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Best Practice for Unmicing Talent?


Adam Douglass
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When I was starting out, I was always taught that, when an actor is wired with the transmitter at his ankle, you should always remove the mic by disconnecting it and pulling the connector up though the pant leg, rather than pulling the capsule down through the pant leg to the ankle. To do otherwise (I was told) would put unnecessary wear and tear on the mic capsule.

However, I recently witnessed a fairly experienced boom operator (a couple years more experienced than me, anyway) pull a mic down through an actor's pant leg, exactly as I was taught never to do. So I thought I would ask the opinion of the board: Was I wrong? Is it okay to pull a mic through an actor's pant leg (or other tight-fitting article of clothing)? Or was this boom operator wrong (in which case I'll have to have a word with him next time we work together)?

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Where the capsule is connected to the wire is by far the weakest part of any lav, and generally harder to repair than the plug end connection.  I definitely would minimize any kind of pulling or tension on the capsule.  Even on bigger, beefier lavs like the big fat Sony and Sennheiser ones that come with their transmitters. 

Just because someone has lots of experience, doesn't necessarily mean he knows what he's doing.

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Adam,

If it makes you more comfortable to have your boom operator pull the mic up, then ask him.  It's probably better to pull it up, but pulling it down is not likely to be the cause of demise of your lavs in this business.  Sometimes it's a matter of what feels right at the moment with the talent who is mic'd.

Mixers have all sorts of things we ask our crews to do in terms of helping take care of our gear.  One example, for me, is wrapping my lavs over/under.  This was something I learned from Glenn Berkovitz a few years ago.  His lav cables were always so straight compared to other mixers I worked for.  When I started mixing, I did the same, and asked my crew to do the same.  I'm sure some of them thought I was crazy, but graciously did it anyway.

There are some guys who can be a bit rough on gear, which is a shame, but at some point, gear will need to be repaired, replaced, or upgraded anyway.  You can only do so much to protect it.

Robert

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I'll bring it up if I see him do it again. I'm well aware that everything needs to be repaired, replaced, or upgraded eventually, but I'd rather keep my gear in good condition as long as possible. I've had productions try to stiff me on L&D in the past, so I've gotten a bit paranoid about this kind of thing.

I over/under my lav cables too, by the way.

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That brings up another question: how comfortable are you with letting talent remove their own mics? I always try to at least have a member of sound department present to supervise, and preferably to actually remove the mic as well (with wardrobe's help if necessary). I'd think that this would be standard operating procedure, but I'm always running into actors who just carelessly rip their mics off without any regard for the possibility of damage. How do you handle this situation?

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The first time I wire anybody new, I let it slip that I will quickly find them as soon as the scene is finished to unwire. If they nonetheless take the wire off themselves, I politely, quietly whisper my offer to break a finger next time. Oh, sorry, I mis-spoke: the finger break threat was to the sleeze bag music producer documentary subject the second time he tried to cop a feel when I went to wire him. That worked well.

If the actor obviously messes up with a mic removal, I tell them that my preference is to assist, but add, if they are more comfortable de-micing themselves, I would be happy to show them how it's done so that the gear & wardrobe remain intact. Same with turning off the TX.

I know how it feels to not be supported with L&D. It's different now, and so I'm not anxious at all about these issues (partly because I carry backups), though I've been known to be agitated when the repair/replacement came out of my pocket. Were that the case, I'd be likely to approach a producer re: L&D and said actor and come to a resolution.

-- Jan

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That seems like a pretty good policy. Thanks, Jan.

I've recently started making producers sign a rental contract for my gear, which makes me feel a bit safer. I haven't had any L&D since then, though, so I don't know exactly how well I'm protected. I also tend to skip the contract on 1-day jobs, although I probably shouldn't.

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I once lost 3 Trams over a month long period from "talent" removing them themselves....and as the  Excess on my policy was $500/Item... I couldn't claim them...and the various producers weren't interested...and so thus ended my affiliation with those producers and Trams right there...just not strong enough...and now I'm using DPA's, I've never had a break.

BVS

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I once lost 3 Trams over a month long period from "talent" removing them themselves....and as the  Excess on my policy was $500/Item... I couldn't claim them...and the various producers weren't interested...and so thus ended my affiliation with those producers and Trams right there...just not strong enough...and now I'm using DPA's, I've never had a break.

BVS

Ouch.

My contract has a clause requiring production to cover any deductible costs and non-covered expenses in the event of L&D. Again, though, if they really decided to screw me, I don't know how ironclad it is, or whether it would be worth going to court over a few broken lavs.

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Unfortunately these productions had no" Production Report" nor much else...very limited budgets and as I gathered later no insurance on hired gear outside of the camera dept....so while I did get my fee,late , my insurance was not going to pay out on the individual items....

i have since dropped all insurance...the current premiums are so expensive it would mean I could buy a new mixer every year, which I don't....but this is another topic.

Just take your time getting the mic off...and get there fast after the cut on the final take of the day.

BVS

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I rig and I derig that's my policy

Always get in quick after a clear gate!

Been lucky over the years only lost two Trams

One was on a lead actor who got grumpy and stormed out of an aircraft set catching the cord and beheading the Tram.

The UPM immediately raised and order to buy a new one and the actor said sorry the next day with a bottle of malt whisky!!

mike

www.mikewestgatesound.co.nz

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