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Exposed Lav or not

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David Weathersby
Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 2:05:38 am

I know this is an odd topic but I was with a few documentary filmmaker friends of mine and they were having a discussion that got a little heated. On one side was the directors and cinematographers who always hide a lav mic in a documentary project or do not use lav at all. The other hide the cable but not the mic itself. I'm usually a hide the mic person unless there is absolutely no way to do it without ruining the audio. I was curious if there was a consensus amongst this community on the topic. I thought I'd post in the cinematography forum because it is really a visual question.


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Todd Terry
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 2:28:02 am

I don't know if there is a consensus... but I definitely have my own opinion..

Personally, I hate seeing mics with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Well, maybe that's a little extreme, but I still hate them.

Actually, unless I really have to have to (which does sometimes happen), I'll almost never put a mic on talent. I will boom virtually everything. I usually use the Sennheiser MKH416, but I also have an older Audio-Technica shotgun (couldn't say the model) that happens to match it pretty exactly...I'll use that one in the occasional instance that I don't have phantom power.

I just really don't like the "lav sound"... even the very highest-end and most expensive lavs just have such a cold clinical sterile sound to them... whereas a good boomed setup like with that Sennheiser has such a warm open sound. It drives me nuts to hear scenes in a movie where the talent walks out of boom range and you can hear them cross-fade to the actors' radio mics.

I guess the one instance where it really doesn't both me is on a newscast or similar setup. Although... one of the TV stations in my town, their on-set news talent wears dual mics... which isn't that unusual except both mics have golf ball sized windscreens on them. I keep wondering, "Exactly how much wind do they have in that studio?" Someone must be propping the stage door open...

T2

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



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David Weathersby
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 2:43:13 am

I know what you mean. So is more visually seeing the mic or lav sound that you dislike? I'm just curious because when I first got started and I was "apprenticing" the Lav was always exposed. I've always been curious if it is a choice or did preferences change.


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Todd Terry
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:04:12 am

Well for me it's both... I hate seeing them, and I don't think they sound best either, even when not visible. I much prefer a boomed sound.

Of course hiding lavs well so that you still get good sound but don't have any clothing sounds (especially on moving talent) it an art itself... one that I have not mastered.

T2

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



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Mark Suszko
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:18:31 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:23:09 pm

I think the visible lav question is all about the context. Also, viewer attitudes about lavs have evolved over time, and if they will accept those horrible headset micro-boom things, lavs are no big deal anymore. In theatrical type applications, of course you hide them. For a sit-down interview, or talking to people on social media, certainly in training type media, I don't think anybody in the viewing audience cares anymore. I've worked with lavs all my career, hiding them as well as just hanging them, mostly it was an exigency because we've just never had the spare people to dedicate to boom operator, or the nature of the shoot precluded the use of shotguns and booms. Even today, I have a nice telescoping K-Tek and a decent boom mic that spend a year or more in my gear bag, unused, because I use the appropriate tool for the particular situation. And my situations don't generally need a boom. I can remember the last time I used the boom was, mic'ing a devout Muslim woman. Personal space is a concern there, and so to make a cultural accommodation, she was mic'd with a shotgun and boom. The shotgun can be useful too when you are moving a lot of people thru a pre-composed shot in a short time and you don't want to waste time mounting and de-mounting a lav; "Stand there, toes on the line, say your thing, thanks, next".

The big thing that I've been dealing with the past couple years is, lav orientation. Nobody knows audio better than the BBC. So when I started seeing them hang lavs on presenters "upside-down" to the way we'd always done it here, I looked into why, and it made a lot of sense that this guarantees your plosives and random breaths don't pop the mic. When I started trying it out here, our engineer lost his (redacted), could not wrap his mind around the concept that lavs are omnis and that there could be more than one way to orient them when visibly worn; "OMFG, YOU"RE DOING IT WRONNNNGGG!!! WTFBBQ!!11" More than once I've had to explain this to people who see it and think it's a mistake.

Actually, I was doing it more "right", but old habits are very hard to break.


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Gary Huff
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:43:05 pm

[Mark Suszko] "The big thing that I've been dealing with the past couple years is, lav orientation. Nobody knows audio better than the BBC. So when I started seeing them hang lavs on presenters "upside-down" to the way we'd always done it here, I looked into why, and it made a lot of sense that this guarantees your plosives and random breaths don't pop the mic. "

I noticed this too, and just started doing this as well. It didn't make any difference in the sound quality (I use COS-11D), and while I can't say that it eliminated and plosives or breaths, I didn't notice any on my first run through with it (14 hours of content).

Like Todd, I too cannot stand to [i]see[/i] lavs on video, though worse than seeing a lav, are the cheap jobs where the lav cable itself is running down the front of the shirt. That is an absolute no-no. For me, I lav when I have to capture audio and a shotgun on a stand is not useable (i.e. talent movement). In my latest shoot, I used a lav because it involved reading from a book, with a lot of head movement up and down between camera and book, and I wanted to avoid the sound difference in this circumstances. I hide the lav under the shirt for that one (though pointed upward, I don't know how I feel about a lav pointed down through fabric yet).


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Mark Suszko
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:53:02 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:05:44 pm

Something I picked up from the theatrical audio experts was hiding the lav capsule in the crease where the ear meets the side of the head. Glasses really hide this well, but you can often still pull this off on a person without glasses, by using a little flesh-colored medical tape to stick the capsule down in that crease, and then the cable is hidden as much as possible in the hair and down inside the collar. Bald guys, I can't help you, sorry:-)
What this gives you is, the lav-to-mouth distance remains fixed, no matter where the head turns. A chest or lapel-mounted lav needs to be "cheated" to the direction the speaker most points their face, and if they turn away from that direction, you lose gain. On stage, hiding the lav above the forehead, in a wig, is very common.


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Todd Terry
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:23:21 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:24:23 pm

I personally have worn many a mic above my ear in my now-long-past stage acting days....



Plus I'll take any opportunity to show any very rare pic of me looking cool.

As Mark said hair mics are also very common on stage, usually top/center right at the hairline. I had an actor friend who did a role where his character wore a baseball cap (and never took it off), so his mic was built into the front edge of the hat's bill.

But... those are pretty much stage applications and I've never known any instances of anyone using those techniques on camera though...

T2

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



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Mark Suszko
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:35:17 pm

I'm guessing the still is from LSOH?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:37:49 pm

Countryman lavs are so microscopic, as well as dye-able, hiding those is very easy.


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Todd Terry
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:42:56 pm

I noticed in Fox's recent debacle of "RENT" live that everyone wore Countryman mics. Not overly obtrusive, but for some reason it still bothered me to be able to see them.

Conversely the cast also wore them in NBC's live staging of "Jesus Christ Superstar," and for some reason those didn't bother me nearly so much... I guess because it was much more of a big-stage spectacular. That, and it was just an incredible show.

T2

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



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Mark Suszko
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:49:48 pm

Micro-thin headset boom mics make me cringe, no matter the application. I only accept them on aerobics instructors.


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Gary Huff
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 6:10:31 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Micro-thin headset boom mics make me cringe, no matter the application. I only accept them on aerobics instructors."

I would only ever use those headset boom mics on any kind of workout instructor after an incident I encountered many years ago in which a lav was used instead. A lot of editing was done to turn down that mic whenever the instructor was not talking because you could literally hear water sloshing around in their gut.


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Todd Terry
Re: Exposed Lav or not
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:38:25 pm

Absolutely correct, from 1988 when I was a mere pup of 25.

Most fun show I ever did...period. Got to ride a motorcycle on stage, hang with a pretty girl, beat up on my best friend (who played Seymour), and scare children. Who could ask for more?

T2

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



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