When miking a crowd at a big show, I always use at least eight microphones, and often 10 or 12. If you only put up two mics at a hockey rink, it’s going to sound like 500 people – not 18,000.
I’ll put a shotgun and a cardioid on each side of the stage beside one another, usually parallel with the front of the PA speakers so there is no audible time delay. The capsules will be touching, to prevent phasing, and they’ll be pointed at 10th row centre. Each mic has a distinct sound. The shotguns give me specific clapping, and voices if the audience is singing along, without introducing too much bleed from the PA system. The cardioid provides a big wash of non-specific applause.
If the show is rigged, I’ll try to hang mics five and six from the ceiling to get that big ambience. I always ask myself, “If I were trying to light the entire audience with two lights, where would I put them?” That’s where the hanging audience mics should be placed, and the higher the placement, the more people you’ll hear. If it’s not possible to fly the mics, then I put them on tall stands along the boards at the blue line, pointed up at the crowd.
The seventh and eighth audience channels will be from a stereo mic at the FOH position, pointed back at the band. A stereo mic only requires one stand, and the two channels will always be in phase. FOH is a safe location to prevent theft, as it is usually roped off from the crowd.
If there’s time, I will fly another couple of pairs of mics in the lighting grid, trying to cover as much of the audience as possible. Obviously, you want to test your cables and mics before they are flown, because you won’t be able to get to them later on.
This technique gives the mix engineer a whole bunch of different options, especially if the mix is being done in 5.1 surround. The stage mics are panned 100 per cent to the front speakers, the hanging mic pairs are 50/50 front/rear, and the FOH stereo mic is routed entirely to the rear speakers, creating a very realistic sound field for the listener. We want to create the illusion that the listener is sitting 10th row centre.
During the mix, I might take the tracks containing the signal from the rear mic up a few dozen milliseconds to get it all in synch. For example, if the rear mics are 100 ft. from the stage, I would shift those tracks up 100 msec, as sound travels about 1 ft. per msec.
I usually end up rolling off everything below 200 Hz, and adding a bit on top at 10 kHz for clarity during the mix. The front mics will be louder in the mix than the rear mics.
Doug McClement launched LiveWire Remote Recorders in the summer of 1994, and has been doing location recording ever since. He’s been nominated for several awards and has several platinum albums under his belt. Visit www.livewireremote.com.