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Micing live piano for narrative film


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Hello friends,

 

I have a project coming up involving one or more scenes where a character will be playing piano. Music recording is not my specialty and while I have casually recorded some piano in the past on a few smaller projects and have been happy with the results, this project is bigger and the music is an important plot element so I want to give it extra special care. There's plenty of material online for how to mic a piano, but not so much for film. It'll be a baby grand with the top open, so that makes hiding the mics the challenge. I'll boom it of course, but any tips on mic placement and which mics to use? Right now I'm thinking of trying to sneak two MK41's inside for an XY pair (if it's even possible - I got the new short ones) or maybe something like a CUB or 2 stuck to the bottom of the piano. Would love to hear your insight.

 

Thanks,

Ben

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18 minutes ago, Dalton Patterson said:

Throw two DPA 4061’s hardwired in there somewhere and your covered. 

 

Thanks Dalton. How would you arrange them pattern-wise, and why not wireless? I also think the "somewhere" is very important as different parts of the piano resonate differently, no?

The only DPAs I have are the larger 4098s. I know DPA is generally preferred for music applications in film. If I did lavs, it would be cos-11's or B6's.

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Sorry for my inability to draw, but here is how I would mic a piano for on screen shooting. 
 

Tape two DPA omnis (4060 with flat grid) inside the piano spaced by 1 foot. 
 

You can use Wireless, preferably with a stereo transmitter to avoid phase issues. 
 

I used this setup for live performance on TV and it worked perfectly.  
 

I would also put a spaced pair of omnis or an ORTF at some distance out of frame to give some openness and not being too close. 

 

image.png

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It's good to plan on hiding inside the piano, but you may find that as the overage (or multiple cams) move around that your hiding place is eventually revealed.  Thus I'd strongly consider doing what you can with the environment and trying to mic from

somewhere more distant.  Many musicians dislike the close-mic piano sound, esp for classical music, and prefer a more distant pickup (in a favorable room).  I've had good luck getting a good performance of the piece with the mics where I wanted them and the cameras shooting around them, then letting the coverage proceed while moving the mics out of shots, figuring that the sound for those shots will be guide track used to line up the shot to my hero track.

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Henri and Philip have mic dropped this thread. 

 

B6>Cos-11and Wired>Wireless IMHO. It all works and only we can tell the difference blindfolded. 

 

Piano's have tons of harmonics, throw allot of mic's at it. ORTF on a moveable Cstand or mic stand is awesome. Try to get in there for rehearsal and experiment with distances from the piano, you will notice big differences. Bring a tape measure and document distances from source. I can't recall the exact distances from memory but they are there, its calculus. 

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Pianos are one of the most difficult instruments to mic (to get pro quality), double the difficultly if the mics cannot be seen.

In closed lid scenarios, I use a pair of Crown PCC-160 boundary mics gaffer taped to piano lid's underside. This also works great to ISO the piano from other instruments

mics.jpg

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1 hour ago, BAB414 said:

Benefits of ORTF vs XY here?


Feeling of spaciousness. 
 

If you prefer XY, choose super-cardioids, the separation will be better. Actually, MS could work too. 
Adding a pair outside the piano will give you more room and more « open » sound. 
 

It’ll help also in post to vary the proximity to match the picture. 

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1 hour ago, henrimic said:

Benefits of ORTF vs XY here?
Feeling of spaciousness.

 

Everytime I get the chance to record some classical music with an ORTF setup, I'm flabbergasted how good it sounds. Of course, it depends on the room.

 

Be aware that any analogue wireless won't represent the transient sounds very well. Digital systems will do. And take care that it's a system that stays phase-locked when using two transmitters as a stereo pair. I know that Sennheiser 9000/6000 and Sony DWX will do, but don't know about the other common brands.

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Try to not use wireless if you can, often there is a way to hide cables down the legs etc.  I'm a fan

of ORTF but that is an aesthetic choice.  Super close close micing the piano can often result in recording a lot of action noise and off-harmonics if the piano isn't in really good tune and mechanical repair.  You might get good BG noise rejection, but might also be making a lot of work for someone who has to remove a lot of pedal noise, action bumps, squeaks etc.   These are all less of an issue in more distant micing, but then the room is more of a factor.  If the sound of the live piano is an important factor in the film then a conversation with all concerned parties would bea good idea....

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Well thanks for all the advice. Super helpful. I picked up a second cardioid so I could do ORTF but now it looks like the actor isn't having much success learning the piece and he will probably be faking it on the day. Then for inserts they are going to have a pianist play-sync to a prerecord. Don't ask me why.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A lot of the sound of a piano is resonated from the sound board and not just directly from the strings.  When close mics inside the body are picking up too much action noise (or are being seen), try placing mics underneath the piano to capture the resonance of the sound board. 

I've had good success in the past using DPA 4098's inside on the plate pointed up at the open lid.

In addition, room mics will help a lot smooth out the close mics, even if the room doesn't have the best acoustics.

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They were really hoping that the lead actor would somehow master the piano in a month's time. We shot the scene yesterday and I'm really happy with it. Live singing to playback with earwigs and a hand double for the piano. I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to record live piano with it but everything still came out great.

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FYI @BAB414. Here is a photo from a DPA demo that took place at the Piano Salon in the Yamaha Artist Services Center in NYC. This was the premiere of their 6060 series but they also took the opportunity to compare a few different mic placements  with DPA 4099s, 4022s, and 4061s. 

0A96524B-442B-4F0F-A032-F0823592F82D_1_105_c.jpeg

9E498D7E-B5CE-4F99-9557-8465EEDEE723_1_105_c.jpeg

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