Recording Audio from a Theatre Show
June 18, 2014 1:14 AM   Subscribe

We run a small improv theatre company. Potential sponsors and clients always ask about videos of our shows, so we're looking into recording our shows. We're okay on the video side but we can't get good quality audio. What kind of setup should we use?

The main problem is that using our DSLR to record audio generally gives terrible results.

Our performances are usually in a bar with a stage, and they're usually equipped for bands.

One difficulty we've encountered is that our performers will often move around the stage, unlike say in standup where performers often can just stand and speak into a mic.

We've considered equipping our performers with wireless headsets, but that's not usually feasible; usually they just project their voices instead. We'd prefer to avoid handheld wireless mics as they'll interfere with the performers.

Venues vary widely but most so far have had some kind of sound board.

We do have some money and we could probably rent the equipment needed - there are AV equipment lenders around.
posted by WalterMitty to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried a shotgun mike mounted to the dslr? Wireless lapel mikes are common, the output could be just for the recording. Also call the rental companies for advice.
posted by Sophont at 3:36 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might look into a PCC or PZM mike on the front of the stage. These (often called floor mikes) are good for reasonably wide areas and are unobtrusive.
posted by JMOZ at 3:41 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Don't forget that you need a release from all the performers you want to record.)
posted by slkinsey at 5:25 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, in this case a floor mike is your best option.
posted by tooloudinhere at 8:19 AM on June 18, 2014

Don't go with the wireless headsets unless you can ensure that your actors won't breathe heavy, cough, or blow out some of their lines, all issues I experienced.

I have had some success having an XLR cable feed out into a high quality, portable audio recorder, either a Handy Recorder, or Fostex. If your floor mike is also fed into the board, and you've got a decent sound person mixing, it's extremely easy to get that recording and slap it right into a NLE like FinalCut or Premiere.
posted by mitschlag at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2014

I use one of these to record video of my band and it works very well. Main reason I suggest this is that if you record to a separate device you will likely have problems getting the audio to sync up with the video when you combine the two.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2014

Having teched at numerous school/college productions and getting very frustrated with lapel mikes we ended up suspending a couple of condenser mikes above the stage and running them into a small mixing desk and recording on a laptop then syncing with footage recorded from the sides.

It was unobtrusive and pretty good quality. We were already multicamming footage so adding in the audio afterwards was no trouble.
posted by brilliantmistake at 6:09 AM on June 19, 2014

Honestly, if you're recording for marketing purposes, you shouldn't be recording a "live" show. The demands of video are very different than those of a live audience. Cameras see light differently than eyes, and recording equipment "hears" differently than ears. If this is for the people who you're asking for money, you want it to look and sound perfect.

The theatrical world is very, very small, so your network should have people who know both how to get the best recording and the right lighting for camera. Ask around and don't be afraid to use that money to hire people rather than equipment. (Sometimes the right people can provide their own equipment.)

For quick recordings that are less "professional marketing" and more "get butts in seats"/ social media things, your camera likely has an input for an external microphone so a pair of directional floor mics might help narrow the sound coming into the camera to your people on the stage and cut out some of the ambient noise and audience sounds.

Best of luck. I've noticed that in general us theater people have a hard time "selling" ourselves.
posted by Morydd at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2014

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