A Must Stash Situation

Often times when we cant get a boom where we want it for a shot, sound mixers will throw a wireless lav on the actor/talent. Of course that has its own downsides, and mixers tend to forget about other options.

Throwing a wireless lav on someone is a nuisance because you have to wait for talent to be available, put your fragile expensive gear on someone not necessarily trained on how to handle (or not handle) the mic and wire, they don't usually prefer to wear it, it can be a pain to change frequencies, batteries or make mic adjustments once placed on the talent, you worry about avoiding rustling from clothes or someone touching the mic during the take, along with the lower quality sound a tiny lavaliere mic gives you compared to a shotgun microphone; it's not as natural sounding and does not always cut together with the shotgun as well as we'd like. It can be a real life saver, but often times mixers forget about other options. You got to first determine what cant you boom in the shot; let's say there are several lines from one character you cant boom because of where they are physically in the frame. Most of us, usually including myself, automatically throw a wireless lav on that actor, but what we need to consider before that is, is there another way I can get a 2nd boom there? Unfortunately most shoots I work on, I only have 1 boom op or I am the only sound guy, so I cant swing another boom back there, plus, in some situations, the pole may get in the way of actors walking or be in the frame. Usually, you cant get a 2nd boom in there, so then it's option #3, can we put a wireless lav on the talent.

So, recently I had a few shoots where we took a cardioid mic such as the Schoeps Mk41 on a small adjustable mic stand with a gooseneck, hiding it out of frame right where those lines we are missing are being spoken. I did this in a sound stage with the 41, and it sounded great. I did it again, last week on location indoors where we were fighting main street traffic through the thin walls. The frame was so wide, we could see the beams on the ceiling, yet the mouths (while sitting which was all dialogue in this frame) where on the bottom 1/3rd of frame. I knew it was pointless to throw a boom above frame even if possible and if i tried sneaking it under the coffee table, hidden from camera, an actor would trip over it. So, I put wireless lavs on 2 of the actors but the 3rd was wearing no shirt in this scene. I then saw that almost all his lines were spoken over the arm of his chair, in between his chair and a couch. So, I placed a Sennheiser ME64 cardioid mic in between the chair and couch on a small mic stand out of frame, about 2 feet away from the actor's mouth during his lines. The closest I could have swung a boom would have been 5-10 feet away if possible.

I got what I needed with it; the cardioid mic sounded so much better and more natural than the lavs, I was able to place it quickly, and nothing to worry about except for the fact that it doesn't move. I was also able to make this a wireless mic, not needing to worry about running cables out of frame. The downside to this which I learned that day was that since it was certainly no soundstage and we were fighting traffic from outside, adding a 2nd shotgun mic in the mix adds more background ambience. After the master shot on some of the singles, I cut the cardioid from the mix and realized it sounded much cleaner with just 1 shotgun. You cant always make things perfect, you often need to sacrifice something, but I will keep it in mind next time I have an actor with no shirt in such a wide frame talking on the bottom third of frame.

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