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Todd Terry
Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 21, 2016 at 10:08:54 pm

Hello gang...

I'm a foreign face here... although I haunt the COW daily and host several forums, they are all on the visual side of things. I'm here in a bit of unknown territory on the audio side, so it's a foreign land to me. Hope someone in here can help....

ANYwho... we have a potential commercial shoot coming up where I might need to mic four or possibly five people riding in a car... the setup is sort of like James Corden does on his show with "Carpool Karaoke" if you've ever seen that. I think I need lavs for this, which I never ever EVER use anymore, so I don't even know anything about them.

I almost exclusively boom for dialog (Sennheiser MKH-416 mics, predominately)... I literally can't even remember the last time we actually wired talent and put a mic on an actor, so I'm definitely a fish out of water.

So... any particular brand/model that you'd target? AND... do you know of any rental vendors for such?

Just doing some Googling I've found a lot of microphone rental sources, but their inventories almost exclusively seem to be WIRELESS mikes, whereas in this case I'm perfectly happy with hardwired mics (which will be feeding recorders in the car). Seems to me that going with radio mics is just adding another step of something that can go haywire... but I could be wrong about that and that might end up being the best choice.

I would (and still will) ask the guy who normally does our audio engineering for advice, but he seems unreachable this week and I'd like to be able to go ahead and put together a budget. Plus more heads are better than one.

Any wisdom is appreciated.... and much thanks in advance.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bruce Watson
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 21, 2016 at 10:50:29 pm

[Todd Terry] "... we have a potential commercial shoot coming up where I might need to mic four or possibly five people riding in a car... the setup is sort of like James Corden does on his show with "Carpool Karaoke" if you've ever seen that. I think I need lavs for this, which I never ever EVER use anymore, so I don't even know anything about them."

The usual suspects are, in no particular order, Sanken's cos-11D, DPA's 4060, Countryman's B6, Tram's tr-50, Oscar SoundTech's 801/802, and no doubt others that don't come readily to mind. Some of these are made for mounting on people and under clothing (high frequency bump to make up for the high frequency lose due to the clothing), so which you choose might depend on how you place the mics. Most of these mics have available XLR power converters so you can power then with phantom power. Many (most?) can be terminated for whatever you need -- I have a pair of OST 802s that I had terminated for Sennheiser wireless, but also have the XLR converters also in Sennheiser, so I can use the mic wired, or with a Sennheiser radio. This makes life with lavs much easier IMHO.

Do go wired if you can. Wired is better sound quality, higher reliability, and way cheaper than wireless. And it's a no-brainer if the mixer/recorder are withing a few meters of the source.

You might want to mount the mics on the individual performers. But you might also want to mount them on the car itself. Sun visors make a great spot for mics for example; very similar to booming. Center consoles can work. Gaff taping to the roof liner, etc. All depends on how creative you feel.


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Richard Crowley
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 21, 2016 at 11:07:06 pm

Some sleuthing reveals that your location is Huntsville, AL
The nearest major rental house is probably Trew Audio in Nashville
They have several wired lavs and other types of mics available for rental.

Many people use lavs or boundary mics on visors or on the ceiling.
Depending on what you are doing maybe one or two lavs or boundary mics would cover all 4 subjects???


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Todd Terry
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 22, 2016 at 3:34:46 am

Thanks guys for those suggestions. I'll look at those models and see what my audio guy has to say if he ever chimes in, and I will check out Trew Audio as well. Yes, Nashville is just up the road from us, so to speak.

I think I definitely need to put mics on each of my cast. We need good clean audio (well, as clean as possible under the circumstances), and will be in a noisy open convertible vehicle in real traffic... so I don't think boundary mics or mics at any greater distance than on each actor will do the job.

I do definitely want to go wired. Distance should be no issue, the Zoom recorders can be on the floorboard, or even in seats beside the actors... either two or three H4n's, depending on whether we end up with a cast of four or five. Each mic will be recorded independently, there will be no need for any on-location mixing. Phantom power will not be a problem either, if needed. Just need to figure out which hardware is the way to go. Oh, and yes all mics will be hidden under clothing.

I'm not a fan of lavs, as I said, and I almost cringe whenever I hear one used in a movie. I love the sound of the 416 when booming, it has such a natural and warm open sound... whereas even the highest-end lavs just sound so sterile to me. I think in this case though that lavs are the way to go.

Appreciate the advice!

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bruce Watson
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 22, 2016 at 2:46:51 pm

[Todd Terry] " We need good clean audio (well, as clean as possible under the circumstances), and will be in a noisy open convertible vehicle in real traffic... so I don't think boundary mics or mics at any greater distance than on each actor will do the job."

So... you want to record dialog inside a hurricane? I'm thinking this isn't going to be a great idea. The problem is wind buffeting the lavalier(s). I'm thinking you're going to want to body mount the lav (tape to skin) to get it as far under clothing as possible, then you're going to want to use a windblocker (something like the Rycote Undercovers). I would definitely use omnis, though you may be tempted to go directional. Omnis do better in the wind because of their design (back side of capsule is sealed).

Lack of headphone monitoring might well hurt you here. You're going to have to listen to every recording (all five) after every take to make sure that you don't have any lav. in the group that's having wind problems, or mount problems. Or some actor didn't turn your recorder on when you told him to. Etc.

You may find in the end that your dialog just doesn't pass the understandability test, and you may have to ADR it all anyway. I'm just sayin' to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. If you need to do that, it won't hurt you to have a mic on the car recording the sounds of traffic that's upwind of the actors so you minimize dialog bleed. If you have to ADR, you'll need that "room tone" for the post audio work, and it'll have to match the video of the take that you actually use so that the sound of the traffic matches the actual traffic that you see in the scene.

Good luck with it. Might be quite the challenge.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 22, 2016 at 6:24:18 pm

Thanks, appreciate pointing to the Rycote Undercovers. I've lived in a world of big fur windjammers for so long that I didn't know what all was out there.

I think this will be challenging but not impossible, I believe. Years ago I did a long piece with two guys driving in a convertible, both were mic'd and the audio was just fine (in that case those were radio mics). It's actually not nearly as windy inside a convertible as many non-ragtoppers think, and because of the vortex the wind actually comes from behind not from the front. The image of a beautiful blonde with hair blowing back behind her in a convertible is a total myth... the wind actually goes the other way (watch some long-haired gal or guy getting beat to death in the face by their long hair on the road someday), so I think that wind will be manageable. Amusingly, this is what really happens....



There would be some wind, sure, but in usual worn positions the mic is actually fairly well wind protected. It's really more traffic and sound-on-the-street that I'm concerned about... and noise from our hero car itself, as in this case it will be practically driven rather than towed (unfortunately).

This is unscripted with non-pro actors ("real people') so looping is not a consideration, we have to get it live.

Headphone monitoring will be a little bit of a pain, but of course we'll listen to all takes obviously. A little troublesome but not a big deal at all. We could feed the Zooms' headphone outputs to transmitters to enable live monitoring, but that almost falls into the more-trouble-than-it's-worth category, and we'd need a couple of extra sets of ears in the camera vehicle. Might do that anyway. I'd probably task the most technically-proficient of the talent with the job of making sure all the recorders are rolling, and a PA whose job is it to remind them at each take. A potential for screw-ups, still, but if vigilant about it I think that's ok.

Appreciate the particular mic recommendations... that's the part I'm concerned about at this point and was posting about. Thanks for the suggestions, will definitely be checking them out and testing...

Thanks!

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Todd Terry
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 29, 2016 at 9:30:30 pm

I was able to do some testing and just thought I'd give an update.

Just as a test today I grabbed my editor and we did some ragtop riding in my better half's convertible. I was wearing a lav, and so was he... both under our shirts. I couldn't monitor through headphones well, se we just rolled sound and went out driving, having a normal conversation at 10, 20, 30mph for a while, on various roads near our studio, and then out on a highway at speeds up to 60mph. I had the radio off and also the car's AC off (yes I'm one of those people who will run the AC even in a convertible on a hot day... it works). We drove for a while with the windows down, and then also put the windows up. The top was always down.

Back in the studio I listened to it and was a little surprised.... there was no wind noise. Zero. Not even a hint of any. That was the good part.

The bad news is that even though we had the mics fairly close, the environment was pretty loud. I could hear the car fairly well, and the traffic around us pretty darn loud. I'm not too sure how to deal with that, as our test was only with two mics and for the real shoot we will be using four... so I'm guessing that's 4x the ambient sound. Plus... we were driving a modern MiniCooper which is no doubt quieter than the big vintage American 1960s era vehicle that will be the picture car (and unfortunately it has to be practically driven, it can't be towed). So, I'll have to figure out a way to deal with all that. The ambient sound is far too continuously variable to sample it for removal like we easily do for room tone.

If anyone has any brilliant ideas there, I'm all ears.

But hey, at least there was zero wind.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bruce Watson
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jun 30, 2016 at 7:23:36 pm

[Todd Terry] "...even though we had the mics fairly close, the environment was pretty loud. I could hear the car fairly well, and the traffic around us pretty darn loud. I'm not too sure how to deal with that..."

Signal to noise ratio with audio is not that difficult -- you just have to get the mics closer to the talents' mouths. Easier said than done of course. ;-) You can also effect signal/noise ratio by choosing a more directional microphone polar pattern, but this is dangerous in lavs; it requires rigorous training of your talent. If they move their mouth(s) out of pattern it's difficult to impossible to fix in post, and if they dip their chins toward the mic they can make the directional mic proximity effect a variable. Your post guy may become irritable with you. Just to be clear how I feel about the trouble directional lavs can be, I have to tell you that I no longer own any; all my lavs are omni. Which brings me to earsets:

If you can sufficiently control your blocking (e.g. use a single camera), you might be able to get away with ear-set mics, like the Countryman E6 series. That is, put the mic on the opposite side of the head from the camera so it isn't seen. You can also hide them on eyeglass frames, baseball hat brims, etc. It might be possible, and it might not, but it might be worth investigating. If you can do it, you can rent a handful of these mics for the day or two it takes you to film this scene.

The joy of this approach is that, since the mic is attached to the head (and therefore moves with the head) you can much more easily use directional mics (cards, even hypercards). This can really help improve your signal/noise ratio. Yet, they will also be more susceptible to wind buffeting noise (a pressure omni's capsule is sealed so the back of the diaphragm can't see the wind, a directional mic can't be sealed like this). And your talent isn't going to talk out of pattern, or change proximity effect by moving closer/farther away which makes audio post much easier.

If you have the money/time/talent, you can just leave the earset mics in the shot and rotoscope them out of the shot in post. Yeah, I didn't think you'd like that one either. But it's been done before.

You can also use some compression in post to push the noise level down some. As long as there's some level difference between the signal and the noise to start with. If they overlap, compression isn't much help. And don't go too far or you'll end up with audible artifacts.

Good luck with it.


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Todd Terry
Re: Lav mic recommendations
on Jul 1, 2016 at 4:45:31 am

Thanks for reply... and all great suggestions. Most of which are (sadly) impractical in this situation (isn't that always the way?).

Yeah I don't think I'd even consider directional lavs (I frankly didn't even know such a thing exists). They sound like a lot of trouble and would be very finicky. Our talent is non pro-performers and will have their hands full already so I couldn't expect them to worry about head positioning and things like that.. besides I don't want to restrict them to looking like mannequins, anyway. Blocking out ear-set mics would be hard, we'll have nine GoPros simultaneously running in the car and that's gonna cover about every conceivable angle (and it's gonna be hard enough blocking out the cameras, let alone mics). Technically yeah we could get rid of them in post, but roto and wire-removal would take so much suite time that part alone would probably exceed the entire project's (modest) budget. Long before my wanna-be movie director days I was a wanna-be actor, and in those days on stage we frequently wore mics in our hair, so that thought crossed me... but I'm thinking that while the usual-on-the-chest position is very wind-protected in a car, that other positions might be a lot more wind vulnerable.

It's always something huh?

I have a feeling I'm being the audio version of one of those guys we get posting in the cinematography and lighting forums, newbies who insist on very complicated lighting and camera setups, but have neither the budgets nor expertise to pull them off.

We'll figure out something. I definitely do appreciate all the advice.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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