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Recording Techniques and Post-Production Methodologies

While most pop and jazz music is recorded multi-track, with one or more microphones per instrument or voice, most of the best sounding classical and acoustic music are recorded with fewer microphones using a wide variety of 'techniques' and microphone arrangements, each with their own set of pros and cons.
 
Stereo Pair
The stereo pair is the basis of most of the classical and acoustic recording techniques.   When the ONLY microphones used are a single stereo pair, that is the  true purist approach.  And the purist approach can be the absolute best if the venue acoustics, artist positions, and everything else is just right.  But unfortunately that is rarely the case - especially for live performances.  So in most cases, the Stereo Pair is the 'centerpiece' of the technique, but it is augmented by a variety of other microphones that can be mixed in to provide optimal sound.   

In almost all of Lucid's recordings, we start with the Stereo Pair.  This pair of microphones is strategically placed to capture the sound of the performers with the right balance of 'ambience' from the hall.  Most of the time, Lucid uses either the ORTF arrangement (directional cardioid mics spaced at the width of the human head, and angled 110 degrees apart) or the Jecklin Disk arrangement (omnidirectional mics spaced at the width of the human head and separated by an absorptive acoustic baffle).  Both of these approaches provide excellent results on both headphones and loudspeakers.  Other approaches include XY, AB, and spaced pair.

While the stereo pair can be used on its own, Lucid will often augment the stereo pair using one or more of the methodologies below.   When augmentation mics are added in, the stereo pair can often be placed closer to the performers, as it no longer needs to be responsible for recording the ambience and 'natural reverb' of the hall.
 
Ambience Recordings
These recordings start with a Stereo Pair as described above, but add in additional microphones to provide depth, spread, and ambience.  Typically the stereo pair will be in the middle right in front of the performer(s).  Then, two 'outrigger' microphones will be placed 8-16 feet on either side of the center pair, and one or more 'ambience' microphones, such as the Soundfield microphone, will be placed further back in the hall.  The Center pair will provide most of the sound on the recording, but the additional microphones that are mixed in at lower levels will add depth, spread, and ambience in a way to make the sound much more enveloping and enjoyable.
Spot Miking
Spot mics are typically a single mic or stereo pair used to record a single voice, small vocal group, instrument, or small instrument group.  They augment the stereo pair and ambience mics to make sure that the 'spotted' performers are clearly heard.  For example, if a choir has solos, often times one or more 'spot mics' are provided for the soloists to sing into.  This way, the soloist can be emphasized and clearly heard in the final recording.  When Lucid uses spot mics, we take extra care to ensure that the spot recording integrates into the sonic fabric of the final sound.  We ideally do not want the soloist/small group to sound like they are a lot closer to the front than the rest of the group.  Thus, we add in artificial reverb matching that of the recording hall, along with eq to 'push back' the performers.  And we time align the spot mics with the main stereo pair so that everything sounds integrated and "as-one".  Note that sometimes the 'spot mics' are actually handheld mics provided by the artist or venue that normally go to the venue PA system.  Lucid can usually get split feeds of these PA mics and use them in our recording.  They typically won't sound quite as good as our microphones, but they provide the handheld flexibility often required by many artists. 
 
Surround Sound
Soundfield ST-250 Surround Sound B-Format MicrophoneLucid has one of the incredible Soundfield ST-250 "B Format" surround sound microphones that allows us to capture sound from all directions onto 4 separate tracks.  The 4 recorded tracks from the B-format microphone are run through special software during post-production that allows us to create numerous 'virtual' microphones from this single B-format set of tracks.  For example, we can create any of the following mic types: Omni, Cardioid, Hyper Cardioid, Figure of 8, or any other pattern in-between.  We can aim the directional 'virtual' mics in any direction in three dimensions, front to back, left to right, and up to down.  We can create special microphone sets, such as an XY set of Cardioids or Figure 8's.  We can create sets of mics optimized for Dolby Digital surround sound.  Or we can create an XY set pointing back into the audience for hall ambience, for applause, or to pick up an antiphonal organ rank or choir.  The possibilities are endless, and the decisions don't have to be made until after the recording.  

For stereo recordings, Lucid typically places our ST-250 microphone back in the hall, and uses it to record the natural ambience of the room.  The stereo pair (and possibly outriggers) up front provide most of the sound, but the ST-250 B-format mic allows us to dial in just the right amount of natural reverb using pickup patterns and directions selected in post-production.   This is known as the "B-Plus" technique, as it is B-format plus the normal stereo pair and outrigger methods.
 
For surround sound, however, the ST-250 allows a huge variety of techniques for generating signals for all of the surround channels.  
Multi-Track
Sometimes the 'purist' and 'stereo pair' recording techniques don't provide the best results due to the nature of the performing group or the performance hall.  The group might be amplified, or might be performing in a dead space.  The sound of the hall may not be all that good.  In these cases, it is often best to fall back to 'multi-track' recording, where each instrument and/or group of voices is mic'd separately.  This allows greater flexibility in post-production to adjust the relative level of all of the different parts.  However, it also results in a very 'dry' recording, which is usually not all that pleasing without additional processing.  Therefore, artificial 'sweetening' in the form of digital reverb and eq are usually needed to achieve the best sound.  Lucid has a variety of quality reverbs available, including the excellent "Pristine Space" convolutional reverb that allows creation of reverbs that are incredibly realistic sounding.

Lucid utilizes all of these methodologies, depending upon the nature of the recording and the desired results.  We typically use a main stereo pair, with a set of outriggers, along with either our Soundfield B-format mic or a pair of 'ambience' mics further back in the hall to pick up the natural ambience of the room.  And if there are any soloists or 'quiet instruments' that need emphasis, we will use spot mics where appropriate.  

 

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Last modified: December 23, 2015