Conference Audio

Simon Collins, of York Filming & Editing, and I filmed the first two days of a residential training programme at a hotel in York earlier this week and will be covering another 2 similar sessions in December and January. The client wants a resource that can be used by people unable to attend and as a refresher for those who were there.

The event, held in a large conference room with several break out spaces available, presented a number of challenges, principally how to capture the sound. Throughout the two days, one or two presenters, assisted by powerpoint, ran a series of workshops and activities including contributions from the delegates. A couple of radio mics had been provided but people are generally reluctant to use them and few people are trained at voice projection so sound levels were pretty low for much of the first day.

The presenters were not using a podium and tended to rove about the first third of the room so we couldn’t get in close to mic them up. We also had no idea where delegate contributions would be coming from so we had to try and cover the whole space as unobtrusively as possible.

Neither the space nor the budget were large enough to use boom operators, so we went with two fixed gun mics on stands facing the audience – one at the front and the other half way down the hall – and a rifle mic mounted on Simon’s camera. The two fixed mics are not as directional as the one on the camera and give good general coverage of the room. As Simon was covering whoever was speaking, his mic is ideal for picking audio at a distance.

To cope with the huge dynamic range presented by a room full of 50 to 60 people, on the second camera I used a single mic set to record onto both channels and adjusted channel 1 manually for each contributor but left the other channel on the auto limiter as a safety so that  bursts of sound, such as laughter or applause, do not cause clipping.

The end result will not be to broadcast standard but the client will get the product they want, something that will be a useful tool at a reasonable price. The delegates themselves will benefit and the process of making the film will not have detracted from their learning experience. I would have liked to light the hall because hotel down lighting is very unflattering, and I would have preferred to have three people on cameras and a couple of boom operators but that would have been over the top.

As it was, we had very positive feedback from the organisers who told us that several of the delegates had said they were worried about being filmed but the crew were so unobtrusive they forgot we were there.