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How to Mic Groups of People

Recording great audio is the goal but how exactly do we accomplish that? In this segment we discuss miking scenarios for recording studio interviews, conference rooms, live events, and film acting so you'll be ready to capture awesome audio in every situation.

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Video Transcript

Recording great audio is the goal but how exactly do we accomplish that? In this segment we discuss miking scenarios for recording Studio Interviews, Conference Rooms, Live Events, and Film Acting so you'll be ready to capture awesome audio in every situation.

Every miking setup has its own set of challenges but there are a few things you should always do regardless of the situation or venue. For example, never forget to record room tone or other ambient sound such as distant traffic noise if you're shooting outside or the sound of dishes clattering in the background when conducting an interview in a restaurant. Do this after you set your levels but before you record your interview, stage play or what have you, so you don't forget. This simple step can save you in the editing room should you need to fix something later. It's better to have it and not use it than to need it and not have it.

When conducting interviews in the studio it is common practice to use wired lavalier microphones. Attach the mic to the lapel or shirt of the speaker, or speakers, about a fist's distance below the chin, pointing up toward the mouth. Hiding them usually isn't critical in this type of miking situation because audiences are quite used to seeing them. Alternatively, and particularly if a group of people are being interviewed, the interviewer may simply carry a hand held mic and alternate pointing it at themselves and the speaker as each has their turn. If keeping the microphone out of the shot is a requirement then a shotgun mic and boom operator may be employed. As the conversation progresses the operator will point the mic at whichever person is currently speaking.

Miking a conference room becomes more challenging as the number of participants increases. For smaller groups, a single Pressure Zone Microphone, or PZM, set on the table, equidistant from the participants may be sufficient. It is common, with larger groups, to place a PZM at about arm's length from every two people. If table noise is excessive, there are a lot of papers and such that may cover the microphones, or if PZM mics simply aren't available, then you may need to bring in several microphone stands. Table stands will be best, as floor stands will be too cumbersome and will get in the way. Omnidirectional mics will give you the greatest coverage but will pick up conversation from the rear. Cardioid mics are less sensitive to sounds from the rear but will easily pick up two speakers if placed equally between them.

Miking live events can be quite challenging. Ideally, the venue will have a modern system complete with wireless, lavalier-style microphones that fit around the subjects' ear. Grab a feed off the sound board and you're all set. If not, you might provide wireless mics and sound board yourself, if you are so equipped. Be sure, when using wireless units that they are securely attached to the performers, have fresh batteries and are set to frequencies that neither interfere with one another nor allow bleed-through from other devices that may be in the vicinity. A simpler option may be to place wired microphones on stands next to the stage.

The typical miking solution used on most film sets is to capture audio using a professional shotgun mic, attached to a boom pole, handled by a skilled operator. The operator will make sure his mic cable is properly secured to the pole to reduce any possible handling noise and is careful to keep himself and the microphone out of frame while getting in as close as possible to the actors. He monitors the audio through quality headphones while continually adjusting the microphone's position to keep it pointed directly at the current speaker as the dialogue switches back and forth. In some cases, when it is impossible to keep the microphone out of the scene or perhaps the dialogue is very soft, a lavalier may be used. In both cases a major challenge is keeping the microphone from being seen by the audience. Lavaliers may be hidden in clothing or hair and many come in various skin tones to assist in the camouflaging process.

So there you are. Situations and scenarios you are sure to encounter with satisfying solutions that will have you ready for whatever miking challenges you may face. With these tips you'll always give your audience the best sound possible in every situation.


darsen's picture

At 3:44, the video states that a mic may be hidden in the hair. This is one of my favorite miking tricks, especially when the on-camera performer is on a 3/4 view to the camera - the head blocks the audience from seeing a tiny mic hidden on the hairline. Theatrical/stage sound guys do this all the time. With a single omni lav on the hairline, you can adequately mic two actors at once in a close shot. Superb series of vids. Keep them coming!