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Pre-screening recording

EstherDadEstherDad Registered User Posts: 22 Junior Member

My first post. DD is applying to several conservatories and Univ/cons combos for violin performance. I had a question on the quality of the recording that should be produced for pre-screening. Should we use professional recording engineer? What kind of space should we use?


Replies to: Pre-screening recording

  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    This comes up every year. A few threads from the last couple of years are listed below.

    I also highly recommend this series of posts "A Parents' Guide to Conservatory Auditions" by one of our own Music Major posters: http://www.violinist.com/blog/karenrile/20139/15001/ - Since you have a violinist daughter, these posts will be ideal!

  • ScreenName48105ScreenName48105 Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    edited September 2016
    The last thread @SpiritManager listed above is one that I posted last year. If she's applying to Juilliard (mentioned in another thread), their pre-screens have to be audio-only. IMO, that puts more pressure on audio quality. It's not so much the recording engineer (since you can't edit) but having the right equipment. If it's just the violin and accompanist, I don't think you need to be in a studio; a space with good acoustics and a good piano will work, but good microphones would be an advantage.

    FWIW, we went into a studio because my son is a jazz saxophonist and his pre-screens had to be recorded with a live rhythm section (i.e. piano, bass and drums) and it was so much less stressful to just let the pros set up the mic's and record. But when all was said and done, my son didn't like any of the takes of his ballad, so he ended up re-recording it using his own equipment. He has good mic's (I work for Harman/AKG) but only a small audio box with two inputs, so that's what he used. He recorded it at school, in a rehearsal room, with his friends backing him up, and the piano was out of tune... but he passed all his pre-screens anyway, including Juilliard.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,849 Senior Member
    Is a Zoom H2 sufficient? Just wondering. We used that ages ago, but for composition....
  • SingingPianistSingingPianist Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Something that helped me a lot with the anxiety over my pre-screening videos was to watch the videos posted to YouTube by other people who had been accepted to the programs I was applying to. That made me realize I was way too worried about the production values. I ended up using a Zoom H2 and my phone to record everything in my home.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    The H2 will be fine, it has great sound quality, you don't need a professional recording for a pre screen. They are listening to see playing level, and a professionally engineered recording won't cover for the things they are looking for.
  • EstherDadEstherDad Registered User Posts: 22 Junior Member
    edited September 2016
    Thanks for the responses. After talking with over with DD, we decided not to hire professionals to do the recording. We have a good camcorder and an external microphone for it. I can separate the audio from the video using software for audio only prescreens. She felt that the luxury of being able to do many takes and removing the additional pressure was worth the possible downside.

    Regarding using H2, it seems like a fine audio recorder, but, I'm finding that many of the schools are asking for video. Are people recording audio and video separately and splicing them?
  • ScreenName48105ScreenName48105 Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    There are computer programs that will allow you to sync video and audio files. The H2 has stereo condenser mic's but, IMO, I think you'll get comparable results with a camcorder and a decent external mic.

    We have a Zoom H1 and a Q8. The H1 is similar to the H2 (which has been discontinued, I believe.) Our H1 has an external output line, not sure if an H2 does. They have the same pair of condenser mic's. My son loves the H1; relatively inexpensive, compact, and handy to have at rehearsals, for practicing, etc. The Q8 is a video recorder with the same pair of condenser mic's plus two XLR mic inputs. The Q4 is similar but doesn't have the 2 external inputs.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    You can also use the H2 as a pretty decent external microphone. I would be careful about recording the audio and video seperately (and this is just my take), schools are pretty sensitive to the possibility of cheating (like splicing together performances, or doing something like having the video of a student, with someone else's playing on the audio track), so I would recommend recording the audio and video as one, and if you need an audio only strip it from the video recording. I know one school that started using regional auditions, rather than allowing submission of video audition tapes, because they ended up with a number of students who weren't as good as advertised.....

    Like others said, it doesn't have to be perfect.
  • SingingPianistSingingPianist Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Another potential downside to separate audio and video recordings is sync issues. Because the 2 devices are using their own internal clocks instead of a shared one they can get out of alignment. On a short segment it probably wouldn't be noticeable, but on something more than a few minutes long it could end up looking like a bad overdub. The only way to fix it would be to manually delete or duplicate a video frame every so often, which I can tell you from experience is extremely tedious. This is why professional audio and video production businesses often have a master clock that all their devices listen to.
  • boyetusaboyetusa Registered User Posts: 16 Junior Member
    For my daughter's pre-screen videos, I used a Rhode videomic pro as external mic to a Canon semi-pro video cam. These are my personal eqpt. I have the ZoomH4 but didn't use it for backup audio. I was confident enough with Rhode condenser mic. With permission from the HS music teacher, we recorded on concert theater stage, with some piano. So there was minimal noise. I then analyzed the audio using Adobe Audition, and it was clean. My daughter checked it out and her flute teacher as well. In short, I was the audio and video engineer.
  • indeestudiosindeestudios Registered User Posts: 134 Junior Member
    For S's prescreens, audio was recorded with the combo, (drummer and piano), in a recording studio, while I simultaneously took video with a Zoom Q4. The recording guy gave us a flash drive with the wav files and I synced to the video. I'm by no means any kind of video whiz, but using iMovie to sync was easy and we had no issues. (The only prescreen he didn't pass was Juilliard, and that was audio only so syncing couldn't have been the issue.)

    That said, I'm certain that unless you are submitting for jazz bass or maybe drums with a combo, separate audio/video and even professional recording wouldn't be necessary. (Maybe not even then.) One of the schools wanted video of an unaccompanied bebop head, and S wasn't happy with his performance of it in the studio. He re-recorded that one on his iphone and submitted it with the studio synced recordings and passed the prescreen/was accepted to the conservatory.
  • toomanyflatstoomanyflats Registered User Posts: 12 New Member

    A couple of comments about the recorders. Zoom has a great name. I've used them for a number of projects (non-music) for years. The interesting thing about Zoom... they released a couple of products (R16 and R24 are the one's I tried) that work great as recorders but they have their own clock and will lose sync with video. No real reason to do it that way, but they did. It will take a while before there is a noticeable sync issue but it did cause some problems when recording a longer program. The H2 is great but it does not have XLR inputs so you will need to purchase a separate phantom power supply if you want to use it with many "professional" microphones. The onboard mics are fine but if you need to record with a better mic or to plug into a sound board, it is limited. Same as the Q4, very easy to operate but you are a bit limited with microphones unless you start to spend money. The biggest drawback about the Q4 is the battery life. It doesn't last that long and the battery compartment is located on the bottom of the camera so you need to un-mount the camera from the tripod to change batteries then try to re-set the frame. If you use an AC USB wall charger on the camera, it introduces a ground hum to your recording that you might not find until after the recording session. You can use an external USB battery that is used to charge your phone without this hum.

    The Q8 fixes the phantom power/microphone problem but may still have the battery issue.

    If looking at an H2 (which has been discontinued as far as I know), this is a similar product and pretty affordable. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=1218047&gclid=COnVlIKnis8CFQKQaQodXjsM5w&is=REG&ap=y&m=Y&c3api=1876,92051677682,&Q=&A=details There is a version 2 of this product but doesn't really add any value to someone doing audition recording. This is what my daughter uses to record her lessons.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    Your observations about the zoom products are correct, though with the Q3HD that my son has (I think the Q4 replaces it) the battery life wasn't that much a problem. In terms of external mics, you are right that they don't support the XLR inputs. However, with pre screens I doubt that people will need much more than the internal mics based on my experience with them. Given that these are not professional tools (the upper level zoom products have the inputs I believe) I think it would be good for most people.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,622 Senior Member
    I've been videotaping my son's violin performances for years using a Canon camcorder and Tascam digital audio recorder and sync them post using PluralEyes software. Just be sure that the "internal clocks" are the same for both the camcorder and the audio recorder to avoid any drifting. I personally prefer Tascam over Zoom as Zoom has been known to have its parts (battery lid, common customer complaints) break off easily. I also prefer Tascam as you can get an extended battery pack (attach to the recorder unit) for longer recording capability. Otherwise, the audio qualities are pretty much the same, whichever the brand you go with.
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