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Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)

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Kien Tran
Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 6, 2012 at 9:25:36 am

Hello. I've been a long time lurker of the great info on this site, and I could use some help.

I have been helping production for a group that covers various conferences (mostly at Moscone or the Venetian Sans) with a desk interviewer(s)/interviewee(s) setup. At any given time, there is always at least one person at the desk interviewing some C-exec or VP, but usually there are two interviewers.

In an ideal world, I would want to lav or over-ear mic everyone between each interview, but as we are doing everything live and kind of on the fly, I'm lucky to even 60 seconds between guests to take care of them. Currently, we've been using desk mics with Shure-58s which work well most of the time, but of course there are always the guests that sit back in their chairs and end up a foot away from the mic or talk completely off axis to the mic no matter how I try to position it. There are also the fun guests that like to bang on tables, of which no amount of shock mounting can really absorb.

Unfortunately, laving every guest is not an option as I'm not afforded the time to do so since the turn around time between each guest usualy non existent, and it's common to pull in guests that just happen to walk by the set. Even laving the hosts is a chore as they often switch out the interviewer at a moments notice, tag team style.

Further complicating things is the fact that at these events, we're often placed in the vendor/exhibitor area where the background noise can be a huge problem if the guest is soft spoken or off axis. While I can ride the gains well enough, it's gets quite crazy when I have to ride 4 mic channels at once while switching on the Tricaster.

My thought was to use 3-4 overhead shotgun mics, such as the AT897s or Rodes NRG-2s, to set & forget over the chairs where the various people will be seated. I think it would be a good way to not have to deal with wiring up a guest while providing good rejection of the exhibitor area background noise so I can concentrate less on riding gain constantly and more on following the conversation on the switcher.

Has anyone had to work in this type of setup and would this be a viable option? If not, is there a better "set & forget" type option that also allows me to not have to use face blocking desk mics?


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Jordan Wolf
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 6, 2012 at 2:59:02 pm

"...as we are doing everything live and kind of on the fly, I'm lucky to even 60 seconds between guests to take care of them...[u]nfortunately, laving every guest is not an option as I'm not afforded the time to do so since the turn around time between each guest usualy non existent, and it's common to pull in guests that just happen to walk by the set."

Kien, I speak from personal experience when I say that 60 seconds is plenty of time to stick a lav on someone. I understand the sporadic and random nature of these interviews, but you know what to expect, so just go with it. You don't need "perfect placement", or even a hidden wire (although that's always nice) - you want to get the audio and move on.


"Even laving the hosts is a chore as they often switch out the interviewer at a moments notice, tag team style."

Could you give us an equipment list and an idea of the signal chain?


"Further complicating things is the fact that at these events, we're often placed in the vendor/exhibitor area where the background noise can be a huge problem if the guest is soft spoken or off axis. While I can ride the gains well enough, it's gets quite crazy when I have to ride 4 mic channels at once while switching on the Tricaster."

Close-miking is the only way to go. The loudest sound at the mic wins...the mic doesn't care. It sounds like you are expected to do too much. You're being set up to fail, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. Things need to change, or everything is going to be substandard and guess who's going to get the blame???

Wolf
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Kien Tran
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 6, 2012 at 8:03:47 pm

"You don't need "perfect placement", or even a hidden wire (although that's always nice) "

I guess that is true. Visually I hate having the wire run down in front, but then again, I have having a desk mic in front even more.

"Could you give us an equipment list and an idea of the signal chain?"

We have 4 SM58s on deskstands on the table, which was a process setup long before I took over the production. They have gotten a couple sets of Sennheiser 100 G3s, which works until one of the hosts gets an important biz-dev call and walks off taking the lav with him. In any rate, wireless is a general no go at these events as there's so much cross talk it's a nightmare.

I'll prob just have to make to them get some AT803s, and replace the desk mics with those. I just have to run over there between guests and hook them in each time. This would be my ideal solution actually, as it gets me lavalieres without wireless.

The biggest issue is I have no PA to help me and am more or or less running everything on my own. I guess I just have to force them to take comercial breaks, of which I have been fighting to do for some time. This might be a good way to do it.


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Daniel de Homont
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 8, 2012 at 2:57:13 pm

Hi (this is my first post here, so hello everyone)
The situation describesd is a classic for a boom operator, either with a supercarioid or a short shotgun mic (depending on room reflexions and headroom in the cams frame).
60 seconds are usually enough to lav a speaker, especially if it does not need to be hidden. However lavs have quite a few cons.
What works in the controlled environment of a TV studio with dedicated staff and more or less experiences speakers does not necessarily apply elsewhere.
As lavs are "speaker-mounted" they are basically uncontrollable. They might fall off, catch clothes' noise, be touched by gesturing and so on. This will happen! And they might demand interruptions for some corrections.
What they can't do is replacing a boom op.
Just one example:
I've recorded a 3 person interview on a fair. When it was done, I took the lav and radio from one person while the other just quickly went away to his next appointment, forgetting he still carried my gear. It took me 30min to track him down.
From my professional point of view, it is not responsible to do a 3 speaker shoot without a dedicated sound person. I would refuse, as ones reputation is probably more important than any job.
If, for whatever reason, a boom op is not applicable, I'd consider a Schoeps Super CMIT (eventually on a cinela mount), on a rather heavy boomed tripod. (as sketched in this image).

This might however be a pricy thing to rent and not in every town available.


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Kien Tran
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 8, 2012 at 7:53:19 pm

@Daniel

Yeah, this is a solution I was looking at doing as well. Those Schoeps Super CMITs look amazing, but at nearly $5k a piece, it's probably out of our price range.

I was looking at using some AT8035s and setting up in the same way as you suggested. I have my own personal hatred for Lavalieres for your stated reasons.


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Daniel de Homont
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:23:29 pm

Well, the SuperCMIT is quite expencive, but so is a boom op. The Schoeps might do the magic, if your neighbours PA does not happen to be on the mic axis. Regarding the Audio Technica, I don't know it, but I doubt, that some low end shotgun with a long tube gives you a similar effect when lets say one meter + away. A conventional shotgun claims to be directional, but that only does not effect all frequencies. The mids, but mostly the low frequencies remain rather omnidirectional. You'll probably still have better results with a lav. If you do use lavs, well, you could use wired ones and lav' em up when they already sit. This way, they can at least not run away with it and you don't hassle with interference.
What if you pick a chair, that does not give that much room for leaning back and forward and use a supercardioid almost vertically? Probably not doable. Better suggest a standing situation, with a good old conventional affordable handheld mic, with a nice custom windscreen with your company logo.
I have few experiences with tablemount mics. Maybe a decent gooseneck might do the trick. If not, consider Cinela mounts. They are quite incredible, regarding decoupling. And the Minix 8000 or CCM with either Sennheiser or Shoeps cardioids are quite small.


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Daniel de Homont
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:30:09 pm

However the latter are still in the higher price range. However "only" somewhere under 2k USD.


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Kien Tran
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 9, 2012 at 7:03:15 am

@Daniel

Thanks for the input. I guess in the end I'm going to have to take some of this equipment to a Mall on a busy night and do some testing.

I'm still thinking heavily about the AT803 Wired Lavs though, which would force guests to stay at the table till I get them.

Fortunately, wireless options were never in consideration as I can never rely on them working with the polluted wireless space at a trade show.


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Richard Crowley
Re: Mic advice for noisy conference interviews at a desk (can't lav guests)
on Feb 10, 2012 at 6:43:08 pm

How experienced (or trainable) are the interviewers? Can they be taught how to effectively use a hand-held mic? Either for the questions AND the answers, or with a lav/headset on the interviewer, and holding a mic up to the mouth of the subject(s)?

Shure 57/58s would probably my LAST choice as an appropriate microphone for anything but a slacker garage band.

If you had an extra person for audio, I think it would be MUCH more effective to have them clip lavs on/off the people than to try to wield a boom mic in a situation like that.


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