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When most people think of a wedding, the visuals come to mind. The ceremony, the reception hall, being surrounded by friends and family, and of course the beautiful white dress. As it is increasingly common for couples to want their special day filmed as well as photographed, however, the sounds of the day as well as the visuals will now be committed to memory. Weddings, especially the receptions and parties that follow the ceremonies, are full of spontaneous moments whose audio you need to capture as best you can as it happens—there will be no Take Two. Having the right audio gear for the job will allow you to provide the happy couple with sounds from their special day, captured for live sound and recording as beautifully as the visuals.
It’s a fairly common practice for videographers to put a wireless lavalier microphone on the groom and/or the officiant of a wedding ceremony. The wireless system that you use needs to have a compact, battery-powered receiver that can mount to the shoe of a video camera, a small beltpack transmitter that you can hide on the subject, and a tiny omnidirectional lavalier microphone that you can clip to the subject’s jacket, or better yet, exercising a little ingenuity—hide completely from view. Three systems that are well-equipped for this task are the Sennheiser ew 112-p G3, the Sony UWP-V1 and the Shure FP Wireless.
If you’re not interested in purchasing a system with a lavalier microphone and a beltpack transmitter, and you would rather just have a wireless handheld mic that people can easily hold in order to give spontaneous testimonials to the camera during the reception, the Sennheiser ew 135-p G3, Sony’s UWP-V2, or the Shure FP 25/SM58 systems are what you’re looking for. All three kits include a handheld vocal microphone with a built-in transmitter, and a battery-powered receiver that mounts to your camera.
Perhaps you’d like a beltpack transmitter and a lavalier mic to capture the ceremony, and then be able to switch to a handheld wireless microphone for other moments of the wedding. What you need is a combo kit, such as the Sennheiser ew 100 ENG G3, Sony’s UWP-V6, or Shure’s FP 135/83. All of these kits include a lavalier mic, a portable receiver and a transmitter, as well as a plug-in transmitter with an XLR input. You attach the plug-in transmitter to the XLR connector on a handheld, dynamic microphone. Sennheiser’s MD46 Dynamic Handheld Mic is a good choice for this application, because its cardioid pick-up pattern will help to reduce background noise at a cacaphonous reception. Keep in mind that you cannot run the beltpack transmitter and the plug-in transmitter at the same time; a combo kit just gives you the option of using one or the other.
Not every moment in the ceremony and reception can be captured up close with personal mics. However, an external shotgun microphone can capture better-sounding audio than the built-in mics on your camera. In fact, the built-in mics on your camera may also record the sound of the focusing motors. Shotgun mics are designed to have a directional pick-up pattern and reject as much off-axis sound as possible, great for capturing that exchange of wedding vows with more clarity than your camera's built-in mic. For panning around the room, try pointing your shotgun mic at the ceiling to avoid wild fluctuations in volume levels. Integrating a shotgun mic into your camera system is fairly painless, and there are numerous options available with impressive feature sets.
The Sennheiser MKE 600 mounts right onto your camera with its included shockmount. It has a switchable low-cut filter that removes rumble and handling noise as well as a foam windshield that cuts down on wind noise. The MKE 600 features a standard XLR output. It is powered by 48-volt phantom power or two AA batteries. The NTG2 from Røde has a full 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, along with a high-pass filter at 80 Hz to eliminate handling and environmental noise. Like the MKE 600, it has an XLR output and requires either 48-volt phantom power or a single AA battery for operation.
An exciting addition to Røde’s line of shotgun mics is the VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Suspension System. The VideoMic features a 3.5mm mini-plug output, so it's ideal for those who will be tracking their audio directly to a DSLR or a consumer camcorder. What makes this mic particularly exciting is the Rycote Lyre Suspension System, which is made of a durable thermoplastic that helps to eliminate handling and cable noise. The mic itself includes a high-pass filter at 80 Hz and selectable 10- and 20 dB pads.
Røde continues to up the ante with the VideoMic Pro. Like its older sibling, the VideoMic, the VideoMic Pro has a 3.5mm output and is designed for mounting on a DSLR camera. The Pro has a 20 dB boost that lowers the amount of gain required by your camera’s built-in preamp, essentially reducing unwanted camera noise. It has an integrated shockmount and foam windscreen as well, to reduce handling noise.
An efficient way to increase the quality of the audio you capture is to integrate a digital recorder into your setup. The Zoom H1 has built-in stereo mics set to an X/Y position and automatic gain adjustment. The Tascam DR-05 features stereo omnidirectional mics and controls designed to have single-handed operation. The POCKETRAK C24 from Yamaha is impressively slim and comes in at only 2 ounces. All three have inputs for use with external mics and USB 2.0 outputs for uploading audio to a computer. The Zoom H1, The Tascam DR-05, and Yamaha POCKETRAK C24 can all track in quality up to 24-bit/96 kHz to microSD cards.
The need for an expanded features set and multi-track recording does not mean you need to look past the efficiency and convenience of a handheld recorder. The Zoom H4n can track up to four channels of audio to microSD cards, features two combination XLR/TS inputs and a 3.5mm mic input for connecting external mics. It also has X/Y stereo condenser mics with adjustable patterns.
The Tascam DR-100mkII features four built-in microphones as well as dual XLR selectable mic or line inputs. It has a built-in rechargeable battery, limiter and low-cut filter. Roland’s R-26 brings some very impressive power to the world of handheld recorders. It has a touch-screen LCD, a pair of built-in stereo directional mics and a pair of built-in stereo omnidirectional mics, and supports up to six channels of simultaneous recording. It also has two combo XLR/TRS and a 3.5mm input for use with external microphones.
Monitoring is one of the most important aspects of recording, and recording sound in a boisterous and often uproarious wedding environment presents unique challenges. You’ll want to select headphones that provide an accurate response with some noise isolation, and that are comfortable enough to wear for extended periods.
The Senal SMH-1000 are closed back, over-ear headphones that feature an EQ curve that decreases ear fatigue by smoothing out the mids. The slight bass boost will help you quickly identify low-frequency noise. The headphones have a detachable, twist-locking cable. Senal includes a 3’ straight cable, which is a handy and short length for plugging into a camera, and a 10’ coiled cable. It has a collapsible design for quick storage, and replaceable ear cushions.
Sony’s MDR-7506 Monitor Headphones have a well-earned reputation for being reliable and are a go-to solution for many for recording purposes. They have a foldable, over-ear design and a 9.8’ coiled cable. The Sony MDR-7502s also have an over-ear design but feature a straight two-meter cable.
Stepping away from camera audio for a moment, let's take a quick look at some live sound gear. A solid and reliable handheld dynamic mic is like money in the bank, and there is no shortage of affordable, well-made options. Many ceremonies are going to have some sort of PA system for the toasts and speeches, and these handhelds are perfect for that job.
The SM58-LC from Shure is a mic whose reputation precedes it. The mic has a built-in pop filter to reduce noise, and construction that is designed to take abuse without affecting performance. The Sennheiser E835 has a metal body and a shock-mounted capsule that helps in noise reduction. It has a slight presence boost designed to bring out vocal frequencies. Audix’s OM2 is tuned to provide even bass and mid-range responses, is made in the USA and is designed to shine when used with a PA system.
In any instance where you're trying to capture live audio, the importance of preparedness cannot be overstated. You will never regret having some extra cables you can grab quickly. Having a variety of adapters within reach will also help if you need to integrate different equipment into your system quickly, such as attaching your gear to various kinds of DJ systems for recording the reception. Also, you should never show up to an event without extra batteries ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
Proper equipment storage and transport will help keep your systems running for years to come. Storage and transport options range from sturdy padded equipment storage bag to a plastic case for your wireless systems or an organizer bag that is designed to hold your equipment during use.
Weddings are filled with special moments that the couple and their families will want to remember for years to come. Having the right equipment and knowing when to use it will make capturing these moments easier. Whether it is capturing the ceremony with precision or the joy and atmosphere of the reception, you will not get a second chance to get the sound from these moments recorded, so preparation is key.
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