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How can I improve my audio for standard interview setups?

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Sophia Smoloka
How can I improve my audio for standard interview setups?
on Aug 19, 2014 at 11:09:11 am


I film a lot of interviews for a job I do at the moment at a company. They provide all of the equipment and with what I've got and a bit of investment in new equipment, I would like to achieve better results. Audio isn't really my expertise and I'm struggling a bit with what I've got at the moment.

The usual setup: 1 person is interviewed, someone behind the camera asks the questions. So I only need good audio from the interviewee. I use 1 tie mic on the person recorded to two channels and that's usually it. The mic goes via an XLR extension into the camera where I can manually adjust the levels. I also have a Rode VideoMic that's seen better days - it's an older version, not sure from when. I use it as a second mic sometimes but in terms of audio quality it doesn't add anything in an interview situation - in fact, it seems quite noisy to me. The tie mic on it's own produces ok audio but a lot of the time there are issues with it (hence the post).

The main audio issues I encounter: rustling sound from the clothes, background noise, a low frequency 'rumbling' noise. I have attached an audio file that shows the latter a bit - it's two short "silent" bits stitched together. There is just a line of noise at the low frequency end that I would describe as rumbling (I isolate it in Adobe Audition). It's not difficult to get rid of this kind of noise but I wonder why it's there in the first place. Perhaps it's just background noise or something to do with the levels.

The most annoying issue is the rustling sound, which can get quite bad when the interviewee moves around a lot and certain types of clothes make it worse (e.g. shirts). That sound seems to get picked up by the mic even if the clothes aren't actually touching the mic per se - sometimes, the clothes do come in contact with the mic though and then you get a nice rubbing sound that I find very distracting. And I can't get rid of it in Audition.

The other issue is that there aren't any perfectly quiet rooms in the office - eventually, someone always walks past the room we are filming in, preferably with heels. These are isolated issues and I don't think there is a great deal I can do about it - except perhaps using a cardioid mic instead of an omni-directional one?

The problems I have identified: I can't really secure the tie mics properly on the person. They always somehow bend back to the body and start rubbing against the clothes. They don't have a brand name and I didn't buy them so I don't know anything about them. I had a quick look on eBay and I think that's them (or at least they are similar):

I can't stop filming to re-secure the mics all the time - the people we interview mostly don't have time and patience for that. I also can't ask them to unbutton their shirts and place the mic below the clothes (but with the mics I have at the moment, that's not an option anyway). They are just normal people who come in to talk about what they do a bit - so I need to be quick and what I do with the mics needs to work more or less instantly.

The VideoMic obviously doesn't pick up the rustling noise but it is quite noisy and as it's attached to the camera, I'd have to increase the levels if I wanted to use it as my only mic in an interview situation, which of course doesn't exactly help.

My questions is: how do I get rid of the rustling sound? That's really my main concern. Anything else is a bonus. Do I get a new tie mic, a better quality boom-type mic or do I just need to figure out how to use what I have better?

Before this, I had Sennheiser wireless mics and a great Rode boom mic and pole and never had any issues with my audio setup (I didn't own them obviously as otherwise I'd be using them). So I've never had to get creative with how I do things to get better results.

I have identified a few tie mics (below) - I could probably persuade them to get one of those for me but it can't be anything too fancy (<200$). I haven't looked into boom mics but the whole setup including a boom stand would probably get quite expensive. I'm a one man band so I would need a stand I think.

Audio Technica AT803B Lavalier Mic
Audio Technica AT831R Cardiod Lavalier Mic
Audio Technica MT830R (MT-803R) Miniature omnidirectional condenser microphone
SHURE SM93 miniature lavalier mic

Any help would be much appreciated!

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Ty Ford
Re: How can I improve my audio for standard interview setups?
on Aug 20, 2014 at 3:24:20 am

Hello Sophia and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

You don't say where you attach the lavs. The placement may be part of the problem and how you rout the cable back through the clip. I always use a 2" squared piece of G-tape to secure the mic cable inside the garment. It keeps things looking neater and also damps clothing and body rub.

Normally, boom mics locked down just out of frame (very close to the interviewee) sound better than lavs. But not always. The lavs you have should work fine. Be aware that the cardioid lavs have to be very carefully placed because they are directional.

It sounds like you need to find quieter places to do your interviews.


Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader.

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog

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Sophia Smoloka
Re: How can I improve my audio for standard interview setups?
on Aug 20, 2014 at 3:46:21 pm

Hi Ty,

Thanks for your reply!

I usually attach the lav to the jacket if they have one, or the collar or tie - depending on what they are wearing. I try to hide the cable but I don't mind if the actual mic shows.

With the clips I have, I can't really make a double loop and the cables are quite thick so running them through the clip once more to make a loop would probably make everything even more wobbly.

Do you perhaps have a picture of how you secure the mic?

Here's one of the mics and the clips I have.

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Craig Alan
Re: How can I improve my audio for standard interview setups?
on Aug 24, 2014 at 3:25:30 am

[Ty Ford] "The placement may be part of the problem and how you rout the cable back through the clip."

Could you post a picture of proper routing? It's a single loop, right?

[Ty Ford] "I always use a 2" squared piece of G-tape to secure the mic cable inside the garment."

And another pic where you tape the cable in relation to the clip?

These would be helpful. I try to get the cable to be still and the mike a bit off any direct contact with clothing but always feel like it's trial and error.

Do you use the neopax belt or something similar for the transmitter?

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.

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