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When asked to get soundboard feed from an AV company contractor at an event or conference and it is of a low quality

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For a video shoot when documenting an event with a podium or dais table of speakers: 

When asked to get soundboard feed from an AV company contractor at an event or conference and it is of a low quality we have choices but as usual it depends (mostly on time.)

sometimes there is a active press mult box but often I'm the only one taking a soundboard feed. 

I wanted to see if others came up with better ways...

If it is at a hotel usually it is just an analog MONO feed out of a mixer that is doing the amplified P.A. system for the event. 

Sometimes it is a setup and walk away room where there is no human monitoring the wireless RF mics, mixer, or P.A. system at all. It just may be a busy hotel with a low priority on AV or a very small hotel.

Over the years based on experience I will come with every connector type to take a feed as it may be my only option to get something out of the board. Often it will have a low buzz or hum. Usually eliminated with a ground lifted transformer like a Whirlwind SP1X3LL Line Level Splitter.

A big issue for me is when the Audio/Visual dept. sets up the audio for the P.A. only inaccurately and has very low micpre levels and overall levels feeding the speakers as well as the feed they give you. Since they leave open all the faders at all times the noisefloor is close to AM radio reception noisefloor. These are situations with 3 guys on lavalier mics or a handful of handmics used as table mics without goosenecks and the FOH A1 has never heard of noise gating. In the room PA it may sound "okay we can hear them talking" but on our headphones when you have a all-day event with 2 or 3 sessions throughout the day it is numbing to listen to. Another major issue is RF Coordination in advance with the event organizer, contractor AV company, sometimes liasoned through a hotel AV department, actual A1 Front of House guy getting your request in advance for just a couple frequencies so he can coordinate on his end and ideally assign you 2 frequencies and 2 backups if you are being required to take a wireless board feed if they will not allow you to run XLR cabling for safety reasons or time reasons.

Another way I can eliminate the low quality feed is by  being able to split the microphone(s) at the stage bypasses their preamps low level and any ground loop issue coming out of the FOH board.  I would use Whirlwind SP1X3 - Mic Splitter on each mic cable before it goes to a snake. This is fine with just a couple mics but problematic when there are 10 mics from a table of speakers. This gets a little hairy if you are there to document the event but not there for the entire day.  Usually I will take their feed and if I have time also take a split of the podium mic myself if I can. The politics sometimes make it more of a challenge since it is their sandbox and equipment. 

Sometimes I am also able to take a Direct Out from their mixer for the podium mic only and then I have that clean as an ISO without the powerpoint sound FX and any music from VDR playback videos, or still low playing walk-in music.

Sometimes I will discretely place a boundary mic up on the podium as a backup mic.

And if none of that is possible I will run a lav mic up the gooseneck of the podium mic and into the podium mic's foam windscreen or underneath the mic with my own windscreen.

This gives options when a terrible sounding soundboard feed is offered. Usually you want to have a crowd mic MONO or stereo for all applause.

How else do you guys solve this problem? 

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I had a legal org client and was presented with that issue regularly (4 or 5 times a month for 20 years) in many of the midtown hotel ballrooms. Sometimes the mics, mixer and projection gear would be brought in by a third party rental outfit. More times than not, the mixer would be fed into the 'house' system.. usually feeding line level into a mic level input. They just turned it down real low... (what's gain staging?) Most of the time the hotel A/V staff and/or the rental co. set it up and left lf it unattended. On many of the gigs, I commandeered the mixer (or brought my own mixer when I took my vehicle into town or catch a ride with the camera/video folks)  I ran the pre-fader aux send to the house through a line>mic pad and fed the recorders with the linear faders so I could mix easily and bringing up low talkers and the audience (room) mics did not affect the house mix.. avoiding feedback. Other times I would split the podium mic and take a sum of all, since most of the speakers talked at the pod anyway. I always brought my own pod mic (SM57 w/wind screen and shock mount) since the supplied mic were usually POS. I also never left home w/o a couple of IL19 ISOs for unexpected interface issues. A few times I just taped a lav to the house podium mic and prayed the audio gods would smile upon me. Boundary mics picked up too much table noise (STL) and/or the presenter would put papers or other items on top of them not to mention spilling liquids.. (they were lawyers) For some odd reason, I kind of look back on it fondly and got free or low cost legal advice and assistance.

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There isn't any other way.  You A: communicate to the point of pestiness about feeds, connector type, wireless coord, positions etc; you B: bring all the stuff you might need to get a feed, incl splitters if they are out of outputs etc etc, and/or you want to try to split before their console (rare in AV world) and C: be ready to mic up the talent yourself with your own lavs if that's what it takes, and bypass the house system completely.  Sucks, and I've had to do all of this at once on some jobs. 

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47 minutes ago, Philip Perkins said:

There isn't any other way.  You A: communicate to the point of pestiness about feeds, connector type, wireless coord, positions etc; you B: bring all the stuff you might need to get a feed, incl splitters if they are out of outputs etc etc, and/or you want to try to split before their console (rare in AV world) and C: be ready to mic up the talent yourself with your own lavs if that's what it takes, and bypass the house system completely.  Sucks, and I've had to do all of this at once on some jobs. 

 

Yup, this has been my experience. There have been several situations where I've gone with option C - brought my own wireless lavs and let the house do their thing, and me do mine. These are usually live events where I am providing a mix for a livestream, as well as a recording of the event for later editing. Its funny because when there are issues with the house system, the audience members still look at me as if I can fix them, even though my recording is going just fine!

 

-Mike

 

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I think you have covered most of the options

 

Quality of feed

Hum loops

Types of interface

An yep it's hard to ask for a feed then say it sound bad.

 

I have once put the feed by connecting a radio microphone transmitter to it.

I have once put a radio mike lav onto the front of the PA speaker

I both case I was roving with a camera man

 

Cheers

 

mike

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Most active PA speakers now have loop through line outputs. Often very low though if they’re not using much of the PA. 

 

The advantage is the speaker is often more accessible if the board is buried somehow or in a rats nest closet somewhere. 

I also had a gig recently where all the AV gear was hidden in an equipment room in a rack. There was no mixer board at all just computer controlled bullshit, literally zero aux outputs of any kind. However, the Shure rack receivers had both XLR and 1/4” outputs. The 1/4” was unused so I was able to take a feed direct from each receiver that way. Sounded great. 

 

Nothing works all all the time and there are multiple ways to do this. 

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I found myself doing this a fair few times over the course of my career, mostly with mobile camera people.

Always used a line level Comtek, often out of the headphone output on the board, which was often not being used.

Comtek frequency never bothered my wireless link to camera.

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The quality has become a little better over the last 15 years, but there are still some of that bad feeds.

I thought I would have all possible adapters and connectors until someone gave me a male(!!) 1/8 TRS. "This is our only output. We use it for laptop recordings"

I have a black mic stand in the car so I can place a wireless hand transmitter aside if it's too bad. This of course only helps when there is one speaker. Lav on speaker I have done many times, especially in churches which were equipped with very vintage gear.

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On 11/3/2017 at 10:34 PM, Derek H said:

AV gear was hidden in an equipment room in a rack. There was no mixer board at all just computer controlled bullshit, literally zero aux outputs of any kind. However, the Shure rack receivers had both XLR and 1/4” outputs. The 1/4” was unused so I was able to take a feed direct from each receiver that way. Sounded great. 

This is a good way to get Direct Outs when the FOH soundboard doesn't have them or there is an automated system. Thanks.

Making my own mix is better and if a lot of inputs and using a the Dugan & MixAssist or Zaxcom Nomad (Auto-Mix) tool on some mixer/recorders is also an option for a better mix anyway than most AV FOH mix feeding the P.A. system.

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I love direct outs but in truth most low and mid-range digital PA consoles no longer have them.  They have a limited total number of outputs that can be assigned in various fashions depending on their firmware, but even very large consoles no longer have an analog output for every input.  I just did a show record of a big musical with 100+ inputs being mixed on a Digico S10, and the total number of analog outs the FOH guy could spare me was 24--the rest he needed for his own feeds.   One ruse I've resorted to in these situations is to get the FOH mixer to record at least a 2-mix, if not a prefade track-per-input spread via the FOH console's own recording app (the efficacy of which varies widely among consoles) while I concentrate on audience, hall, and doco audio.  Usually they'll need a fast FAT32 formatted USB stick for this.  Not a perfect solution (no TC) but I have gotten it to work well in post.

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Just remembered I was on a Royal Tour with Prince Charles

He gave a speech in a concert hall and I managed to talk the house

pa guy into giving me a feed.

I was doing coverage for BBC news and the ITV news guys asked me for a feed for them!

Dam! I should have said yep $100 !!

 

mike

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On 03/11/2017 at 10:44 PM, PCMsoundie said:

 

When asked to get soundboard feed from an AV company contractor at an event or conference...

 

I have only bad experience. Only.

And always "no time".

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Reall

5 hours ago, VAS said:

 

I have only bad experience. Only.

And always "no time".

 

Really? I have done this many times. Rarely a problem. Key - as always - is to arrange for this in advance. 

That‘s only for a stereo feed, though. Never asked for isos. 

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6 hours ago, Constantin said:

Reall

 

Really? I have done this many times. Rarely a problem. Key - as always - is to arrange for this in advance. 

That‘s only for a stereo feed, though. Never asked for isos. 

 

Yeap, every time a bad quality from "AV" / "PA".

Maybe I should look to be involved into this area in future.

I can only count in one hand the times who got a good quality.

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