Recording In Surround At The Cathedral

I recently had the opportunity to record a unique musical performance at the Trinity Cathedral in downtown Phoenix. The performance was an improvisational concert featuring Norwegian composer/pianist Ola Gjeilo tednola.jpgand saxophonist Ted Belledin. Ola’s compositions have been performed and recorded in more than 30 countries worldwide in venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Los Angeles’ Disney Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, Washington DC’s Kennedy Center and National Gallery, as well as the Copenhagen and Oslo Opera Houses. Ted plays a range of saxes from Bari to Soprano, is a composer himself and earned his Bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Frankly put, these guys are both badasses.

Because the concert was in a church, I wanted to keep everything very compact and easy to use, even from a distance. I used Millennia’s HV-3R rig.jpgremote controllable mic preamps which have their own IP address, so with a wireless router you can control levels, apply phantom power, group and label channels at wi-fi distances. I used an Apple MacBook laptop running Parallels, Windows XP and Millennia’s AELogic software to control my levels from the audience. My first call recorder was JoeCo’s Blackbox 24-track hard disc recorder which packs a whopping amount of features into a single rackspace. I chose to record at 96kHz/24-bit and the resulting tracks sounded great. As a backup, I used an Alesis HD24. The small Mackie at the top of the rig was for confidence monitoring via headphones.

I was able to keep the visible part of the recording chain to a small footprint by miking the the piano with a stereo pair of condenser mics on a stereo bar on a single stand and close-miked the sax with an active ribbon mic. For the room, I used the new DPA 5100 surround mic. It has 6 capsules for 5.1 operation but not needing the sub mic, I used just the L, C, R, LS, RS outputs. The mic is very compact, light, easy to mount and sounded fantastic.

The placement of the DPA 5100 was critical for my overall balance so I had longshot.jpgthe players set up in their usual fashion for maximum eye contact, then set the 5100 back 10’ from the piano centered directly between the soloists. This gave me a nice stereo picture with piano off-center left and the sax off-center right.

For the mix, I had to roll off 80Hz on all tracks because the venue is very near the downtown light rail and two busy streets. Once I got the rumble out, the acoustic signature of the venue with its 40’ wooden ceilings and tile floors shined through. I set the balance mostly with the close mics panned in their appropriate perspective and then brought in the DPA 5100 for room effect. The results were stunning.

Keep your eye on Mix’s July issue for a review of the DPA 5100 from east coast engineer Joe Hannigan. I’ll be posting some samples of the performance in stereo and 5.1 as an online extra associated with the digital version of that review.

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