Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pieces and Bits

I was just reading up, and there is an EEPROM library for the Arduino now.  Which means I don't have to delve into the AVR manual to write new program constants.  So the plan of being able to alter the robot's running code from a simplified Processing-based GUI and save the results to permanent code is a good plan.  Now I just need to find time to program it!

(It's also going to be useful development for my DuckNodes.  Although in that case, I'd really like to be reprogramming the remote XBee modules via the Processing front end...)

The latest prop set hit seventy bucks net.  If it hits a hundred within the next few days, I'll move an expansion set...triple-expanded and compounded...higher on my work list. 

Had another budget gig last night.  Indian dance in the Sanctuary at First Presb.  Flat, untreated walls (meaning a lot of reverberation, especially a train-station sort of low-end rumble when the building is empty); a low, wide stage; and a house speaker system hung way up overhead.

I don't have a good solution for that building yet.  If I was in there on a big budget and major load-in, I'd fly arrays.  As it is, I have a couple of 10' speaker stands.  I had an offer on a pair of Meyer UPJ-1P's (and they also had a pair of UPM's, which are wonderful speakers for front fill applications) and a darling Allen and Heath desk, but I decided to go simple and pair my old standby Yamaha MSR-100's with a venerable Mackie 24-4 that had been gathering dust in the closet at my usual theater.

Just as well.  We didn't have a lot of time to load in, and I'd probably STILL be there puzzling out the matrix routing on the A & H.  I tried this time to plan out and bring almost exactly what I needed, with a very small number of spares.  The sole exception was I wasn't familiar with the specific instruments so I brought a selection of mics.

Well, I never was happy with the drum.  I'm glad I had a mic on the rear (pretty much any two-headed hand drum, you want that.)  But there was an ugly distorted sound on the front during harder hits and I didn't know whether it was overloading the mic or there an intentional resonator on the drum.  If there had been an intermission, I would have swapped out the PG-81 for the Beta 57 I'd brought as a possible finger cymbal mic.  That pronounced sweetness but less brittle highs would probably have benefited that drum, and it can take a higher SPL (the stats claim the PG-81 should have been fine, but I heard something I didn't like..!)

This drum seemed to be the exception to the usual rule of thumb.  Which is that "ethnic" drums -- talking drums, tabla, bodhran, etc. you run fairly dry, with just enough EQ to bring out the pitch.  And rock drums (aka the typical kick-hat-snare-toms set) are all about dynamics processing, and your EQ curves look like the Himalayas.  And jazz drums sound great with single-mic techniques at concert distances run as flat as you can get away with. 

My feeling on the sound of this particular mridangam (which according to Wikipedia is a tabla-like drum with a "metallic" sound), at least, in the space I recorded it, would be a fair amount of dynamics processing. Cut down the long over-ring tails, especially from the low head, and bring back a little artificial tail with reverb.  The end result would be, I think, closer to how the instrument "feels" if you in someone's living room hearing it being played.  The close-micing is there to replace the psychoacoustic focus of a live environment, but the processing is there to lessen the artifacts of the close-micing!

(I'm reading some threads on GearSlutz now about recording techniques for carnatic music -- this is far from my first South Indian gig but I still have much, much, much to learn.)

I would have also taken that intermission to put down a floor mic.  Not for the audience; for the recording and the mono feed to the video guy.  Not only were there ankle bells in a couple of numbers, the kids sung from stage once.  And all I have of that on tape is whatever leakage came through the band mics.

But at that point, I would have wanted to multi-track record; mixing down to two tracks over phones, whilst you are in the acoustic space during the live performance, doesn't work so well.  And the best option I have for that right now that doesn't involve a million Y-adaptors is putting the entire thing into the firewire and producing the house mix live in CueBase/Reaper.  Which I've done for a drum sub-mix, but doing it for a live gig is a bit scary!

Since this was a minimal rig, two channels of compression via "tube" ART and one channel of 'verb off my Lexie 200 rounded out the gear.  And I streamed a stereo mixdown onto hard disk via the mini TRS on the laptop.

You do what you can.  When luck is with you, it is also what is appropriate.  The audience was happy.  The client was happy.  The dancers could hear what they needed, and the musicians were comfortable.  And the recording is listenable.

A parent (who volunteered to help me move my gear out to my car) gave me one of the best compliments I've ever gotten in this business.  He said he'd been mixing and doing studio work for years.  And he said he "...didn't notice the sound.  Not once."

In this business, that's as good as you get.  A night where most of what went wrong, you were the only person who really cared.

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