drums and percussion.
“This is not a simple monitor gig,” Hutchins states. “It’s taken some time to get them comfortable. We’re talking about musicians that haven’t been on ears their whole lives, they don’t want to be on ears. Gene looked at me the first week we worked together and said, ‘I want a monitor, I want a monitor.’ Eventually we got everybody happy.”
Musical director Prentice explains that the challenge of transitioning a band that used no vocal reinforcement beyond guitar amps to the highly devised performance environment they enjoy today was a seminal task. “In-ear monitoring is really the only way to do these shows.
Leaping from a zero monitor situation throughout their successful career to a potentially sterile laboratory environment with ears, and having to figure out how to get them feeling the music, and enjoying themselves and believing they are part of it, is the job and I think we’ve got there.”
A Matter Of Balance
After watching Hutchins mix a couple of tunes, and solo a couple of mixes, I learned that fundamentally, the primary issue is balancing Danelli’s drum kit, as the only non-isolated source onstage, with everything else. Hutchins hails from an extensive live television background, and was brought into rehearsals already underway when the band was not satisfied.
RF coordinator Brian Kingman in his world adjacent to the monitor mix position.
“I came in to observe what was going wrong, initially (under the guise of being) a video guy,” he notes. “The band wasn’t happy. It’s the old story of (balancing) a loud drummer and vocalists. I’m a drummer, and I wanted to get it right for Dino initially, so I spent a whole day playing his kit, with Brian Kingman (RF coordinator for the tour) mixing, to get the drum sound in Dino’s ears the way I thought he would like it. He came in the next day, sat down and played for 20 minutes by himself, and then looked at me and said, ‘that sounds fantastic.’ We had started to build some trust.
“Then it was a matter of understanding each of their ears,” he continues. “Gene (lead guitar) likes lots of top end, and Felix likes a midrange-scooped Steely Dan-type of sound. Very little low mids. Gene and Dino both have pretty aggressive rock mixes lots of kick and snare. Eddie doesn’t want to have any drums at all. He prefers to hear himself, some keyboard, and the background vocalists, leaning to a very unique, isolated blend of what is almost like folk music. Not like the other guys, but it works for him.”
Sennheiser ew300 IEM receivers for all performers, staged and ready to go.
Brigati is the lead singer of the Rascals and composer with Cavaliere of many of the group’s hit records. “Vocals, in my humble opinion, are supposed to be a glaze on the surface of the instruments,” Brigati states. “In rock and roll, you start with the bass drum and then build on that. I’m trying to get used to ears. You don’t hear the ambiance in the room in the same way (as) the earphones block out the ambiance in the room. An individual is feeding you a blend, but when it’s right, (IEM technology) helps me be a better singer.”
A Sennheiser A5000CP passive circulary polarized antenna for the wireless systems.
Hutchins describes the vocal treatments developed for the tour. “The only thing I’ve got going on gear-wise is two Avalon 737 compressors on Felix and Eddie’s vocals. We went through a lot of vocal mics initially, and settled on Telefunken M81s. Felix sounded best on a Neumann KMS 105, but it just brought in too much off-axis stuff to be practical.
“Eddie needs something with a lot of rejection, but also has crooner elegance to it. A full range mic that is warm and inviting. The M81 is a good compromise, they can work around it but it also has a tight pattern. Those Telefunken mics are pretty cool.”
Chris Edwards mixes front of house for “Once Upon A Dream.” Originally the engineer at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, he joined the tour after working the initial out-of-town tryout at the Capitol to the satisfaction of director Van Zandt.
“I walked in and the theatre’s production manager said, ‘it looks like you’re going to be mixing the Rascals’,” Edwards recounts. “Steven sat with me every single night. He knows every note of every one of their records. He understood that I was a musical mixer and not just another dude in a bad Hawaiian shirt. Steven definitely had input. Trying to grasp 30 songs of new material, I didn’t hit it on the head every time, but as soon as we were cool, we were cool.”
As noted, Edwards is a music mixer by training, and has had to adapt to the realities of managing a highly-cued, theatrical type show. “The show has extensive narration that accompanies the video portions between songs,” he explains. “Many of the initial narration came from different sources with inconsistent levels and EQs, adding that getting various pieces of narration to sound right through the system was challenging: “I had never used any kind of snapshots, but (initially) I just dove right in using them to manage dialog levels and EQ.”
Later, Geoff Sanoff from Van Zandt’s Renegade Studios re-worked the narrative post-production audio to make it more consistent. Edwards: “The first time I heard the remixed dialog I hugged him. I later chose to abandon using snapshots altogether. I have a lot of experience working in old analog studios with no automation or Pro Tools, and these skills have been very useful to me in this production.
Self-described “musical mixer” Chris Edwards at his Midas PRO6 at front of house.
“I always approach the mix to honor the music,” he adds. “I’m a musician and deeply rooted in music, and have a great respect for these artists. I spent eight years as a stage tech with Levon Helm and recorded the Rambles at his barn. For me, it’s an honor to mix this show; I’m just trying to place all the parts where they should be dynamically, and pay homage to all the nuances.”
Edwards mixes on a Midas PRO6 digital desk supplied by Firehouse Productions, using loudspeaker systems provided locally by the venue in order to manage production costs. I had the pleasure of hearing two performances at Royal Alexandra Theatre during my visit to Toronto, and can testify first-hand that Edwards provides mixes with great vocal and instrumental clarity, while enhancing subtleties in the arrangements resulting in a believable, entertaining presentation.
The tour had “racks and stacks” provided locally, including Martin Audio MLA in Chicago, supplied by On Stage Audio.
Jeff Child is an independent systems tech provided by Firehouse Productions, managing another pile of gear no one could have imagined 40 years ago. Child usually tours with technology-savvy Ultrasound accounts including Dave Matthews, Further, and Phil Lesh and Friends. He struck me as very comfortable in this setting, managing adjustments for the house-supplied d&b audiotechnik Q Series line arrays with two B2 subs left and right. Q7s handled in fill and front fill duties.
“Stacks and racks are what we usually pick up. The balance is provided by Firehouse or owned by the band. Both Mark and Chris have extensive house engineer, broadcast, and studio backgrounds, so I bring a touring rock sensibility to this,” Child explains.
As noted earlier, Kingman is responsible for RF equipment and frequency coordination, and also handles earpieces and beltpacks for the artists. He uses Intermodulation Analysis Software from Professional Wireless Systems and a WinRadio spectrum analyzer to coordinate frequencies.
The audio crew at the drum riser, left to right: Hutchins, Kingman, Edwards and system tech Jeff Child.
“Frequency coordination here in Toronto has been easy,” he tells me. “I was informed that no licenses were required. To date, I’ve only had to change one frequency. The loudest thing onstage is Dino’s drums, and keeping drums, shakers, and tambourines out of vocal mics is the greatest challenge. Being older guys, the in-ear environment is very different. Our main role is to let them know ‘we are here to make you comfortable’.” In-ear electronics are Sennheiser ew300 IEM G3 systems with a Sennheiser combiner and helical antenna. All artists are on Ultimate Ears UE-11 earpieces.
Prentice notes that fortunately, the Rascals have adapted well to the profound changes in performance technology. “They’ve all become really, really comfortable in that environment. Now we just stick these little things in our ears and do a show, and I think you miss all the technological magic that has to exist to make that happen.” Fortunately for the Rascals, that technological magic happens every day because of innovation and a talented crew offering them a supportive musical environment in sharp contrast to when they first began.
“This whole phenomenon that we’re enjoying now, this re-visitation of almost 50 years ago, is about young guys that got together and cooperated and protected each other, and created together, and it was like a chance at peace,” concludes Brigati.
Danny Abelson is a consultant that specializes in the design and construction of technology systems in professional and collegiate sports facilities.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Lectrosonics Wireless Technology Key To Production Of “Oprah’s Next Chapter”
Lectrosonics' audio quality, RF agility, and dropout-free performance keep Oprah production on track
Knowing “you’re only as good as your last successful project,” the location sound crew behind the scenes of “Oprah’s Next Chapter”—the immensely popular primetime television show on The Oprah Winfrey Network—relies on Digital Hybrid Wireless Technology from Lectrosonics.
Chicago-based freelance location sound mixer Matt Vogel is one of the principal sound engineers on the program, and reports that Lectrosonics equipment is used extensively in the production of the show.
“We use a lot of Lectrosonics gear to make the show happen,” Vogel said. “Our talent mics are a combination of SMQV and UM400a transmitters in conjunction with SRb receivers. I’m a fan of the small size, low power consumption, and solid performance of the SRb’s, and confidently use them in my bag now.
“For camera links, we use a combination of SRb slot mount receivers and UCR411a compact receivers with UM400a transmitters. And our IFB feeds are all Lectrosonics R1A receivers being fed by a single UM400a transmitter.”
The show’s production is actually quite challenging from an audio perspective. There is a good amount of behind the scenes activity being shot in addition to sit down interviews. Each shoot consists of multiple ENG cameras, on sticks as well as handheld for breakaways or walk and talks.
“On larger shoots, we’ll add another mixer with additional wireless,” Vogel adds. “With up to eight talent mics, several hidden backup plant mics, twenty IFBs, wireless mixes to 8 cameras, and no space to hang a boom, we chose to go completely wireless for the series.”
Vogel reports that the compact size of the SRb receivers and their ability to be powered by L mount batteries makes them an ideal wireless option for their smaller handheld cameras. He has several Lectrosonics SR sleds that mount to the hot shoe adapters on the Canon C300s, which makes the cameramen happy because they don’t have a bulky wireless setup on their camera rigs.
Because Lectrosonics wireless microphone technology is so prevalent among those working in the broadcast community, it makes Vogel’s location work considerably less stressful.
“I typically use local A2s in the cities that we travel to,” he said, “and if it’s a big enough shoot with multiple locations and multiple talent mics, I’ll often tap into their kits and use their wireless systems as well.
“Finding mixers with complementary blocks of Lectrosonics gear to mine is surprisingly easy, and saves me time from calling multiple rental houses to bring in the gear we need for the shoot. Using matching Lectrosonics gear is critical because I will send an A2 ahead to a location to pre-mic talent for when we arrive.
“When I show up on the new set, my A2 has already set and listened to everyone’s mic, I dial in that particular talent’s frequency, and we’re good to go without wasting time.”
The Lectrosonics RM remote is another tool that Vogel finds indispensable, “We typically film behind-the-scenes moments of celebrities getting ready for their interview and that usually includes my placing of microphones on the talent. Since the cameras are already rolling before I get microphones set, it’s difficult and impractical to get back to a deeply hidden transmitter if I need to make adjustments after we’re underway.
“This is where the RM Remote becomes invaluable. While the crew is doing a last second hair and makeup or lighting check, I can pop in and quickly adjust gain, frequencies, and even boost power output settings without disrupting anyone.”
Vogel adds that Lectrosonics offers everything expected from a professional wireless product, including amazing audio quality, superior RF agility, dropout-free performance, and great range. As a fan of Lectrosonics’ durability, he is impressed that the transmitters and receivers are built like “tanks”.
“A mixer’s gear is unfortunately susceptible to being tossed around minivans and airplane cargo holds—not to mention being dropped by talent,” he concludes. “I don’t have time for a flimsy plastic wireless device to break and go down while I’m in the field. I need my audio gear to be nearly indestructible—and Lectrosonics fits that bill.”
Posted by Julie Clark on 01/13 at 03:10 PM
Expanding Options: Condenser Mics In Live Applications
For decades, dynamic microphones were the only choice for live applications due to their ruggedness. Live engineers didn’t want to take delicate, expensive condenser mics on the road.
All of that’s changed now that condensers have been made more robust and roadworthy, and they’re quite capable of handling a wide range of live applications.
First let’s explore the inner design. A condenser (or capacitor) capsule has a very thin, light, conductive diaphragm and a metal backplate mounted a few thousandths of an inch apart (Figure 1).
They’re charged with static electricity to form two plates of a capacitor. When sound waves strike the diaphragm, it vibrates. This varies the spacing between the plates, and in turn, this varies the capacitance and generates a signal similar to the incoming sound wave.
Because of its lower diaphragm mass and higher damping, a condenser responds faster than a dynamic to rapidly changing sound waves (transients).
Two types of condenser mics are true and electret. In a true condenser (externally biased), the diaphragm and backplate are charged with a voltage from a circuit built into the mic. In an electret condenser, the diaphragm and backplate are charged by an electret material that’s in the diaphragm or on the backplate. Both types can sound equally good, although some engineers prefer true condensers, which tend to cost more.
Figure 1: A look at the design of a condenser capsule.
Because the capsule impedance is very high, its output goes directly to an impedance converter (usually an FET) to reduce the impedance to a usable value. A power supply is required to operate the impedance converter and to bias the capsule in true condenser types.
The power supply can be an internal battery or phantom power. Phantom power is 12 to 48 volts DC applied to pins 2 and 3 of the mic connector through two equal resistors. The microphone receives phantom power and sends audio signals on the same two conductors.
Ground for the phantom power supply is through the cable shield. Nearly all mixing consoles, mic preamps and audio interfaces supply phantom power at their mic input connectors – simply plug the mic into the mixer and turn on phantom power.
Of course, different mic designs – condenser, moving coil, and ribbon – differ in the way they convert sound into electricity. Of the three types, the condenser transducer generally has the widest, smoothest frequency response and the highest sensitivity. It tends to provide a natural, detailed sound, and it produces a strong signal that overrides mic-preamp noise.
Miniaturization is a key benefit of condensers. Try to shrink a dynamic or ribbon design and the magnet gets too small to produce enough flux for a strong output signal. Compared to a dynamic with its moving coil and multiple air cavities, a condenser has a relatively simple construction and higher sensitivity, so it can be miniaturized to 1/4-inch and even 1/8-inch in diameter and still be useful.
Self-noise tends to be higher with small-diameter mics, but they’re typically placed very close to their sound source so they still produce a high signal-to-noise ratio.
Since condensers can be made very small, they can be inconspicuous and light in weight, so they’re ideal for numerous live applications.
Probably the first use of condenser mics in live concerts was for cymbal overheads. Cardioid condensers such as the AKG 451 or Shure SM81 have an extended high-frequency response up to 20 kHz and a sharp transient response that makes these mics a natural for picking up cymbals.
Figure 2: A Shure Beta 98AMP clamp-on mic.
Over the years, engineers have added numerous dynamic mics to the drum kit to capture the toms, snare, and kick separately, resulting in a forest of boom stands surrounding the kit.
Fortunately, in 1987 Shure introduced a tiny clip-on cardioid condenser mic – the SM98 – that could be clipped to individual drums. Although cardioid condenser mics of small size tend to roll off in the lows, an EQ circuit in the mic’s preamp boosts the bass, resulting in a full sound from a tiny mic. Proximity effect helps as well. The latest incarnation of that mic is the Shure Beta 98AMP, which has an integral gooseneck and preamp (Figure 2). A special clamp holds the mic onto a drum rim.
Figure 3: A single-mic technique for a drum kit.
Some live engineers hate the hassle, complexity and potential phase interference of multiple drum mics and are getting back to simpler methods, such as the one-mic technique invented by engineer/producer Tchad Blake: take a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic and mount it over the kick drum top, aiming at the snare drum (Figure 3).
The single mic picks up a decent balance of the snare, toms, kick and cymbals all around it. The balance can be tweaked by moving or rotating the mic, and raising/lowering the cymbals. There may be some off-axis coloration of the cymbals depending on the mic model and position, but in my experience it’s not too serious.
Attached & Hanging
The clamp-on technique for drums soon spilled over to other instruments. Now we have attachable mini mics for horns, acoustic guitar, upright bass, fiddle, and so on.
What are the advantages of attaching compared to stand-mounting?
—Less clutter on stage. There’s nothing between the musician and the audience.
—More consistent volume and tone. With a stand mic, the volume and tone changes when the player moves.
—Consistent sound from gig to gig. The musician always uses the same mic in the same position.
—Freedom of movement on stage. The player is not locked into a single position in front of a mic.
DPA Microphones is noted for its effective clamp-on mics, such as those found in the d:vote Series. They include a shock mount and windscreen (Figure 4). Another supplier is Applied Microphone Technology (AMT), which offers specialized models for horns, strings, woodwinds, drums and percussion, piano, and even accordion.
Figure 4: A DPA 4099 on a sax.
Some condensers mount right next to the instrument’s surface (Figure 5), outfitted with internal EQ to compensate for the tonal effects of close placement. For example, a flat-response mic in a guitar’s sound hole tends to sound boomy because of the sound hole’s resonance around 80-100 Hz. Mics designed for sound-hole placement are rolled off in the bass to compensate, resulting in a natural, non-boomy sound.
Another inconspicuous condenser for live sound is the hanging mic or choir mic. Suspended from the ceiling or mounted on thin stands, these mics nearly disappear in use. Thin boom stands are made by a variety of sources who usually also make choir mics.
Figure 5: A clip-on guitar mic.
So far we’ve covered mini models, but how about large-diaphragm condensers (LDCs)? Side-addressed designs with large diaphragms are the usual choice in the studio for vocals, and this type of mic is now affordable enough to take on the road. They’re a good choice on saxophone, trumpet, strings, and drum overheads.
There’s also been a return to the single-mic technique for bluegrass and “old-time” artists. The band members huddle around one or two LDCs and mix themselves acoustically by weaving toward and away from the mic(s). This application requires a low-noise mic with a good low-frequency response and a wide angle of pickup, and a large-diaphragm cardioid can do the job.
Figure 6: An AKG C535 EB cardioid condenser handheld microphone.
Road-tough condensers for vocalists are built with rugged steel grilles and thick handles to withstand drops and rough handling. Some examples are the Shure KSM9HS, Neumann KMS 104 and KMS 105, and AKG C535 EB (Figure 6).
In some models, the circuitry is encapsulated in waterproof conformal coating so that humidity and mouth spray are not serious problems. Especially for folk or jazz vocals, the uncolored, detailed sound of condenser mics is a treat to the sound mixer’s ears.
Condenser vocal mics come in wired and wireless formats, and analog or digital outputs. Many have an internal shock mount to reduce handling noise, and all have a large grille that acts as a pop filter. Some can handle 135-150 dB SPL with under 3 percent THD (check the mic’s data sheet). A capacitive pad can be used to attenuate the capsule’s signal so that it does not overload the electronics.
Staying with vocals but looping back to miniature designs, there are now a wealth of condensers available for headworn applications. The capsule is mounted on a light boom just off the edge of the mouth or directly in front of the mouth, very close (Figure 7).
The latter type provides exceptional gain-before-feedback and isolation, as well as studio-quality sound. Mini headworn condensers with an omnidirectional pattern are nearly invisible in use yet offer exceptional fidelity for quieter musical acts, and for actors in plays and musicals.
A surface-mounted omni condenser is an example of a boundary mic. These can be gaffer-taped to the side walls of a theater for audience pickup or to the underside of a piano lid for discreet miking.
If you place a conventional microphone on a stage floor to pick up actors, the high end rolls off due to phase interference from floor sound reflections (Figure 8). The delayed reflections combine with the direct sound from the actor, cancelling high frequencies.
Figure 7: Wisconsin Singers director/producer Robin Whitty-Novotny outfitting a vocalist with a Countryman ISOMAX headset mic (with windscreen).
Specially designed floor mics with tiny mic capsules prevent that phase interference because the reflected sound has such a short delay compared to the direct sound. The result is a natural sound without comb filtering. Stage floor mics with a cardioid or supercardioid pattern offer good clarity and gain-before-feedback for area pickup of drama and musicals.
Lectern & Lavalier
Remember the clunky dynamic mics on creaky goosenecks that used to pick up worship leaders at a lectern? Now we have slim, elegant lectern mics thanks to miniaturized condenser mic capsules. These mics adjust silently and come with a cardioid or supercardioid polar pattern.
Clip-on lavalier mics work great for lecturers and worship leaders who like to wander as they talk. They offer a response that rises at high frequencies to compensate for being off-axis to the mouth. A typical placement is 8 inches under the chin.
Figure 8: A stage floor mic (supercardioid boundary design).
Lavaliers have a tiny electret-condenser capsule connected by a thin cable to an XLR connector or wireless transmitter connector. The cable can be hidden under clothing, secured by adhesive bandages to prevent cable-rubbing noise. Actors often hang a lavalier mic just below the hairline. The cable routes through the hair and down to a hidden transmitter. Most mics intended for that application are moisture-resistant.
Lavs are available with omnidirectional or unidirectional polar patterns. A uni (cardioid) pattern reduces feedback and background noise, but is sensitive to cable noise, wind, and breath pops. It’s a good choice if the ambient noise level is high. An omni generally sounds more natural and is smaller. It also allows more head movement without level variations, and is less sensitive to cable noise, wind noise and pops.
If a lavalier must be hidden under clothing, its noise pickup can be minimized by wrapping the mic in a foam cylinder. Some high-frequency EQ boost may be needed to compensate for the muffling effect of clothing. Rycote offers Undercovers, Overcovers and Stickies, which are disposable adhesive pads that reduce clothing rustles and wind noise.
Figure 9: An Audio-Technica AE2500 dual-element cardioid.
You can also utilize two mic types on a single instrument to get a variety of tones without resorting to EQ. For example, the Audio-Technica AE2500 (Figure 9) dual-element cardioid combines both in a single unit. According to A-T, “the dynamic element delivers the aggressive attack of the beater; the condenser captures the round tonalities of the shell.” Several top mix engineers have come to utilize the AE2500.
Live sound is now a great arena to enjoy the advantages provided by condenser mics. Particularly in light of features such as small size and light weight, they can be problem solvers in a wide range of applications.
Bruce Bartlett is a live sound and recording engineer, audio journalist, and microphone engineer (www.bartlettaudio.com).
Friday, January 10, 2014
DPA Microphones Camp Out At Hume Lake
California-based Christian Camp Relies on d:fine Miniature Headset Mics for Chapel Services, Performances and During Road Trips
Whether the staff at Hume Lake Christian Camp are performing services at home or on the road, one thing is certain, they will be using DPA Microphones’ d:fine Miniature Headset Microphones.
With services held at four camps situated on 360 acres in Sequoia National Park, its campus in San Diego and its 400-acre camp in Connecticut, as well as during outreach trips to locations such as Hawaii, South Africa and Papua New Guinea, Hume Lake needs high-quality headset microphones that will stand up to the rigors of repeated use.
A popular Christian Camp, Hume Lake is not just active during the summer. Throughout the year, the facility hosts as many as 35,000 people between its 10-week winter camp, off-site trips and a variety of weekend retreats – such as those for mothers/daughters, marriages and firefighters.
During Hume Lake’s 10-week summer series, as many as 3,000 students (age K-12) can be found in the four Sequoia campuses and upwards of 1,000 at its San Diego location, each week. With such a large attendance and broad spectrum of events comes speakers, services and drama performances, all of which rely on the DPA d:fine Headset Microphones and d:fine 4066 Miniature Headset Microphones.
“A typical camp chapel service at Hume Lake entails a featured speaker as well as live drama with as many as 15 mik’ed actors,” explains Rob McInteer, Hume Lake Camp technical arts director and Hume Lake Studios engineer. “A couple of our camps also have live plays that run nightly throughout the week.
“We usually use the wireless d:fines for these dramatic performances. Needless to say, with the environment that we’re in, the mics get handled quite a bit and we needed something that was robust and rugged, and the d:fines have held up really well.”
An audio professional first and foremost, McInteer was most impressed with the sound quality of the d:fines. “Sonically there’s no comparison between the DPA d:fine and other mics on the market,” he explains. “Because of that, there’s a whole lot less work for us. You put it on someone and it’s a real, natural sound right out of the gate. This is nice for our summer staffers, because it takes little effort for them to get an even and smooth sound from the pastor or speaker.”
In addition to the sermons, a wide variety of dramatic and musical performances, as well as audio playback, take place at the venues during the week. As the variety of people who perform during these events may not be familiar with using headset microphones, the camp needed a solution that would provide a high level of comfort.
“The one thing I’ve heard from my seasoned speakers is that the mics are comfortable,” adds McInteer. “Over the course of the year we have as many as 150 speakers come through, and everyone compliments how the mics feel. As soon as the mics are on, they fit the speakers really well and stay in place. We’ve had problems in the past with other mics slipping or rolling, or even peeling off the side of their face, but not the d:fines. They always stay in place. They’ve been a really stout and stable solution for us.”
Founded in 1946, Hume Lake Christian Camps’ Sequoia Park location is comprised of the Ponderosa, and Wild Wood high school camps, Meadow Ranch junior high camp, and Wagon Train elementary camp. Hume Lake also hosts a five-week camp at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego and recently purchased over 400 acres of property in scenic New England, where they are building and recruiting for an east coast campus, which currently hosts as many as 200 summer students each week.