Last week the local orchestra I play with performed Carmina Burana. I got to speak in depth with Mike Hughes, the recording engineer for the event, to see what his strategy for recording a big event like this is. I noticed he changed setups a couple times during the last rehearsal, which is uncharacteristic for him. Here is his process:
Two Sennheiser omnidirectionals spaced in A-B pair about 10’ above stage and 15’ back from stage lip. Two Schoeps subcardioids spaced 25% on either side of the choir onstage, set up about 8 feet. Mike ended up changing this setup due to his favoring a less dry-sounding choir.
This is the one he went with for the show. Same omni A-B’s in center. Schoepps capsule change to cardioid and move to about 25% positions on the same height plane as the omnis in front of the stage. He also added a cardioid spot mike on for the children’s choir, which was coming through a bit soft with only the omnis picking it up.
A-B VS ORTF VS ???
Why would you use A-B stereo versus something like ORTF for a large group recording? Simple: A-B is much more directional, and a choir is a directional ensemble. A multi-directional group like a band or orchestra can be picked up with many various patterns and still retain an “attack” quality – choirs end up sounding muddy or washy in a non-straight pickup pattern.
All of the gear is going through a Soundcraft mixer (only hard pans – this is still a pure stereo recording barring the spot mic of course), and then into a 1-bit DSD recorder. The preamps are hand-built from the now defunct Decca Classical label (the engineer I believe sells these himself now).
I admire Mike’s commitment to pure recordings; he doesn’t really add effects unless something is really off (air handlers, etc.) and he tries to only gently compress a recording during the mastering phase. His recordings have serious dynamic range and clarity.