Monday, February 13, 2012

Quick and Dirty... a bunny with, err, dirt on it.

My horrible tech is finally over and the show is open. We're not working there again. Not unless they make some major systemic changes.

You can fake your way through some shows with a "turn the mics on when they sing" approach but you can't fake your way through a loud, pop, in-your-face modern musical like "Wicked" or "Rent" without an actual FOH mixer. Or something very clever to replace them with. We tried. We gave up. I dismantled most of my stone knives and bearskins. Un-taped the twenty-dollar microphone from the chair and stripped out all the orchestra reinforcement. Rented some new units and put the wireless transmitters that are older than some of my cast members back on the shelf.

I've got the entire vocal bus compressed at 2:1 and with a 3dB presence peak thrown on it as well. Horrible, horrible things to be doing to the poor sound. We stuck half the cast on madonna-mics to get the very last bit of gain before feedback. And we told the client we would never design a show for them again.

On a lighter note, I made my own microphone. Sort of. I was expecting to record some location sounds for an upcoming production and I wanted a way to use my $20 boom pole with the minidisc recorder I purchased ten years ago in Tokyo.

Well, I've been repairing wireless microphone elements for the last couple of weeks, and I had several Shure WL185's lying around on the desk. These are giant soup cans of an element and hardly worth sticking a new connector on them as they are a bit large and clunky to tape to an actor's face. (I do like them fine for interview-style lapel mics, though.)

So I took two of them, zip-tied them to a simple coat-hanger support, and spliced them into a single TRS mini-jack. Since they are electret condensers, my Sony MZ-R900 has no trouble powering them. Handling noise is pretty bad but the sound isn't bad once they've been stuck in a mic stand.

Next experiment is to make a psuedo-MS mic out of three elements (two back-to-back cardiods simulating the figure-8, and the third for the front element). Or, since you can get a similar element from Digikey (or a cheap knock-off from Radio Shack) -- the naked element without the nice housing and grill, that is -- I may go the whole DIY microphone thing and build an Mid-Side from scratch.

Why do I want a Mid-Side, specifically? Because that allows me control of the stereo width/room tone. For recording sound effects on location, this is a simple way of having some control over the apparent distance and presence. It just requires doing an M-S matrix during the mix-down.

Or, alternatively, I could rig them in an ORTF configuration. I set them up as coincident pair because that takes less space...ORTF is technically 17 cm in width. Coincident pair can also be summed to mono without phase cancellation, but I'm not exactly worried about that!

I find myself thinking of clever mechanisms that could spread out the elements on little pivoting booms, but such things tend to, by the time you are finished tinkering, cost more than just running down to the pro audio shop and purchasing a pre-made equivalent would be.

The next show has only four pieces in the orchestra pit, but it is a covered pit and the actors are stomping on top of it (all of the dance numbers seem to be really, really stompy!) So this is actually a good reason not to either leave the drums alone, or make do with an overhead and maybe a kick. I'm going to actually go rock and roll and throw as many mics as I have channels at the poor percussionist. Because with all that stomping, I have to get pretty close and isolated with everything down there.

But it is still going to be quick and dirty.

No comments:

Post a Comment