The next two installments of our blog series on Basic Audio Techniques for Video we’ll explain how to convincingly hide lavalier microphones while rigging talent. If you missed the previous installment explaining how to select the right lav mic for your project, you can read it here.
We previously explored several techniques for using the tie bar to clip lavalier microphones onto talent. However, there are many situations in which using the tie bar simply will not work. Tie bars cannot be inserted on clothing without button down openings, such as t-shirts. Other situations will require that your microphone be completely hidden underneath or inside the clothing.
Placing a microphone inside a talent’s clothing is quite invasive, so it’s important to maintain a high level of professionalism and courtesy at all times.
Hiding microphones underneath clothing can require fishing wires or mic cables inside a shirt, blouse, or dress – perhaps even down a pants leg. There are several inexpensive tools that will help make this task more efficient and less intrusive.
A smooth, torpedo shaped metal weight can be easily attached to the end of a connecting cable, and then lowered through loose clothing.
More fitted clothing may require using a stiff, metal rod to feed wires along their path.
There are weights and rods specifically made for this purpose, which can be found at your local audio dealer. However, everyday fishing weights and rifle cleaning rods serve the same purpose and can be found in many sporting goods stores.
Rigging Under Clothing
Once the lav is roughly positioned, the next step is to prepare the microphone for rigging. Start by forming a small nickel-sized loop of cable, close to the mic head. This loop is vital, as it serves to block cable noise and vibration. Tie off the loop with a small piece of thread, string, or gaffers tape. Carefully wrap the tape with the clean side facing the cable and the sticky side out. Tie the loop so that it is not too tight and can breathe easily when tugged. This will allow the loop to provide some emergency slack in case the talent moves in a way that pulls on the cable.
When placing a microphone under clothing you need to take precautions to prevent clothing noise. One simple technique for protecting the lavalier head from noise is to encapsulate it within two sticky triangles made out of tape. The triangles prevent clothing from rubbing the microphone and also provide insulation from vibrations carried along the clothing fibers.
Note: Only adhesive cloth tape should be used, never paper tape or duct tape.
Step 2: Fold your strips corner over corner, ensuring that the sticky side is facing out, to create a triangle. Continuing folding corner over corner, as if folding a flag.
Step 3: Place the microphone between the two triangles, taking care not to block the open sound ports at the top of the mic.
This technique will work with any top facing lavalier, including the AT899. If you’re working with a lavalier that has a side address or side-facing configuration, you can offset one of the triangles to avoid blocking the port hole.
To attach the rig to an actor, place the loop just opposite of a button and attach the triangle above it. It is important to tape down the wire below the loop, this anchors the microphone and provides strain relief.
If the talent must remain wired for an extended period of time or there is concern about moisture, it’s ideal to reinforce the triangles by inserting a safety pin into one or both of the corners. The pin will bear the weight of the rig, allowing the sticky sides of the triangles to prevent clothing rub.
This rig can be used in other situations as well, including:
- Inside a bra
- Under a collar
- On the shoulder strap of an undergarment
When the talent is wearing very loose or flimsy clothing, it may be necessary to secure the microphone directly on the chest. The basic principles we previously mentioned remain the same, however you must substitute medical tape for any rigging that is placed against skin. Make sure to prep the skin with an alcohol wipe, which will remove natural oils. Disposable wipes can be found in any drug store. Lack of prep will cause your tape to not stick to the talent.
Unlike the previous technique, you will need more than a simple triangle to hold up the rig and safety pins cannot be used. In these cases you will form what the industry refers to as a “lav bra.” This simple chest strap is made by wrapping medical tape or athletic wrap around the talent’s torso.
In part two of this tutorial on hiding lavalier mics, we will explore more ways to rig talent.