How do I record the music at concerts that I'm filming?
August 17, 2008 10:13 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to record live music from a PA soundboard and a backup plan for when there is no soundboard?

I recently have started helping a friend film concerts. Somethimes the venue can provide us with a recording, Sometimes they barely know how to run their own equipment.

Solo acoustic in a small room sounds perfect with the mics, but add a drumset, marshall stacks and 3000 people and the on board mics from the cameras will probably not cut the mustard except from a distance.

I need to get something coming from the soundboard that I can record to. Preferably something flash/harddrive based.

I also was hoping someone could recommend a simple way to record a band when there is no PA ie diy type shows or coffee shops. Something small that I can leave unattended while I am filming.

The equipment I already have is limited. I could record to my laptop so I have the option of USB or 1/8 inch line input, a second generation ipod nano and an mp3 player with a miniusb input.

I don't want to have to expect the venues to have a cable for a line out to plug in to my laptop or mp3 player, but I also don't know what the line out on a typical pa head or mixer will be.
posted by keepmathy to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Best answer: Grab an XLR to 1/8th inch converter, and record directly to disk, that will be your easiest option with the least amount of cabling etc.

Having said that... if you're recording in smaller halls, you're going to start running into disappointment if you're only using the recording from the board. The line out to your hard drive is not representative of the final sound, by a long shot. Not all of the drums will be mic'ed, the backing track (if any) will be overly loud, and any vocal flaws are absolutely impossible to cover up.

If you want to make a really, really kick-ass recording, you need to get an additional two mics, place them near the board, a reasonable distance apart so you get good stereo separation, and record those to disk as well. That way you can mix in the ambient noise of the venue, crowd noise, etc, onto your board recording at a later date, which makes it a much much higher quality. This way, when the lead singer screams "what's up Cleveland!!!!" and the crowd gives their obligatory roar, you'll actually capture the vibe of the place rather than "what's up Cleveland!!! (extremely quiet sound of clapping)"
posted by mark242 at 10:28 AM on August 17, 2008

This might help.

A lot of the tapers that contribute to the bootleg concert websites that i use use minidisk. If you don't have access to a soundboard you'll probably want to invest in a mic stand and some decent mics, then you could just run that into your laptop.
posted by schyler523 at 10:32 AM on August 17, 2008

Have you considered using a field recorder and two condenser mics? Board recordings often are oddly mixed, as the sound guy has to make up for the acoustics of the room and the loudness of some instruments relative to others. So what you often get is more-or-less a vocal mix plus whatever bled into the vocal mics. In smaller venues, electric guitars and (often) bass are not in the PA, they come straight off the amp.
posted by wheat at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2008

Everything that's been said is pretty solid so far. I'd like to add that you should never expect the venue to have the cables you think you'll need and are better off bringing your own and any adapters you might need.
posted by knowles at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2008

Unless you are the soundman, and you're using a board that can create an aux mix (similar to a monitor mix) off the PA channels for recording, you're best off getting a nice digital recorder and stereo mic. With time to get a nice balance for recording, and the possibility of additional mics strictly for recording, to fill in the gaps, you could make an excellent recording this way. But, board tapes often sound weird when they're haphazardly done.
posted by tremspeed at 4:52 PM on August 17, 2008

I should clarify by 'excellent recording this way' I meant via the board method.

And by nice digital recorder I meant any of several 3-600 models that record to their own internal memory, often at higher-than-cd-quality rates. Some include built in microphones. I think the quality from these units will surprise you.
posted by tremspeed at 5:12 PM on August 17, 2008

The second generation Nano can record just fine with the right accessories. I use the TuneTalk because it works better with my (condenser?) microphones, bought for $25 off ebay ages ago.

I use autogain, mostly, so that compresses the audio level. That might be avoidable with (if memory serves) a battery box - though I haven't done that yet, plans are available.

This autogain & microphone combination runs down the battery in roughly half an hour; I assembled a Minty Boost to counter that.

If you want to use your laptop, you might get a USB audio thingy to allow you to record from multiple sources at once: from the board, from room mics. You could use the sound from the camera to mic the room.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:46 PM on August 21, 2008

Oh yeah: With the right adapters, you can do 1/8", 1/4", & RCA plugs. Recording off line in instead of microphone is much less demanding on the battery - a couple of hours, I think.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:54 PM on August 21, 2008

« Older Personal trainers who do house visits?   |   i got $10 burnin a hole... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.