September 27 Soprano taping at St Martin’s Lutheran

Over the past six months, I have been attending Lutheran churches to help my mom (who recently moved to Austin) find a congregation to join. My folks had always attended St Martin’s when they visited in the past, which is also well known among musicians due to its reverberant acoustics. During Mom’s search, I have enjoyed discovering perhaps half a dozen smaller Lutheran churches, each with a wonderful congregations and unique acoustics. 

All that to say, I was happy to get a call from former Austinite and Austin Opera Chorus soprano Kathryn Grumley, saying she was coming back to town to tape some songs for audition purposes. There were some good reasons she chose Austin over her new hometown of Phoenix to do the taping. Firstly to work with Nyle Matsuoka, her trusted and perceptive pianist & coach. Secondly, she wanted to work within the wonderful acoustics of St Martins. Finally, after doing a handful of similar projects with us in the past, Tonehaus is a place she clearly trusts to handle her digital media needs. 

Logistics, Gear and Workflow

Reserving the space was a breeze. We decided on a Tuesday afternoon for the taping. I brought both my trusty Tascam location recorder and pair of Schoeps mics to cover the audio portion. For the video I brought two of our Panasonic BGH1’s, the little cameras that pack so many professional features in such tiny bodies. If you’ve read any of my blogs here, you’ll already know that I chose this camera for this kind of work based on its value:cost ratio, which is extremely high. After suffering through an orchestra season of manually syncing media from cameras without sync or timecode features, I said never will I waste another hour of my life futzing with lining frames up by eye. For Kathryn’s taping, it was simply a matter of setting up the master clock on Tascam, and turning on the wireless timecode/genlock boxes on the cameras. Once in the editing system, all the audio and video media lines right up in a matter of keystrokes. Huge timesaver and allows billable time to be spent on creative points, not ‘office work.’ 

There are more ways to skin a cat. Although I am still learning about techniques to manage syncing and recording multiple cameras that are “less expensive,” or require “less specialized equipment,” I have not come across anything that can do the job better, faster or in a way that allows for such flexibility. Using the timecode and sync paradigm remains superior. 

What else is there to say about this session? It was an absolute joy. Kathryn’s voice is sublime. Nyle’s sensibilities are fantastic. The tech setup was trustworthy and straightforward. 

The biggest obstacle with this production was that I wanted to dim the house lights, couldn’t. The church was in the middle of an audio board replacement, and the light board was also unavailable. I had to put up some light panels up to get more light on Kathryn’s face than the background, and I would have preferred to have gone for a more dramatic look in general. Regardless, I will want to put up a hair light next time to give to add an extra edge, literally and figuratively, of a professional look.