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Info on recording live music scenes in Tony Gatlif movies


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I made a slightly off topic post in another thread featuring this question, but since I'd really like to know that - I will repost it as a new thread...

 

So - if anyone knows any of the sound recordists that worked with Tony Gatlif and can ask them or has any ideas how they did it - I would appreciate your info. 

 

I am asking about "Latcho Drom" and "Vengo" specifically... I wonder how they did it - it sounds great - no mics visible in wide shots (of course) and despite the very dynamic close shots the fingers and musicians' movements are synced perfectly, music is partly improvised and very complex so there is hardly a way they would perform to playback... 

 

Sound recordist for Latcho Drom was Nicolas Naegelen... if anyone knows him or knows how they recorded those scenes any info would be more than welcome.

 

Check:

 

Latcho Drom -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv1y5PNqsm4  (this is just amazing - check the numerous superbly recorded outside performances)

 

Vengo - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huwGeNUK6Os

 

           - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QMBfLn9nKY

 

           - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YzYJeelx5Y  (check the singer and guitarist Tomatito interaction from 5:30 on... and how good it sounds for a real live set - this could not be overdubbed to be synced so perfectly... IMO)

 

How? 

 

Also - if you know some other movies that feature such great real music performance recordings where no mics are visible, I would like to check them. 

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" I wonder how they did it - it sounds great - no mics visible "

I would not rule out playback...

 

Yes, some of the wide shots were surely shot to playback - or just additional performance without close mics - it can be seen - but even in some wide shots - like the sufi-flamenco scene from Vengo - if you watch the singer hitting the glass in a wide shot - it is in perfect sync... 

 

You can also check the gypsy swing guitar solo that I doubt could be shot to playback - at 1h 19min 41sec. in Latcho Drom:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv1y5PNqsm4 - nice balanced sound - sounds like a stereo pair at some perfect position - mics had to be rahter far, but still don't catch ugly room sound, but a nice focused sound of the instruments...

And the musicians are seated behind the table - a difficult configuration to be caught so nicely by a single stereo pair... Maybe several overhead mics just outside the frame... hmmmm...   Or Taraf de Haidouks at ca. 00:46 min. - I watched all instruments and their lines are played... no way to perform THAT to playback...  and there are many other amazing scenes - sometimes it sounds like a singer would have some hidden lav somewhere and the rest of the music was recorded with some very good stereo pair... 

 

First hand info about their approach to recording those scenes would be great. 

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" First hand info about their approach to recording those scenes "

I'm sure years of experience would be involved...

 

No doubt about that... But since it is really exceptional (IMO) it would be good to hear some ideas and techniques they used. What worked for somebody else can work for me, you... everybody.

 

Getting experiences by trial and error is ok, but learning about what somebody already did and trying out the same thing first when presented with similar challenge is better. Or no?

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One thing - GOOD musicians (Tomatito, for example) can play in sync to themselves recorded previously and very well... So - if it IS playback during the shoot, musicians like the ones in this film could easily manage it. 

 

Also think about the picture edit - shooting a live performance with one or two cameras may not yield this kind of complex narrative-based picture edit. just saying... I'd like to believe that it was all recorded live, but.... 

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One thing - GOOD musicians (Tomatito, for example) can play in sync to themselves recorded previously and very well... So - if it IS playback during the shoot, musicians like the ones in this film could easily manage it. 

 

Also think about the picture edit - shooting a live performance with one or two cameras may not yield this kind of complex narrative-based picture edit. just saying... I'd like to believe that it was all recorded live, but.... 

 

Of course... there are additional shots that are edited together, but I am amazed by a few (many) that seem from the actual video+music recording and are done very well despite the mics being hidden so well... What's your idea how it was done? For example the mentioned scenes above - apart from possibility that Tomatito overdubbed his part, which I doubt. :)

 

@senator - I hope I don't read too much cynical tone in your posts - no need for one - I'd like to invite them - Nicolas Naegelen or Regis Leroux, but I don't know them - it is more likely that someone else from here (with more years of experience :) ) would know them or would have a better idea how something like that is/was done. Apart from shooting to playback. 

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"that seem from the actual video+music recording and are done very well despite the mics being hidden so well.."

you keep ruling out playback, but some of us, with years of experience have not.

 

" but I don't know them "

and no one here has indicated they do, either...

 

" idea how something like that is/was done."

we keep saying it might well have been playback

"Apart from shooting to playback. "

but you say we are wrong...

 

OK, maybe...

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:)

 

Ok, I've thrown the question into the open, maybe someone who knows the guys or even worked with Tony Gatlif will chime in and enlighten us.

 

I don't say you are wrong, I am just amazed how well it's done and have a hard time believing some shots, among them the specifically mentioned ones, would be shot to playback. Seems to me more like a clever way of hiding the mics and planning a shot to accommodate great sound capture... I know that not all of the bits and pieces are from one and only live shot... 

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" I am just amazed how well it's done "

it made "the magic" for you...

 

" I know that not all of the bits and pieces are from one and only live shot... "

thus: playback.

 

"maybe someone who knows...  "

yes, you keep mentioning that, but no one here has responded...

maybe you can track "them" down, and invite them to visit here...

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I am asking about "Latcho Drom" and "Vengo" specifically... I wonder how they did it - it sounds great - no mics visible in wide shots (of course) and despite the very dynamic close shots the fingers and musicians' movements are synced perfectly, music is partly improvised and very complex so there is hardly a way they would perform to playback... 

 

Well, Simon Hayes and his excellent crew managed to record Les Miserables live, at least in terms of the vocals. My guess is that on the examples you provided, they'd have to record at least one performance with optimum mic positions, then use that take for playback for all the other angles to facilitate editing. Otherwise, there'd be too many chances of them not being able to play it precisely the same way all day, spread out over many takes.

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Many times I've recorded the players with the mics where I wanted them while the musicians were fresh, and the cameras shot around the mics.  Then we picked a hero recorded take and that became the playback track, the mics were removed except for a few for guide track, and we worked to playback for the rest of the shooting.   

 

philp

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Many times I've recorded the players with the mics where I wanted them while the musicians were fresh, and the cameras shot around the mics.  Then we picked a hero recorded take and that became the playback track, the mics were removed except for a few for guide track, and we worked to playback for the rest of the shooting.   

 

philp

 

I guess it was done like that, yes. It would be interesting to know the specifics - because even their "hero" shot is quite wide in some cases, so the mics had to be rather well hidden and of specific quality to enable such placement... 

 

Would you care to share the titles of movies/shows for which you've recorded live music in such a way - and/or any possible links where it can be heard/seen? I'd like to see more stuff like that.

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" not being able to play it precisely the same way all day, spread out over many takes. "

and many set-ups...

and sometimes those set-up's require moving folks around on the set,  another part of the magic.

 

this stuff has been done to playback in various workflows, including PP's, for many years...

 

" record Les Miserables live, at least in terms of the vocals. "

pretty much a pioneering gig...

" because even their "hero" shot is quite wide in some cases "

the hero recording may well have been made without image capture,  possibly at another time and in another place...

 

" titles of movies/shows for which you've recorded live music in such a way "

we keep telling you that we mostly use playback in these situations...

there are a couple threads here on jwsoundgroup.net about the award winning sound on the movie Les Mis

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Thanks for pointing out Les Miserables, looks very interesting, too.

 

Mr.Perkins specifically said that that he did record live and explained how - so I asked specifically about his work that was done in such a manner, since I'd like to see more of such good stuff...

 

I understand that playback is mostly used otherwise  - but it can be seen, heard and felt when it is... In Gatlif movies - there is just too much real passion and spontaneity in the performances and the sound is very appropriate for the ambient in which they happen - it is really difficult to make studio recordings sound so authentically live and with the real ambient of the space... I am sure at least some takes must be from real performances on location... (imo)...

 

I tried to find contacts or any info on Regis Leroux and Nicolas Naegelen, or any interviews - not much luck... I also searched interviews with Tony Gatlif to find any proper mention of their approach to sound...

 

This is the only revealing thing I found about his movie "Swing" - be amazed (let Google translate it for you if you don't understand French):

 

"Comment avez-vous tourné les séquences musicales ? On a totalement l'impression d'être dans la caravane, entouré des musiciens, des danseuses. C'était improvisé ?

 

L'exiguïté du lieu imposait au contraire une préparation minutieuse. Nous avons mis au point, très précisément, tous les déplacements de caméras, de façon à être au moment voulu, dans le rythme et à la bonne focale sur chaque musicien. Quand j'ai expliqué à l'ingénieur du son, Régis Leroux, et à Claude Garnier, qui est chef opérateur et cadreuse sur le film, qu'on allait filmer vingt musiciens dans la caravane, Claude m'a dit : «Mais la caméra, elle sera où ? ». J'ai répondu : «Partout !»

 

Vous avez multiplié les caméras ?

 

Toute cette séquence est filmée avec seulement deux caméras, la seconde devant filmer en fonction du cadre de la première. À cause de l'exiguïté du lieu, il y avait toujours le risque qu'elle soit dans le champ. On a chorégraphié les mouvements des caméras comme pour un ballet. Il fallait suivre très précisément la musique, passer du solo de guitare à la contrebasse, puis revenir sur le violoniste ou sur la clarinette à la fraction de seconde près ! Chaque musicien avait trois micros, un pour le grain de la corde, le deuxième pour la caisse de résonance, le troisième pour l'espace. La scène dure six minutes, c'était impossible à tourner en play-back."

 

Source:  http://www.universcine.com/articles/tony-gatlif-tchavolo-c-est-l-heritier-de-django-reinhardt

 

That's the scene in question (even more amazing to be shot live than the ones previously mentioned):

 

He says this trailer scene was shot live with two cameras choreographed to the last detail of movement and that each musician had three mics - but where?? Somebody should do some serious interview about their recording approach with these guys... their skills are extraordinary - to me...

 

I hope you won't see this post as trying to "prove" something or being argumentative... I am simply sharing something that seems really well done and rather rare and specific and trying to learn more about it... also sharing what I found about it... if I find more, I'll post... if anyone knows these people - invite them to participate here. :)

 

 

Thanks for now.

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To echo what Phil Perkins said above, I forgot about the Altman movie Kansas City, which I worked on (in video post) back in 1996. That was another one where they multimiked the nightclub sequences for some hero takes, then played those back for all the subsequent takes. The music itself in the movie was so good, they went back and did an entire 1-hour PBS show of just the jazz numbers alone, which I also worked on. (That was very hard to do, since the negative had already been cut, and we wound up with shots that had missing frames, creating all kinds of visual and sync problems that had to be fixed.)

 

 

I understand that playback is mostly used otherwise  - but it can be seen, heard and felt when it is... In Gatlif movies - there is just too much real passion and spontaneity in the performances and the sound is very appropriate for the ambient in which they happen - it is really difficult to make studio recordings sound so authentically live and with the real ambient of the space...

 

I think it is possible -- it just takes a lot of time, money, and talent to pull it off. It helps to have great musicians who have done a lot of rehearsals and know exactly what to do. But I don't think it's humanly possible for them to endlessly perform the same song over and over and over again all day and not get tired, sloppy, or otherwise not capable of doing the song 100% the same. It's just not necessary, assuming you have one perfect take that will suffice for the entire day, recorded in the exact same space.

 

Watch Kansas City and tell me that stuff doesn't sound 100% real and authentic. And I think they were using upwards of 35 or 40 mics in some scenes. 

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YESSSS, I just checked that great movie and those scenes from Kansas City have exactly the same quality and vibe  - of real music being performed in exactly the place where it was filmed  - as in Gatlif's movies... It does look real and authentic - but then - it also is if I read you correctly...

 

Could you share a few more details - if I understand correctly they did use audio AND a part of video footage of the hero takes - like in this clip -

- among other bits the perfectly synced improvised double bass solo bit from 2:10 on - it looks like from the hero take... still the mics had to be cleverly hidden... any more info on which mics and how did they position them in those complex scenes if they did use the video, too? I know Schoeps MK41 are also popular for "spot" micing solo instruments and can give you sort of "studio" feeling even from the live set, also DPA4060 lavaliers can sound good on instruments and you can hide them... What were the room mics?

A big portion of this

- seems like taken from the original sound + video recording... Sounds like it was recorded with a well placed room stereo pair or some array of ambient mics and cleverly hidden soloist spot mics... Do you know how it was really done?  And which mics?

 

Thanks for the info.

 

Also - in both cases - Tony Gatlif's movies and Altman's Kansas City those are outstanding musicians capable of great performances and having great sound on their own... it surely helps... :)

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Well, John Pritchett did the production sound on "Kansas City" (and a few other Altman movies as well) and John has extensive background in music recording. I don't know what mics were used and really don't know anymore about this outstanding sound and musical accomplishment. I will ask john Pritchett (or Rocky Quiroz who I think worked on it with John) if I get the chance.

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I was on the project long after production had wrapped, but I know they mixed it at Todd AO West in Santa Monica, and we did all the video post on both the feature and the Jazz '34 PBS special at Complete Post/Hollywood. Very tough project from a picture point of view. The sound was phenomenal, though the film did not get much of an audience. 

 

What editor Gerri Peroni told me was that the first couple of takes were 100% live, then they hid the mics and did all the multiple camera takes (with production dialogue), and did playback in the sections where they'd duck it for dialogue, and the rest of the time the musicians would mime to the playback. Because it had been very well-rehearsed, and because the stage sounded so great and it was so well-miked (and very well-mixed), the end results worked terrifically well. My memory is that there were a few 1930s microphones on set, but they replaced the internal elements with modern 1990s pickups. It's a strange, haunting movie.

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Hey, thanks for the info... Great to hear about such a project. I am surprised this movie was not more known. I've seen many Altman movies, but never heard about that one and being a jazz fan, too, I am amazed by the cast of so many contemporary jazz giants gathered in that movie... It somehow escaped my radar... funny how we bump into some things through various unexpected ways.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello Andrej,

I've been following this discussion with a lot of interest and it took some time for me to watch all the videos you kind people refer to.

 

Working for the Blogotheque who is a site known for it's "musical documentaries" (i guess we can call them that way), i am quite familiar with music recording techniques for films. Also, we mix cinema and music recording technics during the shooting and in the mixing process. Although, since we're dealing with a "documentary" configuration (not much time with the performers usually, very limited sound equipment most of the time, etc), we can't always hide the microphones for them to be truly invisible. But here's my two cents.

 

I believe you are right about the Tony Gatliff films. They are LIVE. Some sources are pretty quiet compared to what a "studio played back recording" would sound like: the double bass for example (Latcho Drom). In Vengo you can see some violins plugged in via their own personal set-up. And in Swing you can see one of the ambient mic gripped to the set on one of the shots. Also, the Vengo guitars sound very much like they have a lav inside them.

 

During the shooting of our Take Away Shows we don't have a lot of time mostly, so the idea is the be able to place and take off the mics very quickly: meaning that if you look closely, you can often spot the mics or the transmitters. But on a feature film, I'm sure for this kind of purpose the sound guy can have a lot done the way he wants/needs.

Which means:

(VENGO)

1- Having the lav AND the transmitter in the guitar cases. Hence the very closed up sound.

2- For the violin players: having lav hidden either in their hair, or behind their ear.

3- For the guy singing and hitting on his glass (that glass must have been a very annoying thing to mix), in his clothes (like a normal talent) or turban (like you would see it happen in an opera for example).

4- A lot of the percussions are obviously taken with an ambient mic.

 

Or perhaps, very simply, the lavs are hidden on the character like you would hide them on a normal talent! Indeed, when you have a very silent background (which isn't always the case in documentaries, but can certainly be on a feature film like these), you can pick-up quite well the sound of the instrument the way the performer hears it by putting the microphone that way.

 

About KANSAS CITY, i wouldn't be surprised if they played and recorded on set (it sounds pretty roomy - and well recorded of course) to then have it played back (even on wide shots). I'm sure that if the performance of the actor is good enough, he could be totally hitting the wrong notes and you wouldn't even notice since your brain puts together the sound and the movement of the characters in a coherent way.

 

Also another film to be mentioned here would be The Commitements (Director: Alan Parker). Because he wanted the band to sound live, coherent and great, he actually hired musicians that could act! Preproduction was crazy apparently, casting more than 3000 people. But then, the gig shots sound and look real... BECAUSE THEY ARE REAL.

 

Anyway, i'm sure they are a lot more films out there who try and take this risk. This thread is very helpful to take notice of them.

Cheers!

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  • 3 months later...

Hey! Sorry it took me ages to answer.

I did many many take away shows. Most of them in the past 2 years actually. I also did a couple pocket parties (appartment gigs with multiple cameras, if you've never seen one i highly recommend watching the FEIST one. It's simply beautiful). If you find my name in there (Henri d'Armancourt), that's me!

One of our most impressive from 2013 though is Take Away Phoenix: we shot in the gardens of the Versailles Castle, in Phoenix's tour plane and even on the airport driveway (that was edited out though :( ). But we were more than one sound engineer on this one (THANKFULLY).

Some of the one i'm the proudest in 2013 is the Mermonte and Samba de la Muerte: i really had the time AND gear to make things without regrets!

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