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Noisily Festival Live Recording

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Capturing audio for a live recorded podcast special.

Live recording is an interesting beast, and something we love to do, especially when it is in a beautiful woodland and the sun is out. For this blog we take a more in depth look at the process of capturing audio at a DJ event and the added extras that make the recording something special.

The main aims of this recording session were to record a festival DJ/live set start to finish, including stereo ambience and a flavour of the festival location to mix into the final production. The set was to form a future podcast mix for the Trick Music label TRKPOD podcast series.

To plan for this type of recording involves some thought to the location and possible variables, the main one being the weather, and the second being the fact it is live. Weather wise, for anyone who as been to a music festival will attest, you have to plan for a bit of everything; rain, wind, sun, dust... are all possible (and likely - this is the UK!). So the equipment has to be able to be setup in such a way that is is safe from the elements and that the elements also won't affect the recording should it start chucking it down or blowing a freak gale. As far as live recording goes, once the music starts there is no going back, so there must be a robust system in place to capture what is happening when it happens. Sounds easy, right? Well, sort of. Things can go wrong, people can unplug stuff, equipment can fail, and the weather can change; so its a case of being aware of all these factors and making sure you are on the ball.

The Approach

Woodland recording: In the run up to the festival, we knew there may be an opportunity to capture some of the sounds of nature from around the site, so pencilled in the Thursday evening to go out on a night walk before all the usual festival noise from generators, PA systems and people got too high. As it happens there are lots of little woodlands dotted around the site, so it didn't take much exploring to find a coppice to set and leave a stereo recorder for the dawn chorus.

Stage recording: The set we needed to record was late on the weekend, which meant there was plenty of time to relax, speak to the stage manager in advance of the recording and then take in the festival spirit before getting into engineer mode. On the Sunday it would be a case of setting up an hour or so early to get everything ready and working well in advance of going live.

Tech setup: We decided on a hardware recording option in the form of the RME Fireface UFX (with a Zoom as backup). The UFX is a rack-mount unit which is rock solid, can be controlled via an ipad and can record up to 32 channels direct to USB. Running into this was two channels of the main PA mix and two channels for the ambient 'crowd' mics, so not a high channel count. On the day we used a pair of (cardioid) Neumann KM184s for crowd ambience as the weather was warm and they are nice a small. The positioning of these was a challenge as they had to be kept out of reach while picking up enough direct sound and also rejecting the stage monitoring. The main PA was a four stack setup, which meant the sweet spot was in the middle of the dancefloor, exactly where we couldn't place any mics! It also meant there was some delayed sound slapback from the rear PA stacks. Needless to say, a happy medium was found. With more time it would have been interesting to rig up two pairs of ambient mics staggered around the stage / dancefloor to experiment with positioning in relation to the crowd and direct PA sound.

As you can see from the photo below, we used some little wind jammers for the crowd mics to cut down any breeze blowing through the stage, but this was more precautionary and certainly not a place for breaking out the Rycote blimps as we experienced rare summer sun all day long!

Finished production: Following on from the festival, the post production process was all about painting a picture with sound and voiceover that subtly set the 'festival' scene for those who weren't actually at the festival. In the studio, the aim was to incorporate the woodland sonics with the live stage recording and balance the 'crowd mic' ambience and woops along side to bring that 'live' vibe at set points during the mix, finishing again with the woodland dawn chorus. So moving from nature to full on dance music under the trees and back to nature - rather like the journey of a festival site. You can hear the finished production below.

For more info on this type of project, or a chat about our live recording and podcast production services, drop us a line, it would be great to hear from you.

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