Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording
Illustration by John Hersey

Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording

with Anthony Q. Artis

Video: Hiding mics on talent

Traditionally, narrative scenes like the one we're about Now, when it comes to hiding mics on talent, the Big difference.

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Watch the Online Video Course Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording
1h 23m Appropriate for all Nov 20, 2013

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Audio is one the most important but least appreciated aspects of filmmaking. Your audience will notice if you don't put the same care and attention you pay to your visuals into your audio. In this how-to course, Anthony Q. Artis walks through many of the most common audio recording scenarios. Think of it like an audio "cookbook" with step-by-step recipes for situations like conference panels, stage shows, and narrative dialog scenes. Anthony also shows you how to set up mixers, wireless mics, and booms, and make sure your camera is correctly set up to capture audio. He wraps up with troubleshooting tips covering a range of issues, from wind noise to echoes, and shows how to fix the problems you can't solve on set in post production.

Topics include:
  • Hooking up a mixer
  • Selecting the right mic for the job—table, lavalier, or boom
  • Using wireless mics
  • Hiding mics
  • Mic'ing the crowd at an event
  • Capturing the action up close
  • Matching visual perspective to audio
  • Dealing with background noise
  • Reducing rumble, wind noise, and hiss in post
Anthony Q. Artis

Hiding mics on talent

Traditionally, narrative scenes like the one we're about to record would be covered with the Boom Pole. However, I went over boom poles extensively in my course Foundations of Video, Cameras and Shooting. So be sure to check that out for boom techniques. What I want to talk about in this course however, is hiding mics. There are two places that we can hide mics when it comes to a narrative scene. One is onset, and the other one I want to show you right now is hiding mics directly on talent. And in this case, I'm talking about hiding wireless lavalier mics.

Now, when it comes to hiding mics on talent, the reason we need to hide it is because it's a narrative. We can't just show it like this. For documentary or corporate, perfectly fine to show the microphone like I have right here. But for narrative, we don't want to break that fourth wall, so we gotta keep the mic hidden. So I'm going to give you some techniques for hiding that mic right now. But the first thing to be aware of, is that this is a little bit risky technique, because it does come with some extra hassles that we have to be concerned with. Chief among those hassles is clothing noise. Two different things that might cause clothing noise, and that's a clothing rubbing directly against the microphone.

Or the clothing rubbing against itself, which also creates ambient clothing noise. So one of the first things we want to address when it comes to hiding lavalier mics on talent, is the type of clothing they're wearing. So this is a decision that has to be coordinated with the wardrobe department. Listen to the difference between this, synthetic material, and this, cotton material. Big difference. So you still might get clothing noise, but it might be much less objectionable if you have natural material like this. So that's the first thing that we're going to consider.

Now, when it comes time to hide the actual microphone. Once we've decided what our costume is going to be, we're going to need a couple more supplies that I recommend that you get. The first thing, and this is available in any drugstore. Your Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, whatever you have nearby. And this is called Moleskin Plus. Very important. Not regular moleskin but moleskin plus. The only difference between the two is that regular moleskin is a little bit thicker. So it's more likely to be seen underneath of the clothes, so we want the thinnest moleskin material that we can get.

Now what's the purpose of this moleskin? Again. Nice, soft material right here. It makes very little noise when it rubs against it. So, we're going to use this to put a little capsule around our microphone, and help protect it. And it also has a sticky side. So, this is also going to help it stick directly onto our talent's skin. So it's mean to go on skin, so you shouldn't have any problems with irritation or anything like that. So going over the first technique, we going to take the moleskin. I'm just going to lay this down here on the table and make a little moleskin sandwich. So I'm going to cut two little strips of moleskin about an inch long, inch and a half long, maybe a half inch wide.

And so there's our little moleskin sandwich. Notice that the microphone has the hole speaking out through the top. This technique is going to work best with omni-directional microphones. I'd be really careful if you have a direction loud mic about not covering up the port so that you can still pick up audio nice and clear. So by no means am I obstructing any audio with this particular technique. So John, I'm just going to have you step over here, and we're going to get you mic'd up. Just going to peel off the back, and again, the reason we're using moleskin apart from its sound qualities is because it's also, something that's meant to go on the skin, unlike gaffer's tape.

So this shouldn't irritate your actor's skin or anything like that, and it should peel off with minimal pain, depending on how much chest hair they have. So. We'll let you be the guinea pig for that one. >> >> So we're just going to place that in the center and button up your shirt. And And now we have a hidden live mic under there, and on camera this isn't something that anybody's going to be able to notice. So, that is the moleskin technique. This moleskin comes about four or five sheets in a packet. If you get one packet of this, it'll probably last you for all of your production. So just hang on to that for me for now. >> OK.

>> If you don't have moleskin handy, because you just decided at the last second that it will be better to hide the mic, I'm going to show you another technique that only involves gaffer tape. So you get yourself a small piece of gaffers tape. Like so maybe about oh, we'll do about 2 and a half inches, 3 inches or so. And we're going to fold this the same way you fold an american flag. For those of you that were in the boy scouts or girl scouts you already know this. You fold over a small triangle, like so, and then you just keep folding it, into itself, sticky side out. That's the important part.

So all we're doing is making a little sticky tape triangle. So there's my little sticky triangle. I have another one that I already prepared here. So, this is all I'm looking for, is two sticky Gaff tape triangles. And then I'm going to take my microphone and do the exact same technique that I did before. Now this technique will work on skin it's not preferable for directly on skin. I think this technique will work best between two layers of clothing. So, our other performer is going to come over here and I'm going to go ahead and have him.

Slip this up, through so probably loosen your shirt, and we'll slip this up through the bottom and we're going to tape this in between his t-shirt and his shirt. Well, we're going to actually have it right down here in the center. So, right about the same place on it, a little bit lower. We're going to place it right there, perfect. And then we can button up, around it. So, let's go ahead and button up. What's great about this particular technique this poor man's mic mount, is that not only does it hold the microphone in place, but it helps to keep the clothing from moving around so that it also helps prevent clothing noise. You don't have to worry about the clothing rubbing the mic because the clothing's not really moving being held in place on both sides.

So, thank you very much. So now, we are ready to go ahead and get ready to record our scene. Except we still got one problem that we haven't addressed. And that is, this right here. So hiding those little lav mikes, that was really easy. But the question is, where are we going to hide this big body pack? Couple of different spots i'll show you. Traditionally if we're talking about documentary, you would just have this mounted in the back right here on the belt clip. It could also just be in the pocket if that's appropriate. If they had baggy enough pants and we weren't going to see it on camera.

It could be inside of a jacket pocket. Could also be held in place on an ankle. You can slip this inside a sock as long as you have strong enough elastic. So, a couple of different places that we can hide this. The main thing is we want to make sure we don't see it on camera. Now this can be particularly problematic if you have a female actress. And she's wearing a tight outfit or wearing a tight dress in that case what we'll often resort to is the bra strap, right here on the back in the small of the back. So if you've ever watched an awards shows or the Grammy's when they turn and leave the stage you'll see these all night long more than likely.

So if you do use that technique, you are going to have to be careful with your blocking to make sure that you're not shooting from behind and revealing the fact that there's a big mic pack on the back of your actor or actress. So those are all the places that we can hide a body pack or a mic on an actor or actress. Remember, make sure you do rehearsals and a run through with full blocking, so you can easily and quickly detect if there are any issues with clothing noise or other problems with your mic mount.

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