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Dan Brockett

Hiding Lavs vs exposed for non-fiction. Opinions?

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Hi all:

 

I'm sure this has been discussed here before but I searched and Google searched and couldn't find it if it has been talked about? I'd like to talk about hiding lavs for non-fiction? Personally, I HATE seeing a lav on anyone. To me, it reminds me of news, which if you are shooting news, great but what if you're shooting higher end interviews with A list talent on a nice set with great lighting? To me, seeing that lav sitting on their chest or lapel just looks cheesy and low rent and I instinctively want to hide it. 

I have heard other sound mixers say that hiding the lav is a sound compromise so they prefer to have it out in the open. But we have great lavs that are freq boosted to compensate for being placed under wardrobe. And I'm usually talking talent who is wearing a single layer shirt or blouse, not narrative stuff with a lav buried under three layers of wool period clothing.

Thoughts and opinions? What about producers for non-fiction stuff you work on? Any who cares? Cares a lot? Like seeing an exposed lav? Or is this just some weird fixation I have?

Thanks for any input.

 

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Mostly "weird fixation."

 

The main issue with hiding lavs is usually more about clothing noise than it is about frequency response.

 

Most producers prefer them hidden.  If they don't, life is easier for everyone as deployment is quicker, applying them less intrusive, and the sound is not as compromised.

 

But I don't worry about it either way as it is the production's call -- and I make it work either way.

 

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Hidden vs a small mic exposed, prob not visible in the head shot closeup?  How boring is that interview, that this is an issue?  Yeah, most

filmmakers like hidden, but what perceptive ones like less is bad sound due to clothing noise (uncontrolled wardrobe on a doc etc) or

muffled sound.  Hiding lavs is a team sport: on drama, with a wardrobe dept, you and they work together.  When you have no control of the clothes talent will wear then you do the best you can, figuring that some percentage of the sound you get when they insist the lavs be buried in sound-unfriendly clothes will suck.  I hope your boom channel is sounding good!

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It's not just "hidden vs. exposed" wherein exposed means obtrusive. There are options of "exposed but discreet".

A clean white LAV on the chef coat, a gray LAV on a tweed blazer, or attached to a tie with a busy pattern vs. the lapel.

 

What bugs me to see (and I'm sure everyone else here) is a placement that looks sloppy or hurried.

I also don't like seeing the clip on the outside with mic inside. As if the mic is hidden but clip is not.

 

Glen

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2 minutes ago, gpiegari said:

It's not just "hidden vs. exposed" wherein exposed means obtrusive. There are options of "exposed but discreet".

A clean white LAV on the chef coat, a gray LAV on a tweed blazer, or attached to a tie with a busy pattern vs. the lapel.

 

What bugs me to see (and I'm sure everyone else here) is a placement that looks sloppy or hurried.

 

Glen


I agree, seeing a relatively large lav (think antiquated ECM-44 size) with a big foam windscreen w a tie clip or furry where it looks like a Caterpillar is on the talent is especially egregious.

I have little problem with a color coordinated small B6 type lav that kind of blends in. The COS-11, I know is a great lav but I've always thought it's kind of long and imposing for what it is compared to other style lavs. 

35 minutes ago, Ed White said:

Any time you can have a mic n the shot it's a win!!!

 

Ha, ha, you funny!

4 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Hidden vs a small mic exposed, prob not visible in the head shot closeup?  How boring is that interview, that this is an issue?  Yeah, most

filmmakers like hidden, but what perceptive ones like less is bad sound due to clothing noise (uncontrolled wardrobe on a doc etc) or

muffled sound.  Hiding lavs is a team sport: on drama, with a wardrobe dept, you and they work together.  When you have no control of the clothes talent will wear then you do the best you can, figuring that some percentage of the sound you get when they insist the lavs be buried in sound-unfriendly clothes will suck.  I hope your boom channel is sounding good!


True, we've all been there on non-fiction shoots where talent brings wardrobe and the wardrobe is sometimes really audio unfriendly.

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Posts 2 - 5 nail it for me. Like News, anything 'Live' or 'As Live' it's ill advised to hide mic imho, not least as there is often no back up mic eg over head boom or desk mic - why would you do that to yourself or everybody else?

 

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They make mics that are so small now a days that they can be mounted outside without it looking sloppy. You can use different colored mics to blend or match better with wardrobe. And it sounds so much better.

 

Im on a doc right now with a director that hates seeing the mic and I just don’t understand it. Sure, if it was a tram with a foam windscreen I can see where he’s coming from. But with a B6 or a DPA 6060 or a Senn mke1 it really isn’t obtrusive.

 

last week we had an A lister request that we clip it outside and so we did. I asked the director how he felt about the look and he wasn’t so bad! Still won’t let me do it but hey little victories.

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I never use the clip, don't even carry it on me anymore. In my world the reason they hired me is to take the time hiding mics, if it was just clipped the camera or the PA would probably just do it themselves. 

Yes the mics are small but even when it is hidden I have had many cases where the camera guy spotted it, pointed it out, and told me to move it. 

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22 hours ago, Dan Brockett said:

 To me, it reminds me of news, which if you are shooting news, great but what if you're shooting higher end interviews with A list talent on a nice set with great lighting?

 

In that situation I always use an overhead mic ( Schoeps MK 41) on a boom, either fixed or handheld, depending on the movements of the talent. Lavs are useful when an overhead isn't feasible due to external noise, bad room acoustics, talent is in motion while talking, etc. If the situation requires use of lavs I try to not hide them unless someone insists that I do. If I have to hide the lav then I try to keep the mic capsule exposed or at least away from layers of fabric.

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10 hours ago, daniel said:

Posts 2 - 5 nail it for me. Like News, anything 'Live' or 'As Live' it's ill advised to hide mic imho, not least as there is often no back up mic eg over head boom or desk mic - why would you do that to yourself or everybody else?

 


I'm talking more about EPK, BTS, documentaries, higher end corporate. Not exactly "live", stuff with a crew that will be shot, color corrected and sound mixed, where the DP, wardrobe, hair and makeup have actually put in effort to make talent look as good as possible and the image to look as good as possible. What about a walk and talk with a show host? This would all be stuff with a boom also, I agree, it's riskier if you only have lavs. 

2 hours ago, Valentine said:

I never use the clip, don't even carry it on me anymore. In my world the reason they hired me is to take the time hiding mics, if it was just clipped the camera or the PA would probably just do it themselves. 

Yes the mics are small but even when it is hidden I have had many cases where the camera guy spotted it, pointed it out, and told me to move it. 

 

This sounds more like my world too.

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I don’t really have a strong preference. At the end of the day it’s up to the director or producer and I’m happy to support that. I only really push for exposed lavs in live, or corporate scenarios.

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I really don’t see what the big deal is clipping the mic. And I’ve seen so many docs with heavily NR’ed lav tracks to get rid of, in my opinion, unnecessarily scratchy wires. In a narrative piece of course it has to be hidden, but who are we trying to fool on a doc/corporate piece? If it’s small and unobtrusive 99.9% of viewers aren’t going to care and it will ALWAYS sound better.

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Nowadays I hide maybe 95% of the time, even for reality/lifestyle type stuff. It's most often asked for over here, and working in a small language area with small budgets it seems like one natural way to promote the advantages of hiring a sound person (smaller shows over here might just send a camera person with two Sennheiser G3 sets if the scenes they're doing for the day only mostly involve two talents).

 

Of course, sometimes clothes rustle does make using hidden lavs impossible, even then it's often boom time instead of a visible lav + clip. 

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I agree with Trey. Of course, it's up to the client and the aesthetic they are going for, but really,  who's suspension of disbelief are we trying to serve? No one. It's non-fiction.

 

I used to ask what was preferred all the time and they almost always say hide the mic. Now I don't ask, make it sound as good as possible, and let the person in charge (NOT THE DP) tell me to move them if they don't like it.

 

I did sit-down interviews with the cast and creators of a narrative show. They were sitting in producer-chairs, you know the ones, in front of a "fake" patterned backdrop. Halfway through the first interview, the DP says we have to cut because she's seeing the lav. What about the chairs? The backdrop? These double standards are insane. Anyway, the producers all agreed with her but I fought to keep the mics on the outside and I won. We already shot half the interview. It saved time on set by not having to really get in there and then fuss with them when they were scratchy.

 

Somewhat unrelated but on a doc I did when I first started, we were interviewing a famous playwright in a playhouse. I think we were primarily using overhead house lighting. I set the boom on a c-stand and what no one was ready for was that the subject kept leaning forward under the boom, putting nasty boom shadow right on his head/face. He was still on the edge of the mic pattern so not a problem for me per se, but the DP wasn't happy (quite understandably). But instead of ANYONE calling cut, the DP looked at me helplessly as if I needed to interrupt the take. That's what directors are for.

 

Getting even more off topic.. 

 

And on a multimillion dollar narrative feature I'm on right now, the out-of-his-element AD outright refuses to allow sound to ask for resets or to hold for planes (even early in a oner where the dialogue hasn't started yet!!!) meanwhile the cam op and 1st AC get all the resets and adjustments they want. It's only "ruining the take" if sound asks for something while camera is repoing while rolling.

 

My point is, there's a weird culture of double standards and sound constantly getting the short end of the stick and it just makes me sad.

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I've seen this on set and it's so frustrating, the double standard for audio. This weird culture extends even into post. I was a new producer at a production company that had all of the studios as clients quite a few years ago, doing DVD bonus, documentaries, HBO First Looks, etc. From my experience at my own production company and others I had worked for, it was always SOP to at least do a sound mix past in post, some basic dialog editing, some compression, possibly a few SFX, etc. Not heavy duty sound design, just basics that could be done in a few hours. 

The owner of the company (We were given an overall budget and made our own budgets for our own line items) told me that I should plan for color correction and grading but to nix my line item for a basic sound mix. When I told him that sound is really more important than picture in visual storytelling, he told me that, "Nobody cares about audio at the studios, they can't hear the difference." I fought him on it but was still overruled, my masters went out without a sound mix and to me, they sounded like garbage, no basic compression, dialog editing or fixing room tone inconsistencies. When we did higher profile stuff, he would let me budget in a sound mix, but for the day to day stuff, no sound mix, which was really disturbing to me.  

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Very often: we halt in the middle of an interview, at an important content moment to make a lighting adjustment, reload a camera etc, interrupting the speaker's train of thought and creating a serious editorial issue.  With "real" people, the likelihood that you will "get back" to the place you were in the statement being made when the camera dept jumped in is maybe 10%.  (What ever happened to doc shooters waiting until speakers finished their answers before jumping in, which they did back in the days of 11 min 16mm mags?)  But any adjustment for sound is met with intense hostility....

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I strongly advise against trying to make an exposed lav „almost invisible“ by colour choice. I‘d rather see a lav in shot that can easily be identified as a microphone than seeing something weird that somebody unsuccessfully tried to mask. Either proper hide it or proper expose it. Nobody ever minded people talking into handheld microphones on TV either. A bit OT, but I also hate to see the „skin coloured“ (both pink or black) headworn mics on TV talk shows, even worse when the foamies are on. Not invisible at all! Much prefer a thin silver headworn like the MKE1, much less obtrusive. 

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15 hours ago, hobbiesodd said:

I don’t mind exposed lavs— they’re barely noticeable. 

Where is the image of a Shure SM58 mounted on a bizarre neck brace mount as a "lav" when you need it? Couldn't imagine a more "barely noticeable lav" 😉
Can't seem to find it via google search. 

Ah well, I'll use this one instead that I had saved earlier:
 

 

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On 12/16/2019 at 9:34 AM, Christian Spaeth said:

I strongly advise against trying to make an exposed lav „almost invisible“ by colour choice. I‘d rather see a lav in shot that can easily be identified as a microphone than seeing something weird that somebody unsuccessfully tried to mask. Either proper hide it or proper expose it. Nobody ever minded people talking into handheld microphones on TV either. A bit OT, but I also hate to see the „skin coloured“ (both pink or black) headworn mics on TV talk shows, even worse when the foamies are on. Not invisible at all! Much prefer a thin silver headworn like the MKE1, much less obtrusive. 

+1 that MKE1 looks great.

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i like seeing mics in anything that does not need  to be hidden.... to me it sounds muuuuuuuuch better.  no clothing not funny noises less comb filtering if you are allowed to place it where you want.  ofcourse it would be nice if they where not there.  but in terms of sound... well you just cant win.  i bet some will say then your doing it wrong. but really ?  thats why we got all kinds of tools to do so, and even then  80% does not agree on using  this or that tool.
 and even then most of the times it allot of work to let it sound decent in post again. 

so non fiction... to me i dont mind seeing a mic if it sounds nice !

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On 12/16/2019 at 7:27 AM, hobbiesodd said:

image.jpeg

 

I don’t mind exposed lavs— they’re barely noticeable. 
 

Cheers,

Evan


Ha, ha, this is awesome. Wonder if it was an art department initiated "cable access" looking prop or if they actually used the sound from it?
 

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Some years ago as part of the interview, the producer wanted me hiding the lav on Dolly Parton while the camera rolled.  Needless to say there was no problem hiding that little lav amongst the large mountains!!

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21 hours ago, drpro said:

Some years ago as part of the interview, the producer wanted me hiding the lav on Dolly Parton while the camera rolled.  Needless to say there was no problem hiding that little lav amongst the large mountains!!

 

But the reverb must be humongous

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