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Using Leakage to Your Advantage When Miking an Orchestra

Sennheiser MKH 8040

Veteran scoring mixer Dan Wallin was in charge of all of the live and prerecorded music for the 81st Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on February 22. Wallin worked in Remote Recording’s Silver Studio backstage, and selected Neumann TLM 193, TLM 170 and Sennheiser MKH 8040 (pictured) wired mics to capture the orchestra. Wallin discovered that the MKH 8040 mics suited his preferred mixing style of allowing instruments to “leak” in from adjacent sections. According to Wallin’s assistant engineer, Mike Aarvold, “Dan had me raise the MKH 8040 woodwind mics about three or four inches to get a bit more leakage and increase the apparent size and excitement of the overall sound. Dan really liked the uncolored, off-axis leakage of the brass into the woodwind mics.”

Remote Recording president David Hewitt, returning for his 16th Academy Awards broadcast, agreed that the Neumann microphones, especially the TLM 170s, performed very favorably on the telecast. “They’re so transparent and smooth,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the proper off-axis response of those things, so that the leakage doesn’t give you a lot of colored sound. What leakage you do get is complementary to the overall mix.”

In past years the string overhead mics were balanced with individual clip-on mics, but Hewitt says that this year there was almost no need for clip-on mics. “I was surprised, because the mic we usually use does seem to bring up way too much drum leakage. But the MKH 8040s on the overheads were tight enough that they didn’t bring up all the drum leakage and wash us out. What leakage there was, was coherent and added to the overall mix without detracting because of phase cancellation.”

To capture the prerecorded orchestral music for ABC’s telecast, Wallin used a collection of Sennheiser and Neumann microphones at Capitol Recording Studios in Hollywood. He positioned MKH 8040 cardioid mics over the woodwind/saxophone sections, the harp and the timpani. He also used Neumann TLM 193s on the trumpets, trombones and French horns, with TLM 170s on the piano, guitar, drum overheads and the string entire section. Wallin also used his personal collection of TLM 170 Jubilee mics at Capitol. “The pattern is right on it, and the Jubilees have such a sweet sound,” he explains.

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