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Thread: Lappel mics in film

  1. Default Lappel mics in film

    Hi is there a benefit to using hidden wireless lappel mics (for instance in long distance shots) when filming as apposed to using a boom operator on every shot. Thanks.

    P.S. Tim love to hear you allaborate on what you posted to me about the soundman from sky. Cheers

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    Most of this is second hand and gleaned from a talk to Staines Ciné & Video Society - Homepage given a couple of weeks ago by a retired soundman (many years at ITV and eventually head of sound at Sky TV)

    There are two aspects to your question: lapel mics (aka tie clip aka lavalier) and wireless.

    Whilst wireless can be useful, there's also more to go wrong: you can get interference and IIRC there's some issue about the signal being compressed which mean's it's not so good if you have variable background noise (a bit like the issues with using AGC). Cabled is nearly always better. You don't need to run a long cable back to the camera, you can have a DAT or other digital recorder just out of shot or even carried about the actor.

    Obviously if using a separate recorder and the camera is too far away to pick up the sound via the on-board mic, make sure you have something visual to make a sharp noise (like a clapperboard ore even a wide clap if hands) so you can sync the audio to the video in post.

    Now for type of mic. Lapel aka lavalier aka tie clip mics (or tram mics for under clothes) are obviously useful if they can be positioned such that they cannot be seen. They are particularly useful in wide shots where it would be impossible to get a boom close enough to the sound source without it appearing in the frame.

    The pickup pattern is omnidirectonal and it important that you and the actor are aware of this - any sound made close to the mic (such as hand movements near the chest) will be picked up.

    The other issue is that sound drops off quite dramatically as you get further from the mic. This means that placement is very important. If the actors lines are all spoken to his right then position on his right lapel would be fine, but if he turns to the left, sound will drop very significantly. Obviously a central (tie) position is preferable, but even then watch for lines spoken to the side.

    A cardioid mic on a boom should give more even results. You want to get in as close as possible to the source without being in shot. This normally means above the actors head though if it's a close up, below & pointing upwards is preferable as this reduces the amount of any clothes/walking sounds within range of the mic.

    What interested me was the way he said they dealt with the following situation: Imagine a very wide shot of a couple talking and walking towards the camera, ending their conversation in front of the camera. To ensure continuity of sound they would record it twice.

    First pass would have the soundman following the actors with a boom mic clearly in view and he would remain in the final position. The actors would then repeat the action, this time without the boom operator, then pick up the conversation when they reach the static boom operator. So the sound from the first take is used with the footage from the second. Obviously this requires skilled actors who can exactly duplicate their moves but this was just one example of how the pros do it.
    Tim

  3. Default

    That is an excellent answer. Just to expand on moving the boom operator theme. When we've done reality and documentary stuff there is always place/hidden lav. mics. Which is basically placing mics in strategic locations.
    For eg. If 2 subjects walk away from camera to a position say at a bar or table, in a wide shot, then start talking. You would have a lav. mic (something wide/open like a Tram TR50) buried on the bar or table. This way you avoid and rustling and movement noise.
    You can also use servial mics on magic arms out of shot, or behind scenery, that use XLR transmitter blocks. Thereby saving the boom op and you have good quilty sound from something like a 416 or a CMIT.

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    I've never seen that many mics set out on a set, you're just creating traps to fall into. Get yourself a decent boom operator and sound man who can place lavaliers on a body and you'll save a lot of aggro. A properly set lavalier shouldn't make noise and for anything other than a very wide shot, a competent boom op should be able to deal with it.

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    Oh cricky I've a seen whole sets rigged with buried mics. Lavs. on an actor or subject are normally just used for scratch anyway (ADR later). You can't bury a Tram on a subject (open front) so you are only looking at COS 11 or B6 or DPA. They are alway going to be too narrow unless the subject is addressing to camera or not moving.
    Plus how do solve the classic, hulking great big boom op in a talking big wide shot. Get a XLR transmitter and a decent cardioid then when you cut in for the mid and close, the boom op can use the same mic that you had on the XLR TX. Otherwise what? just rely on a lav, then cut a lav with a boom??? I really feel sorry for those boom guys when they are way to far from the subject using some ridiculously long panamic boom.

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    Actually the Tram is designed to be buried, it works best under clothing.

    There's no way an experienced location mixer would bury microphones all over a set unless it's an nightmare scenario, at least not on any of the features or dramas I've worked on. I don't know what it's like on student productions.

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    Gosh. Well thats not right.
    Open fronted lavs are not for burying ie. Tram TR50, no idea why anyone would think they are. Lav that are open at the top (not the front) are specifically designed to be buried. That is the whole point. The beauty of a Tram is that it is so wide a presenter can vox without the need to mic the subject on a tight 2 shot. You can't do that with a Cos11 or a DPA which are typically narrow and buried.--Do a wiki or google on which lavs to bury as you have that totally wrong. (Nobody wants to sound like a confused and panicy 1st AD with talk of "traps" and unrealistic expectations of lavs that never rustle)

    (No idea about student films I am in my 40's and work for a well respected film services and production company
    I also help to run a popular events filming company)

    Just to clear up another point. Most films unless v. low budget use ADR, often capturing audio with stitched in Countryman B6's and a boom op that is too far away. That is a very, very typical senario. Even something like the BBC's "Spooks" is ADR'ed. (maybe when you were working on all those features, nobody told you that the were only using the audio for scratch tracks)

    As the original poster was asking about capturing sound to use straight from set, hidden lavs and XLR TX is a standard working model.

    Finally the dynamic range of a lav. is not really film quality anyway. So if you are on a long with dialogue that does need to be captured why not use a XLR TX - everyone else does. They are also vey cheep to hire easy and to use what's the problem - unless the 1st AD wants to put a high vis jacket on your magic arm.

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    Obviously my 30 years in feature production and television drama was a waste of time, just waiting for a wedding videographer to come along and tell me what I've been doing wrong.

    I'm sure you're right.

    Since we didn't plaster the set with lavs on Superman (my first production) Batman (My last Pinewood production) or any of the movies in between, the sound crew stupidly relying on mic'ing the performers or recording the guide track with a boom operator, I assumed that was the way professional sound people worked. Obviously in television drama, the sound team should now rely on event videographers to show them how to do it correctly.

    I will tell my soundies that they're doing it wrong and direct them to read what you say. They will, no doubt be grateful.

    Thank you for pointing out that I am working with people who have no idea what they're doing.

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    Oh bless.
    I am not a videographer but never mind. But I am sure making the tea has taught you loads. But as you have now realised that Trams are not for burying and that B6 are designed for scratch and that Superman, Batman and anything else you would like to name drop all are ADR'ed. You could say I have a point well made. Or are you saying that the sound that was recorded on set was actually the sound you hear in the cinema. Really is that what you are saying? How does that help the original poster? Why do you say things like "plaster the set" and "traps to fall into" exaggerating your point does not make a point.

    The thing is there is nothing wrong with using XLR TX to say that there is, is misleading. To say that lavs are not used for scratch is not true. just read the credits for any of those films you made tea for and you will see a list of post production audio including ADR.

    The 1st responce by Tim made the most sense sorry Rob but absolutes in our industry just don't exist. Realising that having preconceived ideas and a rigid dogma within the film industry just flies in the face of creative problem solving.

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    I'm sure your right and know what you're talking about...

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