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Historical television recording techniques


MCooper
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So I've always been fascinated by the history of sound recording, especially when it comes to early television. I know there have been some pretty interesting threads before regarding old techniques. But I am often surprised by the quality of recordings done even in early 60's. Take this clip for example, from the Andy Williams show in 1966. As far as I can tell, the dialogue and singing does not sound pre-recorded/lip-synced. How was this recorded? Just with one overhead (Fisher) boom mic? What kind of pattern? And a ton of reverb? If the orchestra was live, how was it recorded as well?

Nothing ever seems off-axis. Maybe the frequency response is not as good as today, but nevertheless it is quite impressive. If anyone has any insight I'm very curious about how shows like this were made.

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How was the orchestra arranged, as in, where were they usually placed?

 

Grant.

I can't answer your question, but generally speaking the layout of an orchestra is already ideal. While there are some variations, the basic idea is to have the best sound and most well-balanced mix at the conductor's position and from there on to the audience. So if you only have one mic, place it right above the conductor. Place it well and that one mic can deliver a beautiful well-balanced sound
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From the picture, it looks like the second microphone on the right was higher up. Is this to capture a little more reverb and different tones, or is it just focused on the back row of singers?

​Neither? Just sitting there waiting for the next position, fader down? We'll probably never know. Good to see the picture though (and thanks Crew for the probable mic identification - I know that ribbons were extensively used in radio studios).

Jez

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I worked at ATV Network north of London 1966 to 1969

We had four stages and a large bandroom

We had Fisher and Mole Richardson booms in all studio and serviced dramas, music shows, chat shows etc

For drama we usually used AKG D25 dynamics in the booms

For music shows hand held Beyer M100 mikes were used as the radio mikes designed by ATV were not like what we have today.

I often operated a long arm Fisher boom with a Sennheiser MKH804 (the long slotted tube) on music shows.

The band room was used for pre-recording music or feeding it "live" to large foldback speakers in a studio for a singer.

The Jack Parnell band was a full complement of piano, bass, drums,percussion, harp full brass section, and full string section.

Sometimes we used a vocal booth for pre-recording and I worked on session with Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield.

Microphones were a lot of AKG C28 some AKG D20 and a few AKG414. We did have some AKG C12's

We produced color shows for America before England had color tv broadcasts

I boom operated on a 12 ep series with Liberace (a great showman and good to work with)

Operating a boom on a live show was quite a buzz (rigged with 2 mikes in case if a failure) and as some shows were networked

I could sometimes get home and watch the show I had just worked on!!

Great days of real television!!!!!!!!

 

mike

 

Edited by mikewest
Date error
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This was an excellent piece to demonstrate how great the sound could be 50 years ago, better than most productions of this kind today, and it's because it was done with simplicity.

Three singers singing live to a live off-camera orchestra (I'm betting the piano player was also conducting), ONE overhead dynamic mic for the singers (I was going to guess RE15 because of the obvious wide pattern, but the pic from the the series shows BK5s on the booms), no in-ear monitors, likely mixed mono to a single track in what seems to be a single take with two cameras. If foldback was used, I'm betting it was just with the singer's voices low in a speaker near the conductor. I'm guessing how the orchestra was miced, but I'll guess with just a few fairly distant mics for coverage and maybe one on the piano.

Today it would have been done with each singer working close hand mics, also wired with hidden lavalieres on a separate mix (god only knows why), all wearing in-ear monitors, singing to prerecorded track, which means the performance could not have been as spontaneous and the voices would not have sounded nearly as well blended or as acoustically natural.

GT

PS... the BK5 has a wide cardioid pattern.

Edited by Glen Trew
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Still a great V.O. mic on the right voice talent.  The pattern is unique as it is wider horizontally than it is vertically at higher frequencies (unless you turn it 90 degrees, then it's the opposite):

http://www.coutant.org/rcabk5/

.

​Wow, thanks John! A cardioid ribbon (labyrinth) designed for recording gunshots! I want one! Jez

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Thanks Mark and Michael

No actors did not mumble and experienced actors would delay their delivery until the boom swung to them!!!!!!!!!

Even Liberace once asked during rehearsal "if I move back will that solve the shadow problem"

Lew Grade a great cigar smoking Jewish entrepreneur in theatre and TV realised that money could be made

by producing color shows for the USA, so we worked on huge light entertainment shows and dramas.

We would shoot sequences in NTSC then wait for a 3 hour system change to PAL and do it all over again

Great days and I could achieve my rostered week of work in 2.5 days (usually Friday to Sunday) and have the week off!

 

mike

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Yes that is amazing...   At 3:50 you can hear some tapping which I think is Eddy Fisher (on the left) tapping his foot- which is kind of cool. Also a little distortion on "La"  at 4:02 , and a few other places, but that probably happened somewhere in dubbing from one generation to the next .

Think how great the original must have sounded.

Edited by David Silberberg
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  • 5 years later...

This was so interesting. You folks have a treasure of knowledge. I’m glad to have stumbled upon it. I was briefly involved in some tech and sound for a local TV production in the Ozarks in the 80’s, but reading a few of these posts, makes me want to learn more about challenges early on in TV sound. 

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Great topic!!  And the replies... wow!

 

I used to think all those Twilight Zones and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were all looped.  Then I paid more attention and realized they were being boomed. What a shocker!  I then asked around and discovered the way described above, including how REAL actors work.  Must have been awesome.

 

Dan Izen

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ADR in those days was anything but "automatic", and directors and actors didn't like doing it, so hardly anything was looped.  They all had theatrical training and wanted to record a complete performance in one go, and would rehearse and shoot until they got what they wanted.  A big reason why this worked was having very well trained boom ops who understood "dynamic" mic positioning very well, who could anticipate moves, loud and quiet bits, camera lens sizes and were very aware of where lighting was.   The studios were factories and people went to work in them every day.  When you work that much your chops get really good....

 

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When I started in TV in the mid 60s we always used an Electro Voice EV 642 shotgun on the Fisher and Mole Richardson Prembulator booms for

most dialog pickup.  They sounded great and even won an Academy award.  These had a good reach and eliminated a lot of unwanted noise from the humming lights overhead.

http://www.coutant.org/data/642.pdf

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