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A student of mine asked a question as to how to record screaming onset. He mentioned that the room they were in was quite reverberant and no matter what he did (limiter, pads, standing way back etc) he was still getting distortion. Does anyone have a solution to this or a technique to record screams in an environment like this and not get distortion?
I'm guessing you were trying it with a condenser microphone? A dynamic mic would probably be best for such a high volume sounds. Also try to use cardioid patterns to help prevent bleed from the reverberant walls.
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Create an impulse response of the location, and record the scream elsewhere.
I would say you're looking for a mic with a high SPL rating (Sound Pressure Level) (416 or MKH2 Lapel) and then setting your gain right down low and trying a couple of times to find a decent level using your faders to bring the levels up to optimum and your should be able to obtain a decent recording!
Using a cardioid dynamic mic will certainly help. If it is still too loud with the gain stages all the way down then use a in-line attenuator. Both Shure and PSC make a good in-line attenuator for about $35 and should be in every sound person's kit.