FROM MIKE HUGHES HIMSELF (THANKS, MIKE!)
Thanks for the blog post about recording Carmina. Haven’t really listened to it yet, but I’m hopeful!
That was really a suboptimal set of circumstances to record in … that room is an acoustical nightmare (as you well know), the air exchangers/HVAC are the noiseiest on the planet, the orchestra was too loud for the chorus’ capabilities, you couldn’t get decent isolation for the chorus (too much brass/perc bleed … a string of four figure 8s run through a reverb unit would have helped a lot there!), the on-stage acoustic is DEAD but three feet off the stage it’s an echo chamber, etc etc! I definitely had to make compromises and I’m not sure everything will be well served, but that was the hand I was dealt. Orchestra pickup will be fine … but the main choral forces will probably be somewhat weak in the final recording. That’s the deal with “organic” recording … if it sounds that way, that’s what you’ll get :).
A few observations re your blog post, just FYI…
1. The main pair was actually Schoeps CMC6-MK2S diffuse field omnis in 2′ A/B. Here’s the mics: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.schoeps.de%2FE-2004%2Fomnis.html%23mk2s. I switched to these because they capture the weight of the orchestra better than cards or subcards, but have better reach than the Sennheisers. I needed all the reach I could get to get some choral clarity!
2. The flanks were Sennheiser MKH8020 omnis (link: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.sennheiserusa.com%2Fnewsite%2Fproductdetail.asp%3Ftransid%3D500965). I had to resort to flanks in order to pick up the soloists (who were placed MUCH differently than where I was told they would be … this fact along with the dead “too-close” pickup of chorus on-stage necessitated the change in setup.)
3. There was no spot on the children (the right flank covered them).
There are many approaches to miking choirs, but IMO the best is to avoid mics that are too directional. Cards or hypers can be a big problem because voices can stick out badly (beaming). Better choral blend is usually obtained using a wider pattern (subcards or omnis). However, in an orch+chorus situation, the bleed problem can make this impractical. A great approach (if you have the gear) is a series of 3 or 4 fig8 ribbons across the front of the choir with the nulls pointed on the back of the orchestra. Ribbons are great on voice, smoothing out sibilance and “crunch”, and the nulls can effectively isolate the chorus. But having a little space between choir and orch is usually necessary, of which we had NONE!
If we had a closed recording session, I would have done the following:
1. Put the chorus on the floor in front of the stage, facing the front of the orchestra (mirror imaged to their placement behind the orch). The omni mains and flanks would pick them up great from there, they’d have plenty of presence and the benefit of the room acoustic to create blend.
2. Tame the battery a bit. Some of the bass drum playing got a little crazy in performance, so I’m going to have to apply some compression to get an overall useful result. If that had been more under control, the dynamic range in the recording could have been apparently much wider.
3. Place the soloists in the middle (where they belong!).
4. Turn off the damn HVAC!!!!!!!!!!