My Experience recording the Lake Macquarie Philharmonic Orchestra

Audio Engineering and Sound Production Sydney student Giverny Du Preez and International student Sienna recently worked recording the Lake Macquarie Philharmonic Orchestra. We caught up with Giverny who told us all about the experience... 

The preparation; organisation, setup, recording and load out for The Lake Macquarie Philharmonic Orchestra’s project was an extremely successful; challenging and rewarding experience during my Trimester 6 at JMC Academy. I had elected to complete a 5.1 Surround Sound Mix of the concert for one of my Studio Major Projects, as I have developed a passion for recording acoustic ensembles, thanks to the teachings of the great JMC Lecturer Michael Carpenter. Since completing a Business Plan for a Trimester 6 course, I hope to implement my future plans to start a Freelancing acoustic ensemble recording company based in Newcastle and Sydney. For those of you who may not know, Newcastle is a vibrant city which plays host to a range of talented musicians who are members of a multitude of acoustic ensembles. There are opportunities for a new and youth-driven company to record the various styles of music which are regularly rehearsed and performed. I have spent the last two years working closely with musicians in Newcastle and have managed to record captivating works from a range of musical styles. As I have completed a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance (2013) at the University of Newcastle, I have gained contacts and through social media I have been informed of ongoing concerts, of which I keep the flyers as a memory. I have always strived to be an ambitious person and therefore recording an Orchestra has always interested me far more than tracking a Rock band for instance in the Studio. 

The process has always been the same since Trimester 4, when I was required to complete my first Location Recording of an acoustic ensemble. I would seek out concerts which were taking place within a timeframe of the recording assessment and then contact the Conductor for permission. This can be a very difficult process, as when communicating with different people, you sometimes have to alter your approach – some people are more open to the idea, while others may feel that you are imposing. If I wasn’t able to record a concert, I would ask permission to setup during a rehearsal time. So after putting this process into action, the Lake Macquarie Philharmonic Orchestra had an up and coming concert, of which I ended up contacting the event manager for the details. It so happened that the concert was to be filmed by Rod Barnes and distributed to a DVD. I was thrilled to hear this as I knew my Lecturers would be impressed with the magnitude of the project and I would learn new skills from tackling this. 

However great this project sounds on paper, I couldn’t get anyone to drive us to Newcastle with all the gear, so my fellow student and assistant Sienna and I transported everything (and I mean everything) via train. Fortunately, a very understanding parental carpool was provided on the other end but Sienna and I still joke about the bruises we received from literally carrying the tech gear from JMC to Central Station. Problem number one complete. 

Our next issue, wasn’t funny at the time after travelling all the way from Sydney but I still do laugh at this now – the event manager Mercia Buck had accidently not informed me that there would be a camera guy present, who was also using Pro Tools and Room Microphones. So half way through the setup I’m told our Main Stereo pair is obscuring a particular camera angle and that we have to lower the Microphone stand. That was problem number two. Once we had come to an understanding, we worked well together and had to learn to work as a team.

In fact, all Location Recordings are a team-based learning environment and this was tested when I was required to communicate with Sienna. As English is her second language, originally from Korea, Sienna often needed me to repeat the instructions during the setup and sound check. This was during the Orchestra’s last minute rehearsal, so I was glad to get a sound check, which helped us determine the angle and placement of the Main Stereo pair in particular.

Our next problem materialised in the form of the actual Microphone setup. I had borrowed a Zoom R16 recording desk from Scott Rankin, a Newcastle-based Audio Engineer, due to the easy of portability. This desk only allows you to apply Phantom Power +48 Volts from channel 5 onwards, if I recall, and as we were mostly using Condensers, the Banking function came in handy. Unfortunately, I had completely forgot about this due to dealing with the other problems and Sienna actually saved the day by re-locating the Microphone inputs. I also wasn’t informed that in order to get the SD Card out, a screwdriver is required. We found one backstage in the end and copied the RAW audio files to a laptop, phew, that was nerve-racking indeed. We also had issues with the Microphone female parts either being too small or too large for the Microphone stands, therefore we couldn’t screw the two together. A tool is required to change the sizes and fortunately we double checked that was included in the kit before leaving JMC. We would have had to Gaff Tape the Microphone shock mounts to the stands otherwise, not a professional look. 
As I’m currently working casually for Event AV (Audio Visual) Crewing companies (Showcall Crewing; Show Support, Australian Crewing and Crew on Call), I am required to roll cables; setup lighting configurations, run cables, plug in cables etc. I have found that through studying at JMC, this process has come quite natural and easy to understand because I have been exposed to audio-based technology on a theoretical and practical level while on campus. Obviously a Location Recording conducted under JMC study is on a much smaller scale to the events I help setup but through doing this, I have grown more confident with technology setup in general and feel I can understand the theory on a larger scale. Definitely studying the two Live Sound courses at JMC has helped with Showcall Crewing and Show Support shifts, as they use large-scale Line Array configurations, which I’ve had to adjust the splay angle. Through working for these companies, I have learnt many skills just by undertaking a hands on approach but I have found that the practical implementation has reinforced the theory I learnt at JMC. For the time being, I’m gaining experience in this area of audio so that I can save money for the future and simultaneously look for work in post-production audio (Foley and Sound Design). In 5 years time I would love to have my own Freelancing business up and running; as well as working in post-production audio overseas for film/TV and undertaking event crewing shifts if available.

My advice to students
would be to always conduct yourself in a professional manner; be organised, reliable and approach anything related to technology in a “nothing is too much effort” manner. Be ambitious, tackle more than a Pass grade and feel free to communicate with people in this industry when given the opportunity, you never know where it will lead you…  

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