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Henchman

Question about body mic pack mounting

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Most of you know I'm an audio post guy.

Well, now I'm producing the stage premiere of our musical "London  Calling" at the Hollyood Fringe Festival in June. I'll be using some wireless lavs that will only be used be used during the songs.

How should I mount the radios the actors?

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I think the stock answer here would be that if the show is important to you and you aren't sure how to handle the micing then you might want to get someone who does that sort of work all the time on the job.  Lavs and body mics for live sound+musical theatre are a very different deal than same for motion picture--different needs, different gear, very different methodology.  Barring that start trolling past posts here and GS on mic mounting, look @ Jay Rose's book and others, esp. those concerned with micing for musical theatre.  It's a pretty deep subject.  If you already knew all this then apologies. 

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Easy answer is there's good Theatre Sound people in LA, maybe the venue can suggest someone (or provide them). However, as a Musical Theatre veteran who's learned a lot from Henchman's posts here and on other forums as I moved into Sound for Picture, here's a few ideas. A little 99 seat warehouse theatre space is probably the hardest place to pull off a Musical - too small for a PA, too big to not have a PA. Oddly, the Pantages would be easier! What you'll get away with is very dependant on the installed sound system in the venue, in particular the positioning of the speakers.

I've done lots of 'boutique' musicals in spaces like that - with reinforced songs / un-amplified dialog as you are suggesting. The trick is to keep a lid on the songs so the jump back and forth isn't too jarring for the audience who are used to more dynamically-controlled entertainment. If the music is from an offstage live source (or playback), making the primary source of the music some speakers upstage of the action, rather than the speakers that are being used for Vocal reinforcement can help the audience with separation and intelligibility, which can be hard in the smaller spaces, as well as providing the cast with music foldback as in sub-200 seaters, they invariably want more music than the Audience needs. If the band's onstage, with a drum kit or Brass....good luck!

Mounting the transmitters is just like the Film world - as they will probably be moving vigorously (if not dancing) Neopax-type belts are best, just using the belt clip on a pack onto the costume is guaranteed to end up with dangling transmitter syndrome.

The technique for mounting the mics themselves in Theatre is wholly different to Film for very good reasons - Gain before Feedback, and the lack of Post! Chest mounting positions, over or under the costume, put the mic too far from the mouth for the direct level to have a good margin of safety over the level the mic hears from the PA. Once those two levels approach a 1:1 ratio - you have feedback. Secondly, in Post you can easily adjust EQ and Level to allow for head turns, in live mixing, not so much. For this reason, in Professional Theatre, the mics are almost always head-mounted. The choice is then between Headset-style mics (like the DPA Dfine series) or normal Lavs (like DPA 4061). The headset type gets the mic closer to the mouth, so can give a slight improvement in Gain before Feedback, and a little more forward sound. They are also dead easy for a performer to self-dress, if you can't afford a backstage sound person (the Theatre equivalent of a Boom Op - a vital crew member). The normal Lavs are best mounted through the hair, on the forehead - or if the actor is wearing hats ever, over the ear, where the sideburn would be on a male. They can be pretty discreet if mounted by someone who knows what they are doing, though there are simpler techniques used by the Education and Amateur community (search for 'Halo Mount'). If you can get someone experienced even for the first rehearsal to work out mic dressing separately from your FOH mixer (you??), it'll be money well spent. They can teach the Cast or a dresser what to do if required.

The choice of Lav can also make life easier or harder. Lavs with a fixed high Boost (like Cos-11s) don't work as well in this application as the DPAs or Sennheiser MKE-1s (both without the high-boost optional cap). Especially if over the ear - don't be shocked by the amount of EQ you'll need on channels - probably more than you're used to in Film.

Hope that helps - all the best for the show!

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Hi Mark,

I'm linking to Masque Sounds blog.  Lot's of good mic mounting techniques there.  As for the pack itself waist, ankle, or thigh straps from Neopax, Versaflex, or other manufacturers would work well.

http://www.masquesound.com/category/blog/

 

Here's some other useful links.  Not necessarily about your specific question though.

http://www.prosoundweb.com/channels/live-sound/capturing_the_stage_microphone_approaches_for_the_performing_arts/

http://www.bodymics.com/home.html

 

 

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Hi Henchman, 

One thing to keep in mind with pack mounting on bodies is that you'll want to keep the antennas away from skin, so that most of the RF is not absorbed. There are various tricks to doing this, including using a neoprene sleeve as already mentioned above, covering the antenna with a straw or aquarium air tubing, or using a thin foam pad. Also be mindful of limbs covering the packs (i.e. don't put them in someone's underarm) and be careful of metallic fabrics covering them. Most packs should be protected from sweat either by (again) using the neoprene sleeves or by covering them with an unlubricated condom or plastic bag if they will get damp from condensation or sweat.

The antennas should generally be oriented vertically for best reception. "Antenna down" is the preferred method in musicals/theater, while "antenna up" is what most of the film and TV community does. 

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1 hour ago, karlw said:

The antennas should generally be oriented vertically for best reception.

URSA or NeoPax hear this

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If the production is being taped, camera ops can (or know to) zoom in tight enough to hide the forehead mounted lav...

 

 

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Thanks guys lots of great info.

I would love to hire a professional,  however this being a (for now) short run, self funded run, the budget is tight. We're already at $25k.

If we get the run extended, then I will be able to hire a pro. For now, I'm using someone who has done theatre sound experience.

Nick, I am augmenting the theatres sound system, and will be running the vocals through their sytem, and the music through the augmented system that will consit of a pair of QSC 15's with a sub. The music will be pre-recorded. And I have the advantage that I can use the bug stages where I work to pre-dub the music in an appropriate sized space,  at the level I want it to be. It will be quite than a band.

 

 

On 3/16/2017 at 10:30 AM, Simon Hayes said:

Hi Henchman,

 

i hope you are well,

 

this is what I would use-

 

http://www.dpamicrophones.com/microphones/dfine

Those are out of the price range for now. :)

Maybe when we get it to a bigger stage.

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Our host Jeff Wexler is retired and presumably has time on his hands;~) Give him a call. I'm sure he'd be helpful.     Best of luck w your show. "Ya know what they say, some of it's true"... Love the Clash.

CrewC

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10 hours ago, old school said:

Our host Jeff Wexler is retired and presumably has time on his hands;~) Give him a call. I'm sure he'd be helpful.     Best of luck w your show. "Ya know what they say, some of it's true"... Love the Clash.

CrewC

How dare he retire.

More people need proper training. 

:)

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19 hours ago, Henchman said:

How dare he retire.

More people need proper training. 

:)

Let's buy Jeff a rocking chair so he can hang out at the edges of sets and say, "well in my day we would have done that differently."

:-)

 

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Of course you know I would love to hang out on the set, any set, pontificate and tell stories, and not have to actually WORK ... that would be a little selfish, even for me, so I won't attempt it. As for the whole rocking chair thing, thanks for the offer but no thanks. As a working sound mixer for all those years sitting behind the sound cart, now that I'm retired I have to be even more aware of how little exercise I get.

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Sometimes I use Walgreens' 3 inch Grip Wrap rather than a Neopax type strap. It's just good for one use, but it's great for thigh and ankle wraps.

2017-04-06-18-08-29--2036389805.jpeg

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On 3/18/2017 at 8:18 PM, Jeff Wexler said:

Of course you know I would love to hang out on the set, any set, pontificate and tell stories, and not have to actually WORK ... that would be a little selfish, even for me, so I won't attempt it. As for the whole rocking chair thing, thanks for the offer but no thanks. As a working sound mixer for all those years sitting behind the sound cart, now that I'm retired I have to be even more aware of how little exercise I get.

Sure hope guys like Old School and you only semi-retire. I'd split my wages anytime just to have you on set and soak up some of your wisdom. Thanks for breaking the trails and building the bridges!

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Use headsets if you can - totally acceptable in theatre. Other option as already discussed is through the hair/wigs on the forehead. Headsets will save you heaps on time for mounting them (don't have to weave them into hair/wigs), plus you'll get more gain out of the mic as it'll be right up next to the mouth. Packs on elastic/Neo/Ursa straps (or bra straps).

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