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Mic Challenge - Help me mic this tough scene
  • Hoping to hear from the audio experts and others with great ideas, because I have a scene that needs to be shot in a few weeks that I think may be tough. Okay here's the scene: we've got a man indoors, in a large jail cell room, might have tall ceilings, might not, but might be an echo issue too. The scene will last 6-7 minutes during which time the man will be moving around, sometimes waving his arms angrily, sometimes yelling and screaming, and other times talking in a normal voice. My concerns are that if I set levels on recorder to properly record the normal speaking, then the yelling will clip. I am also concerned that if I use a hidden lav on the actor, that I will get handling noise, particularly since he's moving around and waving his arms quite a bit. He'll also be walking around the room ( 12 ft x 12 ft area), and might occasionally turn away from camera while speaking.

    So with all those difficulties, how would you mic this scene. I have a recorder and a lav mic, but can buy or rent more recorders and mics (boom, lav, or whatever type is needed), basically whatever is needed, I'll get. So what do you recommend?

  • 13 Replies sorted by
  • Definitely lav and boom mic simultaneously if you can. Handling noise from the lav shouldn't be an issue if your placement is proper. My guess is the lav mic audio is what you'll end up using. I'm no production audio expert, but I have seen this type of setup work very well in a similar sort of scene.

  • Why was this not posted in the "Sound" category? This is "Top Settings".

  • You could also use two boom mics, one with the levels set for the normal dialog and the other set for the screams.

    Run both into separate channels on your recorder and mix and match them later in post.

    Using a lav and a boom means that if they are both set for the dialog,they will both clip when he screams.

    Mixing two identical boom mics together will always be easier than a boom and lav set a different levels to avoid clipping.

    If your budget stretches far enough, you may want to throw in a lav to pick up anything that he might say with his head down speaking at the floor, although you are right that there is a good chance that there will be handling noise if he is throwing his arms around vigorously.

    Let us know how it works out.

  • If you know where he's gonna be when he says what... also consider planting mics – as another redundancy behind boom

  • Make an overdub in studio..

  • Just run a SINGLE boom mic to separate channels with different levels set.

  • How many shots Matt - and ello :) On location I'd check the coverage and how many angles we get to cover the dials - and cover accordingly - radios are really last resort if you can help it - cover what you can on the setup you are shooting and make sure you are covered for all the lines via the wide (usually rads) and the reverses. Radios used to be a 1 pint fine in my department every time you used them - pole can cover (with a good op) 90% of anything you need to shoot and as a mixer sounds infinitely better in the dub. If it's busy consider plant mics also i.e. if he buggers off to a corner and has some lines - use props to hide a planted mic - in the mix we sort out the merkin of tracks - all we want is coverage (however you get it!)

  • @htinla @Django @kingmixer @woolhats @Rambo @soundgh2 You all made great points - thanks for help - much appreciated. @soundgh2 you made me think of something - we planned to shoot this scene from one single angle/setup. It would be in a 18 ft x18 ft (5.5 meter x 5.5 meter) room. So doing a medium-wide-ish shot is what we had in mind. Once we check location on a day prior shoot, I'll check to see ceiling height, but it could be only 8 feet (2.5meters). I'm wondering now if I can get the mic on the boompole actually out of the shot, with that ceiling height and doing a wide-medium-ish shot. Any thoughts on this guys?

    (I'll probably put a wired lav on actor for safety, with small recorder concealed on him, no radios so no pints fined! Also will probably put some concealed plant mics around. But was hoping to use mics on boom poles to get best quality, since I'm thinking the lav on actor will have a lot of handling noise at times.)

  • Throw acoustic blankets on any surface not in scene. Use cardiod condenser mics on boom. Use two mics for yelling and normal voice, one set on lower gain. That is a big room for cell. Lav may be echoey due to omni nature. Good mic placement critical to minimize echo, boom operator a must.

  • A few things to consider if you're just shooting one wide master shot: a jail cell has a bed, few personal items plus the person(s) occupying it. Expect a healthy amount of reverb in a room this sparsely furnished, especially if the walls are concrete/brick. The bigger the room, the longer the decay. I would use a cardioid mic to avoid the reflections bouncing off the ceiling which would hit the rear lobe of a shotgun mic directly if your ceiling is only 8ft.

    Do a test at the location. If the reverberation is out of control try padding as much of the walls that aren't in the frame with whatever thick material you can get your hands on, i.e. blankets, sleeping bags, mattress, pillows, cushions, cardboard, furniture, carpet, humans, etc... The idea is to break up flat & hard surface areas, which are highly reflective, into smaller sections using materials that will absorb sound waves. You don't want to kill the reverb entirely as it's a signature component of the space the scene occupies. Without it your audience will feel something is off.

    If there is no window allowing daylight in, or the scene takes place during the night, consider having 2 boom operators, one with a short boom/handheld mic to cover the actor when he's close to the camera and one with a long boom for action further from the camera. As long as the camera does not move and the lighting does not change film a few minutes of an empty set then when shooting the scenes with the actor if your mic dips into the frame you can mask out the boom with your clean shots.

    Don't forget sound perspective. Just as objects gets smaller as they move away from the camera, sound will get quieter as the source of the sound moves away from listener, i.e. the camera. It's OK for dialogue from someone in the background of a scene to be lower in percieved volume and to include more of the room verb as this is how we experience sound in reality. The purpose of a longer boom is not to ensure a constant level but a constant intelligibility. Someone speaking with his back to a mic 16ft away will sound nowhere near as clear as from a mic perched 5/6ft away. Very few things are more aggravating when watching a movie than not being able to understand the words a character is saying.

  • Correction: it should be a holding cell or isolation room within a jail - not necessarily a small jail cell, so it should be ~15ft x15ft.

    @dancerchris @ spacewig Great advice. I will be on location a week before shoot for testing of shots with audio. Shot will locked off on tripod, so good advice re masking out boom dipping into shot. Thanks.

  • @Rambo To run a single boom mic to separate channels with different levels, do I use a splitter (or Y-cable) or do I need a recorder that has this feature? Thanks

  • I've done it on a Zoom H4n which does have the feature of splitting one input to 2 tracks set at different levels. Not a perfect setup that's for sure, but it's low budget and simple, as long as you do rehearsals before hand you know what to expect and if a single boom operator can achieve what you want. Sometimes simple works. It wouldn't hurt to also have a lav and wired recorder (zoom H1??) with lav rub protected ( is it micro fibre they use as wrap?) I've used lav and fur sock under clothing with success.