Recording The QWO at The Old Museum | Week 3 - Innovations Post Mortem

Words can't express the excitement and nervousness I felt before recording the QWO, but they must. I'd just like to begin this post by giving them credit, and thanking them for the opportunity. 

The production team and I bumped in at 1pm and loaded in the equipment we needed to get the job done. I had gone to the tech office on the Saturday to pick up all the equipment, but some of it had been rented out to another student, luckily they returned it (Heart attack avoided) We had a pre-production meeting the previous Wednesday and decided to change out the NT2's and the B-2 for 2 AKG414's on the backline and 2 Nt5's that would capture the ambience of the room and audience. 

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My Role

My role on the day was to set-up the recording desk and Pro Tools session, which having done it twice in rehearsal I was used to the set-up and had it done quickly. This meant I could go out and give the rest of the team a hand with mic set-up and mic lead ties. There was nothing advanced about the set-up, with only an interface and computer the main components. Hooking up to the interface was an 8-Line Multi-Core, that was figity to untangle, but once it was in, that was the hard part out of the way. 

Pro Tools Naming Conventions

If there's one thing I know it's naming conventions. It was so important for me to have everything named the most obvious thing for example, Stage Left, middle left, middle right etc. I started with the session, since we had three really similar recordings, I wanted this one to be easy access. I generally start with the date 20180625, then use some terms like QWO to make it easy for macs and google to find. In the session, I wrote some track notes, so that when we get to the edit/mix stage everything will just be easy to locate. These are obvious things I do in all my sessions, but I felt as if I needed to take my professionalism to the next level to match the professional attitude of the QWO. 

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The Set-Up

The set-up was completed in about 10min, and we only had to make a few minor adjustments to make things look tidy and work correctly. Working neat was even more important than ever, because we were working along side another sound recordist (Jeff) who set up just behind us and the duty manager (Alana), who was very accommodating and made sure to check our leads followed OH&S protocols. 

The Diagram below demonstrates the polar patterns of each of the mics used. Although, a null area can sometimes be beneficial with dynamic percussion, I would be interested to hear those parts as they relate to the rest of the orchestra. I remember there was some lighter percussion instruments that I will be keeping my ears peeled for in the mix. 

Rough diagram of mic placement and polar pattern. The ORTIF pair are 1 metre above the conductors head, and the Nt-5's were pointing at an old air vent in the ceiling

Rough diagram of mic placement and polar pattern. The ORTIF pair are 1 metre above the conductors head, and the Nt-5's were pointing at an old air vent in the ceiling

Using an ORTF Configuration: What It Captures!

Image courtesy of DPA Microphones Official Site - ORTF Config Mic Setup

Image courtesy of DPA Microphones Official Site - ORTF Config Mic Setup

The fact that we could have captured a decent sound using only the ORTF configuration was amazing, but when you add in the rest of the mics you get a fuller sound. Was it a true ORTF? Well we didn't measure the distance of 17cm and 110 Degrees on the protractor, but we knew where we needed to point them. Having the mics in this configuration and height gave us full exposure of the entire orchestra, but when solo'd, they made the percussion seem distant. As you can see from the diagram above, they capture a lot, but weren't designed to cover the whole stage.

What is ORTF?

French Television Broadcasting Office Logo

French Television Broadcasting Office Logo

ORTF simply stands for Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Français which in English is translated to French Television Broadcasting Office. The technique is designed to mimic the stereo image that human ears hear on a real head. As mentioned above and demonstrated in the video below, the precise mesurements of 17cm apart and 100 degrees of angle separation are used to get the right sound. If these measurements aren't used, then it may be harder to mimic the natural stereo image of the human ear. 

What was the Purpose?

The purpose of the technique for this specific application, was to record what the conductor was hearing. He was in the best position to hear exactly what the band was playing, so we aimed it from 1 meter above his head. This gave the recording great overheads, similar to what you would record on a drum kit. It gave us the flexibility to have our ORTF mics be the base for mix levels and just add everything else in to support the mix. 

What's Next? 

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and want to keep advancing my skills in this area. To do this I plan to contact the conductor to see if he would like to have us back for other ensembles he leads. I have also been in touch with someone that films marching bands, and am curious to know the best ways of recording something like that. The final component of this project will be to mix and master the tracks for release. We are planning to focus on levels, very light EQ and edits. In my opinion the sound is great already, so i'm excited to see how Adrian works with these tracks in the mix. 

References

(2018). Retrieved from https://www.dpamicrophones.com/pencil-microphones#cardioid-mics

Q. Does the centre of an image suffer with the ORTF recording technique? |. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-does-centre-image-suffer-ortf-recording-technique

(2018). Retrieved from https://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university/principles-of-the-ortf-stereo-technique

Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française - Radio France. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.radiofrance.fr/l-entreprise/histoire-de-la-radiodiffusion/office-de-radiodiffusion-television-francaise

ORTF AudioTrix. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQyo1NbJqh4