Microphones Q: Wig Mics vs Cheek Mics

consoletape

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Mar 4, 2018
Location
Seattle, Washington
Looking for any professional input/experience regarding using wig microphones or forehead microphones as opposed to using cheek microphones that go over the ear and rest on the cheek. Any preferences or advantages/disadvantages to either one? Any input or links to anything helpful is welcome, thank you in advance. These microphones would be used in a musical production my school is putting on.
 

jkowtko

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Jan 9, 2007
Location
Redwood City, CA
As far as I know there has been a raging debate on this many years.

My preference goes with the general preference of professionals, that the forehead location picks up the voice more clearly and with a flatter response than the side of the face. That plus you can generally hide the mics more easily, in the forehead hairline, or suspended over the face via puffy wig, hat, or other headwear. For people who prefer forehead placement, the over-the-ear is used only when an actor doesn't anything on top of their scalp to hide the wire (e.g. bald man with no hat).

I believe the side placement sounds muffled (a colleague likened it to talking into an oatmeal box) and you end up EQ'ing it to death to try to get the low end out so that it sounds balanced.

That being said, I have seen professional shows with more than the bald man wearing it over the ear. I would like to think this was because the costume changes involved made a forehead mount for that actor impractical ... but I don't know for sure.
 

baileypl

Active Member
Joined
May 17, 2017
Location
United States
Wig mics are much better when it comes to sound quality. Before we got our new system, our mics weren't great and we were already EQing them to sound decent. So, for pure ease we used over the ear cheek mics. However, now we use lav or wig mics since we invested in good mics lol. Hope this provides some insight for you!

Cheers!
 

markviml

Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2009
Location
Wenatchee, WA
I prefer forehead, for the simple reason it sounds the best. If that's not going to work, placement on the bone directly in front of the ear isn't bad. But anything on the fleshy part of the cheek it horrible (like the oatmeal box reference, about sums it up).

Try humming a low note. Lightly place your finger on the fleshy side of your cheek, then the bone up higher. You won't feel the resonance, which goes with the mic not picking up the extra low resonance. Not my trick, but it helps me explain that placement.
 

KBToys82

Active Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Location
NJ
I just bought some wig mics, but didn't even take into consideration that sometimes the actors will go in front of the (stupidly hung) speakers directly next to the proscenium 8-10 feet above stage. I think I may be able to get ahead of that fiasco, but I did notice crackling when I tested out have 2 actors standing pretty close to each other. I think it got better when I switched the polarity, but any other thoughts on the matter?
 

jkowtko

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Joined
Jan 9, 2007
Location
Redwood City, CA
I just bought some wig mics, but didn't even take into consideration that sometimes the actors will go in front of the (stupidly hung) speakers directly next to the proscenium 8-10 feet above stage. I think I may be able to get ahead of that fiasco, but I did notice crackling when I tested out have 2 actors standing pretty close to each other. I think it got better when I switched the polarity, but any other thoughts on the matter?
Two comments on this:
1) I try to avoid using center clusters whenever possible ... the are generally installed for lecture (podium mic) and in my experience they feedback very easily. I usually have them turned down -10 t -20 and use them like a fill. If your issue is side speakers pointed towards the center of the audience and not straight ahead, if you can turn them straight that might help
2) For musicals I alway do line-by-line fading, and when two actors are close to each other I pic a mic and turn the other one down -20 or completely off if they aren't moving around too fast. For me this gets rid of all the cross-mic interference.
 
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themuzicman

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Apr 27, 2007
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On Tour
Two comments on this:
1) I try to avoid using center clusters whenever possible ... the are generally installed for lecture (podium mic) and in my experience they feedback very easily. I usually have them turned down -10 t -20 and use them like a fill. If your issue is side speakers pointed towards the center of the audience and not straight ahead, if you can turn them straight that might help
I think a general avoidance of center clusters is hyperbolic bordering on detrimental. In a well designed speaker system I am pushing most of my vocal content through the center cluster, using L/R mains and front fills to fill in and lower the image in my main vocal system. This is completely ignoring what I'm doing with band bussing in a musical. The Center Cluster is the workhorse of a good audio system in most venues. Mileage will vary by venue as inherently it'll become a delay issue -- you always need your reinforced source arriving at or before your acoustic source so if your cluster is too high you'll end up needing fills just to get the reinforced source physically closer to ears. Unless you're in a narrow space, just driving vocals through an L/R system will be to the detriment of the center of the audience as the vocal sourcing will start to pull to the sides and won't source naturally to the actors on stage.
 

jkowtko

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Joined
Jan 9, 2007
Location
Redwood City, CA
Kyle, if you have no way to handle feedback due to speaker/stage geometry, then unfortunately you don't have much of a choice other than to place the mics as well as you can on the actors. I just don't like taping the mic cord on the cheek -- I think it looks really amateur ... I would rather use a proper headset boom mic using as thin an element as possible ... or place the mic forward of the actor's forehead if you can hide it in the brim of a hat.

One interesting thing I saw when I watched the traveling production of Something Rotten in SF last year ... Adam Pascal, who played Shakespear the "rock star" had a very spikey hairdoo and what looked like two E6-sized mics sticking out of the wig like bug antennas, 5-6" in front of his face just above the forehead line. His hair was so spikey it was hard to notice. If those were in fact mics then I commend them for their ingenuity.

Regarding separating vocals from band -- this to me is disorienting as an audience member. This appears to be a preference for many sound designers on broadway, but I don't like the way it sounds. Other than sound effects I always route vocals and band identically when possible, and simply use the volumes of the various speakers in the room to fill the sound as evenly as possible so the audience can hear clearly without it having to be too loud. When you play music on your stereo you don't have the vocals coming from different speakers than the instruments ... so why should you do it in a theater?
 

themuzicman

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Joined
Apr 27, 2007
Location
On Tour
On the actual topic of conversation -- I always try to start all mics on everyone in the hair, on center if possible, or running opposite a part in the hair if the hair has a part. I'll only start mics on the ear if the actor has a lack of hair, it's in the look of the show, or the actor is too quiet and I need to get every ounce of gain before feedback.

As for the mics in Something Rotten -- that's par for the course on a big musical. A2's on the large shows really pride themselves on hiding mics as good as possible -- they are aided by a ton of different tricks in this, and a ton of different painting and coloring supplies -- to match forehead tone on the cap, hair tone on the wire, and then neck tone on the back.

Regarding separating vocals from band -- this to me is disorienting as an audience member. This appears to be a preference for many sound designers on broadway, but I don't like the way it sounds. Other than sound effects I always route vocals and band identically when possible, and simply use the volumes of the various speakers in the room to fill the sound as evenly as possible so the audience can hear clearly without it having to be too loud. When you play music on your stereo you don't have the vocals coming from different speakers than the instruments ... so why should you do it in a theater?
You're thinking too small -- when you have a sweet 5.1 home theater system on your TV the vocals are pumped through the center channel primarily with some L/R fill and everything else is pumped L/R.

The reason for differential sourcing and not identical sourcing is 1. To get as natural as possible and 2. To clean up a mix -- a speaker can only produce one frequency at any discrete point in time, sending as little as you can to any individual speaker is the best course of action -- the big shows with insane budgets will sometimes double-hang speaker systems and route just band and just vocals to their double-hung speakers. On the natural sound, using the Center as the workhorse and then L or R + input delay generally helps lower the picture and steer it upstage towards the actors mouth. The big shows go one step further and use a point-to-point delay matrix which will take the individual microphone inputs and feed a discrete delay time and gain relationship to every speaker in the system. Then you source your band to speakers that try to propagate the natural sound from the orchestra pit and you can get some pretty good results.

Long story short, you take what you have to start with and try to make the best product, scaling up with budget and time constraints. Not every speaker needs every thing, but there are no hard and fast rules for what we do -- just general thoughts on what's considered best practice. If I only had 10 speakers to cover a 300 seat theater I'd probably send everything to everything, but with scale comes options on how to best use resources for the best end result. Most designers I've worked with who've been doing this long enough have developed their own individual sound -- each one different because no one can agree on any one way to do things.