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To Mic, or not to Mic.

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by lieperjp, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    That is the question.

    So, here's the hypothetical scenario. Not all actors need to be mic'd. Some do. Director is apathetic toward micing. Would you mic all actors (enough mic's not a problem, enough board space, knowledgeable board tech, etc.) even if you didn't have to? Say one or two really need it, but many could get by without it, even if the rear seats are a little quiet, but not terribly quiet?

    So, the question. Do you mic even if you don't have to? Or do you let the actors fend for themselves, vocally.

    Note: I'm thinking about a future show that hasn't even been cast yet, nor have I even gotten the script yet. Just thinking about wireless micing principles in general.
     
  2. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    I've pondered that too. The answer I came up with is "it depends".

    In general, you want to mike everybody or nobody. In general, you only mike a musical; in a comedy in a typical sub-2000-seat venue, the actors should be able to project well enough if the acoustics don't totally suck. To mike a weak actor in educational theatre is to keep giving them a crutch.

    As much as the goal of reinforcement is to be transparent, the Amplified Sound and the Unamplified Sound have different qualities. To have them both going on at the same time can be distracting.

    That said, I worked on a community theatre show a few years ago where there were but two major speaking roles, two narrators, and then ensemble who said relatively little. The narrators were both older gentlemen, and one of them just couldn't project, just couldn't do it. So I miked him, and it wasn't the end of the world.

    So my preference is to never mike a non-musical unless I absolutely have to. It's just better that way.

    In a musical, given enough wireless, ideally everybody has a mike. Everyone with dialogue, that is. In the nonideal world we live in, I'll settle for those with singing roles or dialogue that's in a number or underscored.
     
  3. avare

    avare Active Member

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    That's it.

    Andre
     
  4. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Also for what it's worth, a trick that stands a fair chance of helping in a miked show, and especially in a half-miked show: time delay.

    I didn't believe it fully until I went to one of the sound classes at USITT, where they did a demo. Delaying the PA back to, or slightly past, the original sound can do wonders for imaging (the brain figuring out where a sound is to have come from). That's one of the major characteristic differences between the natural sound of an actor, the words coming from his mouth as he walks across stage, and the amplified sound, everything always coming from the loudspeaker in front of you and slightly to your left. The brain uses the first, not necessarily the loudest, sound it hears to figure out directional information, so if you hear the actor himself slightly before the amplified reinforcement, you perceive his amplified voice to come from his mouth instead of the loudspeaker.

    I haven't miked any musicals since then (my theatre stuff is mainly lighting now), but that sure would have helped a ton, I bet. Probably would have helped a lot more on those half-miked shows back in high school .. as would many other things like wireless that didn't suck, and enough of them. :)
     
  5. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    I guess I forgot to include my own opinion!

    Anyway, I guess I was thinking along those lines as well. I've done shows where we've mic'd everyone who is important (musical) and where we've only mic'd some of the important characters. I really did not like the way the latter worked, as to me it was blatantly obvious that only two of six actors were mic'd, but then again, my non-tech friends said they really couldn't tell most of the time. I guess if general mics (floor mics, suspended mics, etc.) can do the job, it works, but I prefer to have control over individual mics, especially to EQ and reduce ambient noises (shoes clacking on the floor, etc.)
     
  6. TupeloTechie

    TupeloTechie Active Member

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    I think that (if the funds are there) everyone in the cast of a musical be miced. Unless you have means of controlling the orchestra (which I find that most high school and amature production cannot do) then It is almost a necessity. However in a play I do not think I mic should be used unless the house is extremely big and is practically physically impossible for the actor to project enough to have clear communication to the rear seats. I have seen great plays ruined by mics and a poor sound board tech.
     
  7. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    I agree, and giving a mic to a performer who can't naturally project is usually futile anyway.

    For high school theater, I like to sneak a few boundary mics into my set. The moderate reinforcement makes a big difference for the audience, while still requiring that the actors work to get sound out. Four or five boundary mics are much easier for a novice board op to run as well.

    I don't like to give crutches to my actors, but I do feel a sense of responsibility towards the audience, sometimes. Sometimes, it's better if they can't hear what's going on. Seems like most of the professional shows I've been to recently are using mics on everyone.
     
  8. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    In high school, I would occasionally use the mic as a "reward". I would mic all principals in the cast, get all supporting, and than with the left over I would mic a few chorus members.

    Usually there would be one or two left over for the chorus, and we would tell them (usually a lot of underclassmen) that the best and strongest singers would be mic'd. What would happen is the freshman saw that mic=I'm good. They would start learning their parts better, improve themselves, and work to get up there with the upperclassmen. They would show up to more vocal rehearsals and actually practice out of school.
    Than, once in a while I would throw a mic to a freshman or two, that I thought had worked really hard.

    I never actively mixed it, and when I did I would throw it up on a monitor so he/she could hear themselves when they were by it, but they were the envy of their friends. And, they would go home bragging to their parents (who somehow heard them from the back row, thanks to the miraculous mic!)
    --------------

    But seriously: I never mic for plays, unless the FX processor was being used or special circumstances, and for musicals I hit up all leads, supporting actors, and strong soloists.
    The only time I did mic for plays, was when I was doing a camera feed, and wanted to be able to mix the audio in post-production.
     
  9. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Are any of you using hearing assist systems for your audience? That was part of my shift to boundary mics, although I never have time in a school setting to getting around to using them. They're only useful if everything coming off the stage is amplified, somehow.

    Hearing assist as in portable ear buds.
     
  10. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I have aways used the mic everyone or mic no one approach for the same reasons as mentioned above. I hate going to a show and having to adjust my hearing for miced and unmiced characters, it distracts me from the show.


    Sayen, everyone should be using hearing assisted devices as it has been the law for quote some time now (as well as a good idea). In both of our theatres we have ambient mics hanging from the first catwalk to pick up what is coming from the stage. We do a lot of music things as well that are not miced, so this works well for us. The patrons who use the assisted system really seem to like.

    A recomendation if you are doing your own set up is to put a compressor last in the audio chain before the transmitter. This is a good way to protect your patrons hearing.

    ~Dave
     
  11. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    Where I am, we always mic, either body mics or floor mics, depending on the show. For musicals it's pretty much always body mics. Straight plays, depends on how athletic the action is going to be and whether we anticipate the mics getting trashed.

    ...And the production. We run 8 shows a week, generally for 7-8 weeks. There's one actor we use fairly often who has a tendency to blow his voice out at least once during any given run - likes to shout a lot. We put a body mic on him by default even if we're using floor mics so that when he starts to have trouble we're ready to go. It's not about giving him a crutch, it's about maintaining the show.
     
  12. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    I mean...I always mic for the hearing assist...or do now. I guess that's why I come here, to learn. Law or not, it's been on my list for a while now, just a matter of getting the room setup properly. I think I'll bump this higher on my list, thanks.
     
  13. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    I vote for "all or nothing", if you can.

    For the "all" approach, I just bought a six-pack of Samson Airline 77 wireless with the AL1 clip-on transmitter -- $1500 for all six. The transmitter has a built in condensor mic, not great quality, but actors can pass transmitters around backstage in a few seconds, so you can cover your one-liners pretty well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  14. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    This is just a personal opinion, but I would never recommend going with a system that has 6 fixed frequencies that you cannot alter. If you look at the price on the Samson vs a Sennheiser system the cost increase far far far outweighs the risk of using a low end system like the Samson.

    There are two old saying that might make sense to keep in mind

    First The quailty endures long after the price is forgotten
    Second, the "poor" always buy twice.


    I think in most cases it comes down to , no mics, boundary mics, or all speaking/singing talent individually mic'd. The problem with some mic'd some not is the difficulty to getting any sort of mix that sounds even remotely natural.
    Sharyn
     
  15. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    If any one gets Prosound News there is a pretty informational ad from Sennheiser that offers some very good tips that a lot of us do but probably don't articulate well

    1 If using IEM's keep the frequency range at least 8 mhz away from wireless mics
    2 if using body packs put them on opposite sides of the person and make sure that the transmitter for the mic cannot be placed directly by the receiver from the IEM
    3 for Mics keep transmitters and receivers at least 10 feet away from each other (true for IEM and Mics and not just in mixing them)
    4 if long distances are needed use the Audio cable for the long run (how many times have we seen the receivers all the way in the back at FOH instead of putting receivers on stage and running mic cable/snake back to foh
    5 Splaying the antennas so that one is 90 degrees from one another work s better (how many of us just have the two antenna's at the same angle
    6. Make sure that the frequency spacing between any 2 channels is greater than 1 MHZ APART ( this is a potential issue for instance with John's Samson Airline where it supports 6 sets but with this rule in mind really should only be used THREE at a time
    7 Keep the antenna OFF the persons body, use tubing to do this (this is again a typical trick that is missed (when you ground the antenna to the persons body you dramatically reduce the effectiveness
    8 If a receiver is ON keep the transmitter on this will mask minor issues and also prevent a receiver from grabbing an unwanted signal (ie another device in the same space that might not be part of your system)

    There is more on the tips at Sennheiser USA - RF Spectrum Reallocation

    Sharyn
     

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