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Noise With Lapel Mic

Published : 21st October 2004

Hi and hello to all the members of the CML-Audio.

I keep having problems with my lapels making noises from the clothes that the actors wear on location shoots. it alway makes a huge noise there by taking time away from the production. How can I avoid that noise?... Sometimes, it also pops!

Please help.

Eduardo Tuviera


Eduardo Tuviera wrote :

>I keep having problems with my lapels making noises from the >clothes that the actors wear on location shoots.

Oh well, the simple answer to all boom microphone problems (less background noise, no shadows, no boom operator needed etc.) comes with its own problems : lots of them.

You have first to find out where the noise is coming from. Is it the microphone scratching against fabric or is it fabric scratching against fabric and the microphone hears that?

Mounting lavs is a tricky thing, can be done in a number of ways and depends on what lav you're using and what kind of clothes talent wears.

Male talent :

If they wear a tie, that's a good starting point. You can hide the lav in the knot letting it peak out just a tad so not to lose high frequencies and also fixing possible fabric movement with some gaffer tape. I use Countrymen B6 lavs which are so small that I can let them stick out of the tie know without anybody seeing them. (But be aware of possible wind noise problems now!). If no tie then check for a shirt collar. Put the mic under the collar towards the end of it. That's generally a good place to be because there's some space there and not much rustling will occur. No tie, no shirt...then there's probably a t-shirt : if the fabric is not too thin (or if the chest is not in the frame, or if the shot is somewhat wide) then tape the lav either onto the T-shirt in chest height - if that doesn't work tape it onto the chest (use transpore tape) itself. Men with lots of chest hair are a PITA - avoid them....or : tape the hair down (transpore) and then tape the lave onto your new surface.

Female talent :

If they wear a bra you've found the best place. Right in the middle there's space and whatever they wear on top will leave you some space with no clothe rustling. Easy.

If they wear a bikini you're out of luck and it's time to call me and offer me a job because only I know how do it...

If female talent wears very tight clothes you'll have to find out what the camera's actually seeing. If camera never sees their back, then put transmitter in the back, run the mic up and hide it at the hairline covered by an ear. One could even run the (thin) cable up the back and hide it as well as the lave under spaghetti holders, etc....

I think you get the idea: Hide it well - make sure fabric around where the lav is hidden doesn't move (fix it with some tape) and 9 times out of 10 you should be good....of course only if you're given the time to do it right. Just slapping on a lav somehow and hoping everything's fine is a recipe for failure. Silk fabric or polyester are your enemy!

That's all very general because it really depends on the situation - one really needs a lot of experience (= failed attempts to make it work) to get it done right quickly. It also depends as I mentioned earlier what kind of lav you're using.

Karl Lohninger
Sound mixer
Los Angeles


As a cameraman the tips Karl Lohninger gave about noise rustling relative to hidden lavs, was most informative and I think ALL camera folks should pay attention to his techniques.

Even though we are NOT sound people, we do get thrust into the fold from time to time and it's never too late to learn a trick or two to help out a fellow crew member!

Allen S. Facemire
DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta


Allen S. Facemire writes:

>the tips Karl Lohninger gave about noise rustling relative to hidden lavs, >was most informative

They were excellent. But do remember that with documentaries -- and depending on the context -- visible Lavaliers are often OK if they're placed neatly and are not too obtrusive. Not hiding the mic usually means fewer compromises audio-wise.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


Dan Drasin writes :

>But do remember that with documentaries -- and depending on the >context -- visible Lavaliers are often OK...

Oh for sure!

While I personally hate seeing the lav because of this TV mystic I have set up in my own mind, I want clean sound just as much as my sound folk do so sometimes you just gotta see the lav.

Most sound folk I know would rather boom, but being an old school cameraman, I tend to frame the boom guy out of a gig. Sometimes the sun does it for me but while I hate seeing the lav, I constantly photography the transmitter on the subject that has the hidden lav and I don't seem to have a problem with
that.

Go figure!

My rationale is that most everyone is used to seeing a cell phone or pager or some kind of crap hanging on peoples belts so seeing the tranny is ok.

When I can, however, I have my sound person use an Ace bandage and rig the tranny on an ankle or thigh, which is a trick I picked up working on features; but usually there is just barely enough time to just put the damn thing on in the first place.

Good sound make my good pictures look even more better!

Hail to all the audio dudes and dudettes who get beaten up by us camera folk. We love ya, we just hate waiting on you...and that's OUR problem, not yours!

We don't always share our thoughts do we?

Allen S. Facemire
DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta


>But do remember that with documentaries -- and depending on the >context -- visible Lavaliers are often OK if they're placed neatly and are >not too obtrusive.

Personally, I disagree with this. While it is very common to see Lavaliers in documentaries, etc., I don't think there is anything OK about it. It does bother me less if it's a television host that is wearing it as opposed to a documentary subject, but then that goes to your statement of context. I don't think it is any more OK to see a lavalier on someone's shirt than it is to see a boom in the shot. While it may compromise the audio slightly to put the lavalier inside the shirt as opposed to the outside, I think it is within reason. The lighting would look a lot better if we allowed reflectors and chimeras to enter the frame also, but obviously, nobody would think that was OK.

Not trying to start a fight, but just giving another viewpoint. I
would love to see an end to this trend of visible Lavaliers. It's just sloppy work to me.

Erin Harvey
L.A. producer/cinematographer


Allen S. Facemire writes :

>When I can, however, I have my sound person use an Ace bandage >and rig the tranny on an ankle or thigh, which is a trick I picked up >working on features; but usually there is just barely enough time to just >put the damn thing on in the first place.

For men, a side or back trousers pocket seems to work fine. For women it can get tricky...

One of my side gigs involves a huge theatrical sound situation at an upscale school, where we often need to put transmitters under various elaborate costumes. So I've gotten rolls of Velcro brand "Get-A-Grip" (black two-sided velcro tape, 3/4" wide, which sticks to itself), and cut them into adjustable belts on which the kids can hang the heavyish Sennheiser transmitters underneath their costumes.

"Get-A-Grip" is wonderful stuff -- almost as useful as gaffer tape, and re-usable!

As for photographing the lav mic -- hey, everyone sees 'em on TV all the time, in formal (news anchor) and informal (doc and ENG) situations all the time. But if it irks you, ultra-small mic heads (like Countryman's Broadway series -- match-head size!) can probably help. They're small enough that you can hide them in hair, buttonholes, etc. I haven't used them myself, but they're said to have very low handling noise, and they come in five colors -- Black, White, Light Skin, Cocoa, and Gray -- so you can camouflage them pretty easily.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP/Audio maven
Marin County, CA


Dan Drasin points out :

>But if it irks you, ultra-small mic heads (like Countryman's Broadway >series ..."

I know we're used to seeing them but still when on a documentary it does "irk me".

Would we ever dream of seeing a lav on a commercial or feature?

Local car spots, sure but even there it bugs me!

The Countryman seems like a very nice way to deal with the issue and I just bought two of them.

At this stage of my production I'm doing an environmental adventure show so we're outside all the time.

I'm hoping these little gems will hide well as well as reject wind while not sounding too muffled.

We'll see!

Allen S. Facemire
DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta


>I'm hoping these little gems will hide well as well as reject wind while >not sounding too muffled.

Countryman B6s are my main lavs, they sound excellent (as lavs go) and can be mounted openly and not be seen at the same time. They do not reject wind - no lav does - and one has to be very careful when using them on exterior shots in windy situations - have a variety of windscreens at your disposal : foams, fabrics and in high wind situation some mini flurries...plus, check your high pass filter on the transmitter.

Karl Lohninger
Los Angeles
Sound and more


>The Countryman seems like a very nice way to deal with the issue and I >just bought two of them.

I use Countryman mics. In addition to the B6 (very handy beasts), you might want to check out the EMW with peaked response, one of the three responses available. Peaked is designed to work behind clothing. It doesn't solve every problem, but often works for me. And it gives me another choice when I gotta lav it :

http://www.countryman.com/html_data_sheets/emwdata.html

Jim Feeley
POV Media
http://www.povmedia.com


Erin Harvey writes:

>It does bother me less if it's a television host that is wearing it as >opposed to a documentary subject, but then that goes to your statement >of context.

That was indeed my point. The more formal the situation the less out-of-place a visible lav seems to be. Conversely the more "verite" the situation, the more contrived a lav looks. There's a middle-ground, where talking heads are OK with lavs, but I agree that without them the production values look better. Whether the sound is better with a hidden lav, though, can depend on circumstances...and often on luck.

>The lighting would look a lot better if we allowed reflectors and >chimeras to enter the frame also, but obviously, nobody would think >that was OK.

How would the lighting look better that way?!!

>I would love to see an end to this trend of visible Lavaliers. It's just >sloppy work to me.

The Countryman mics look like a good compromise.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>The lighting would look a lot better if we allowed reflectors and >chimeras to enter the frame also, but obviously, nobody would?

When lighting, one often puts lights, flags, stands, etc. JUST out of frame. Not because that's what creates the best light for what's within the frame, but because you obviously can't put the stand within the frame. You work it the best you can from outside the frame. If you want really soft light from a chimera, you'd put it as close to the subject as possible, but obviously not within the frame.

In a daylight exterior situation, one might be able to bounce some nice fill light into someone's face, but if it's a wide shot, you just can't do it because the flexfill would be in the shot. Now, if you walked that flexfill right into the bottom of the frame, you'd get that nice fill, but of course, you'd have a flexfill in your shot. That would give you better light at the expense of the overall shot. The whole notion was meant to be silly, but it was meant to point out that it's silly to put a microphone in the shot because it gives you slightly better audio. There are some lines you just can't cross.

>The Countryman mics look like a good compromise.

Yes, I'm happy to have the tip. Thanks for mentioning them. But with other larger mics, I still believe they should be hidden from view, even if the audio quality is not as good as it would be if the mic was clipped on the outside of the subject's shirt or taped to their nose.

Erin Harvey
L.A. producer/cinematographer


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