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Recording The Show

When a show is complete, the only element remaining is the finished video as a record of what happened during the event. More often these days, these videos are being utilized as a tool for training or marketing. But a common problem is that the sound portion of the video record can become secondary to the audio for the live audience.

At LMG, we review the potential uses of the finished video with our clients prior to doing the event. We discuss whether the video will be used for archival purposes or for some other purpose. These days the expectations for post-show videos have become much higher, and it has become increasingly challenging to create the proper sound for the audience as well as for the finished tape. The typical recording is to document the event--a DVD can then be produced after the fact, which is generally used to reach more people than those who attended the initial event. So the clarity and quality of the audio has become much more of a hot issue on show sites.

The Scenario
On the show site of many events, one person serves as the sound mixer, commonly referred to as the A-1, and mixes the sound for the audience. Simultaneously, the A-1 is also sending a record feed, which may be different from the sound being sent to the speakers in front of the live audience. The general focus of the A-1 is whether or not the live audience can hear the show. Some shows have significant complexity to them, which makes it challenging for the A-1 to properly mix the main audience signal and a separate record feed.

The recorded product can suffer. When shows are budget-challenged, there is usually one playback/record tape operator backstage who is not only playing tapes, but also monitors the record decks. The challenge is that the operator has a signal, but has no control over that signal. As a result, it is possible to set the levels, but the operator is off doing dual duty, acting as both the playback operator and the record operator. The live show goes off without a hitch and everyone is happy, but the final recording may not meet the expectations of the client.

Listen Up
To turn out a good record, you need the following: a dedicated record operator; an audio split; and an understanding of who is responsible for what.
You have to have a dedicated record op- not someone who is in charge of recording and playback. Although one person can set it up, once it goes to the playback mode the operator can change tapes, but can’t effectively monitor the sound.

You have to have a split to properly record and playback. The split separates the audio signals so you have one for the record and one for front of house. Having two audio signals enables your audio crew to mix a separate record feed, so it is specifically designed for recording versus audience purposes. This includes having a dedicated record-mixing operator separate from the one operating the main house mixing console.

You have to know what is expected of you. This is especially important when two different vendors (audio and video) are involved. If the audio isn’t right, who is responsible? Is it the person who’s sending the signal from the audio console, or the one listening at the tape deck? (And, if he was listening and it didn’t sound right should he have called to say, “Hey your audio isn’t right.”) If responsibility is established up front, there will be fewer hassles in the end.

A Final Note
For large-budget shows, I highly recommend getting a dedicated record-mixing operator with a split to ensure the quality of the finish record tapes. When you have the budget for that, it’s important to get someone who is a dedicated record operator versus a record operator who also does playback--in which case, the op is diverted and can’t fully listen for any specific sound issues.

If you don’t invest in making a quality audio--and video--recording, you potentially risk the only documentation of the show. Even though the actual show may have been flawless, your client may only remember what the show record illustrates... so make sure the records fully represent the live production.