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Lav consistency


Jesper Magnusson
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I just finished working on a short film where I had to rely on lavs much more than I have previously (many wide shots and noisy locations). I've always based the positioning of lavs on the individuals clothing, body build and movements, trying to find a place that was free of clothing and cable noise, without having it sound awful (usually when they turn away their head or it's too close to the throat). As such, the tonal differences between actors could be quite big (sometimes unavoidable because of what they wear), but it's never been much of an issue as they only served as a backup to the boom.

For this project then, I started to think more about consistency of tone when it came to the lavs, and I was wondering in what degree others let that affect their choices? Do you try to get the same tone between actors (which often means similar positioning and possibly the same model of lav), or do you trust that it will be fine with some EQ in post?

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In a perfect world I'd love to have every lav perfectly balanced. However, ours is not a perfect world.

I find that most often wardrobe somewhat dictates lav placement. Like you, I try to avoid mounting at neck level -- I have a strong dislike for how guttural that usually sounds.

Quite often there's a bigger difference between individual voices and projection patterns that offers a greater variation than does placement.

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Good question.

 

First line of thinking is always where to best place it for noiselessness. All other considerations come after that.

 

Few places work for that noise-free attachment, or maybe I've a lack of imagination.

 

Have found that using same make/model lav on all the talkers works best if I intend to mix the scene, that's for sure.

 

Problem is, the player facing the street will always have more street than the individual facing away. In that event, I keep the noisier lav open, and dont' cross-fade, but raise and lower the quieter mic.

 

Jan

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Problem is, the player facing the street will always have more street than the individual facing away. In that event, I keep the noisier lav open, and dont' cross-fade, but raise and lower the quieter mic.

 

Ah, I never thought of that. I will try this next time the opportunity presents itself. Thanks for the great tip!

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Speaking of lavs - what do you do when the actors hug (and continue speaking dialogue embraced), lean over and squash or completely cover their mic with their bodies, bump into each other, pound each other's chest, but especially - hug and embrace? The lavs are useless in those cases and sometimes there is no way to use boom or we got just a poor distant capture and muffled and distorted lavs.. Is ADR the only way out or do you try other placement... We were not allowed time to change the position and exact actors' body movement and interaction was not specified in advance - sometimes there is no way to change the position of the lav... Also - dialogue on fast moving or running actors - is there ANY way to avoid clothing noise in such situations? I also started to really hate tight synthetic shirts, mini skirts and tight women's dresses with too deep decolettage, which I don't mind otherwise... although the latter is least problematic - breasts are THE perfect hiding place for lavaliers... :)) But where to put the transmitter on such a dress? Creative costume designer ladies helped with tying them to actor's legs, but sometimes the skirt would be so short that the antenna tickled their private parts and if they sat it became visible...ok, a bit off topic... but the question provoked this stream of thoughts reminding me that consistency of sound was my least problem when dealing with lavaliers - there is just too much other "sh...t" involved. :) 

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" what do you do when the actors hug... "

a frequent situation, a frequent topic, and the answer...

not much!

probably the most I do is hope the boom got what is needed, and hope for boomable coverage...

 

" Also - dialogue on fast moving or running actors - is there ANY way to avoid clothing noise in such situations? "

often not...

 

" Is ADR the only way out "

maybe,  maybe coverage is the hero, or wild lines, or another take...

 

" We were not allowed time to change the position and exact actors' body movement and interaction was not specified in advance "

you see, here is another situation where the directors vision, and my goal of recording good dialog may clash...

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On some of the reality work I do, all I can do is cringe when hugs and chest thumps occur. But it does reinforce my tendency to put it on the women's skin when tapeing it to the shirt is also an option. . Sometimes, I find that placement works with certain hugs. It's muffled but it may have a shot of getting dug out in post with EQ with not too much clothing hopefully. As far as clothing noise while moving and environment, the sound source is generally the mouth and the closer you are to that, the more signal and the less noise you are capturing. But, at a certain point the closer you get to the source the worse the tone will be and what they have to do in post, to make that lav placement sound decent may bring up the worse part of the very street noise you were trying to reduce.

In a perfect world we would never need to use EQ, but we do and we can make voices sound more natural with EQ but I think the hardest thing to work around is clothing rustle. So my priority is pretty favorable against clothing rustle. Of course the tone of the voice the subjects physical proportions and the circumstance plays a major factor as well.

Which leads me to a question I've been wanting to ask yoll for some time. Wait no I know better lol

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Speaking of lavs - what do you do when the actors hug (and continue speaking dialogue embraced), lean over and squash or completely cover their mic with their bodies, bump into each other, pound each other's chest, but especially - hug and embrace?

 

Boom it!

 

 

For this project then, I started to think more about consistency of tone when it came to the lavs, and I was wondering in what degree others let that affect their choices? Do you try to get the same tone between actors (which often means similar positioning and possibly the same model of lav), or do you trust that it will be fine with some EQ in post?

 

The problem I hear is that different voices sound different on identical microphones, just because the timbre, level, and frequency of the voices is so drastically different. I've had cases where consecutive serial numbers of microphones sounded way different on different actors, so it's not the mic -- it's the people. I do the best I can, make a note in the sound report if I think somebody sounds a little dull, and I trust the re-recording mixer to EQ and adjust everything to make it consistent. 

 

I also had a case not long ago where we tried three different lavs on an actor's chest, and only one happened to sound good. Since this guy was the lead, we stuck with the same mic every day for several weeks, and (if nothing else) he sounded very consistent throughout the show. Some people just sound inherently "chesty," and I agree that a lot depends on placement and other considerations. But I'm very reluctant to EQ the production mix because I'd rather leave that decision to the re-recording mixer. I also cross my fingers that the dialogue editor will make the right determination of which mic to use; I've seen them grab a usable track from another actor's mic when two actors are facing each other, since it's possible the other guy's mic may be in a more favorable position.

 

It's pretty educational to sit in on a mix in a decent mixing stage and observe how the mixer handles situations like this -- particularly in matching a lav to the boom for a line, or matching two radically-different-sounding lavs. One challenge is that the harder you crank on the EQ, the more it also changes the background sound. There's always a price to pay. 

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+1 For attending sessions you have recorded as the dialogue editor works.

+1 For attending the dialogue pre-mix with the dialogue editor and re-recording mixer and listen to the choices they audition and prepare for the director in the theatre through monitors.

+1 For attending the Final Mix and listening to the choices made by the Director and Re-Recording mixer which will often be based upon the Directors creative choice of what volume to play the score at for any given scene.

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+1 For attending sessions you have recorded as the dialogue editor works.

+1 For attending the dialogue pre-mix with the dialogue editor and re-recording mixer and listen to the choices they audition and prepare for the director in the theatre through monitors.

+1 For attending the Final Mix and listening to the choices made by the Director and Re-Recording mixer which will often be based upon the Directors creative choice of what volume to play the score at for any given scene.

 

Forwarding this to the Sound Super on the picture I just finished with the hopes that it'll work out. Have to get over being sick at my stomach when I hear my work since all I can hear are the mistakes. Ohm. Mebbe a post mix hejira will help, and maybe I should bring my own emesis bowl along just in case.

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All great stuff, as always, from the experts here at JWSound.

A shifting background is always a problem with lavs on actors facing different directions, a specially on a busy street. It's also an issue with bad boom ops who cue in and out of noisy backgrounds. In addition to the technique Jan described, a boom (in addition to the one over the actors, if there is one) pointing in a consistent direction getting a consistent and accurate background throughout the take can be used to smooth out the difference between the lavs.

As Marc wrote, lavs sound different on different people. Do the best you can with consistent placement, if costumes allow, but even then they're just not going to be the same. Avoid EQ, unless you want to play with it a bit before recording to feel confident that post can "fix" the weird lav with better tools than you have.

And I think it's been well said here over and over. Probably the most valuable experience you can have is listening to your tracks as they move through the post process.

Robert

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Great informative thread indeed

For running a lav in a hat, cap or headband on talent is your best bet if you can. Anything not strech will pretty much always be noisy.

As far as lav consistency mid chest is the ideal position and then forehead or mounted on glasses is also good if clothes are an issue and haircut allows it. (Hint: i keep a B6 in my kit just for that)

Also i more and more make the cos-11 mic grill pop out of a mid-chest shirt button hole while being held in place by some joe s sticky stuff. Very central, bright and no rustle from hairy guys and/or syntetic fabrics. It works much better than in rm11 anywhere else.

Cheers!!

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One thing I use to do with an actor or person in a doco is hold the lav at chest height while I get them to talk, and move the lav up and down a little to get an even balance of tonal quality..men with deeper voices have the lav at sternum height or thereabouts...women with a lighter toned voice a little higher...bass increases as you get closer to the mouth.  After a while you can judge where its going to need to be to get a more even matching tonal balance.But as has been said before the hiding is the final determinant.

 

 

BVS

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I agree with JB and of course many others on this topic. The shooting days may be long, but our time to get the words recorded is getting shorter. Gotta do the best you can. 

CrewC

In a perfect world I'd love to have every lav perfectly balanced. However, ours is not a perfect world.

I find that most often wardrobe somewhat dictates lav placement. Like you, I try to avoid mounting at neck level -- I have a strong dislike for how guttural that usually sounds.

Quite often there's a bigger difference between individual voices and projection patterns that offers a greater variation than does placement.

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For running a lav in a hat, cap or headband on talent is your best bet if you can. Anything not strech will pretty much always be noisy.

As far as lav consistency mid chest is the ideal position and then forehead or mounted on glasses is also good if clothes are an issue and haircut allows it. (Hint: i keep a B6 in my kit just for that)

This was actually one of the things that made me think of consistency. In a wide single-shot scene I had three actors with quite different clothing: One guy had a thin sweater, so I simply taped it to his chest. One girl a thick sweater and a scarf, so I hid it in the latter as low as possible to get away from the throaty area. The second girl had two thick sweaters and a cap. So I had a choice: Underneath one or both of the sweaters, so it's more like the others (though the thickness might make it sound dull), or in the cap, which often sounds very clean.

In the end, I hid it in the cap since I knew it would give a good result, and I wasn't sure the sweater would in fact give a similar sound as the others.

 

Anyways, thanks for all the replies so far - really good stuff!

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I don't think the problem is so much the sound from one actor to the other. In each case you try to make it sound as good as possible. If that means one sounds better than the other and there really is nothing you can do about it, then that's how it is. If the boom doesn't work, then post will have to deal with it.

I thought your original question referred to lav sound on the same actor from one costume to the next. Here it can be difficult to make the actor sound the same from one scene to the next

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I thought your original question referred to lav sound on the same actor from one costume to the next. Here it can be difficult to make the actor sound the same from one scene to the next

As you say, that wasn't my original concern, but it's good that you brought it up. Changes in clothing often means different scenes, and as far as I've experienced, consistency in sound between scenes isn't as important as in one and the same scene. If you rely on the lav for large parts of several scenes though, then making them sound similar would be desirable.

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  • 4 weeks later...

One guy had a thin sweater, so I simply taped it to his chest.

 

I very seldom have to conceal lavs and never taped to skin. In this case I would assume you also tape the sweater to the tape that is holding the mic, to keep the sweater from rubbing on the mic. Is this correct?

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