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Thread: Shooting a Choir

  1. #1

    Default Shooting a Choir

    I'm shooting a choir performing in a church next month. I have one specific question and a request for general advice. Church to me usually means bad acoustics and dark. I plan to get around the sound by recording with a Zoom H4n placed close to the choir. I'll be going to a rehearsal tomorrow night to do a test recording.

    I have a question about the best use of the two cameras I'll have at my disposal. I have a HVX201 and my friend has a DBX100. Which of these will be best to use as the long shot fixed pointing at the choir camera and which would be best for close ups slow pans type shots. I know the HVX would be best for both but would you use the better camera for the long shots or the zoomed in shots ?

    Or is this not the way to go about it. Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries


    I would suggest using the camera you're most comfortable with for the close-ups. Having said that...

    Theoretically you want to match the footage as much as possible which would mean having the best camera on the long-shot. The temptation is to have the worse camera on the "boring" long shot, in my opinion this is a mistake. A poor camera on a long shot is obvious as you notice that the faces aren't as sharp as they could be, the contrast isn't there and the colours bleed. Also long-shots tend to be left on screen longer than close-ups.

    In your situation I would also beg/borrow/steal a cheap cam to have on the conductor, even if it's something like a GoPro, digital camera with movie function, or Zi8 mounted on the podium, which is always a good cut-away.

  3. #3


    Other than the proximity of the mics to the choir, there may be significant differences in the recorded audio depending on the *height* of the mics. I suspect the best results may require them to be slightly higher than the tall people at the back;(and obviously pointing slightly downwards). I am hoping you may be able to experiment; and would be very interested to get your impressions. Better still, someone with some real practical knowledge might agree or correct me - before tomorrow night!

  4. #4


    Hey thanks Rob, That's just the sort of advice I was looking for. I have my old NV200 that I could fix on the conductor. Great idea. We were thinking that the better camera, although boring for me, will be the best for the long shots but I wanted to get others opinions on this. I suppose that will free me up to fanny around like a director rather than just being a camera man.

    Tim, I would agree that slightly higher and pointing down would be best for the mic position. My problem is lack of "grip" I have half a mike stand, in fact I have half a dozen, half mic stands. (Never by from an auction without seeing the item first) My friend has a taller one if we need it.

    I haven't used the Zoom H4n in anger yet so I don't know how it will perform. I do have a K6/M66 I can plug into it or my friend has a "cheepo" condenser if needed for the piano. It's not exactly BBC standards but it's the best we've got.

    What about lighting would it be a good idea to take my work lights, which I have two pairs of ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    The main thing about recording sound is the microphone position. For something like a traditional choir, the best position is usually about a metre above the head of the conductor. Failing that, your Zoom, in the centre of the group equidistant from the singers would be optimal. Try to get it high otherwise it can pick up reflections from the floor which can cause strange phasing sounds. Unless you're going to have someone mixing the sound, I wouldn't start buggering about micing individual instruments otherwise you risk having the backing instruments louder than the singers.

    If you can get to a rehearsal then the easiest way to work out the best position is to take along a decent pair of headphones, plug them into the Zoom on Record-pause and move it around until you find the position which sounds the best and doesn't piss too many people off (if it's a live performance with an audience).

    As for lighting that's a decision you'll have to make since you know the venue. There are only two reasons to light a scene (1) to improve the look of the shot or (2) if it's too dark for the camera to work properly. If neither apply... leave it.

    (...actually there is a (3) If you've been booked to light it and you want to do something to earn your money)
    Last edited by Rembrandt Rob; 10-25-2010 at 07:42 PM.

  6. #6


    Again big thanks Rob, I never thought of just plugging in the head phones and seeing where sounds best like that. The H4n has the ability to record 4 separate tracks, although I haven't figured out how it's done yet, so I was going to record the choir with the zoom stereo mics and the piano on a separate track and mix it in editing.

    I'll see what the lighting is like tomorrow night.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
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    I'd be very interested to hear the results , Midnight. A few seconds from each of a few different positions (which you can descibe) should be enough to show how significantly the position can alter the sound.

  8. #8


    Well Tim, I've just got back and had a listen. To my old worn out ears, full of tinnitus and muffles, I couldn't really get a bad sound without going yards away. The acoustics in the church where really quite good and the zoom performed really well. I even took the zoom right to one side and it still picked up all the areas of the choir well. I'll post a few samples soon.

  9. #9


    Here is the results of the test.

  10. #10


    Very interesting. Thank you for taking the time to post. Some nice sounds there!

    If it is an electric piano, could it be DI into the H4n? And then attempt to reduce the amount of piano sounds into onboard mics.
    Personally, if mixing in the piano, I would use the 'haas effect' to make the piano appear to one side in the stereo mix. At the moment, I suspect you have simply panned the piano channel slightly to one side; otherwise the volume of the choir is unnatrually lower in volume.

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