John presents a treasure trove of tips on how to conceal a lav microphone on your subject.
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Getting good audio is crucial for any video production. Your sound is just as important, if not more important, than the picture itself, and the only way to get good sound is to get the microphone as close to the talent as possible. However, there are times when you don’t want to see the microphone and so, today, we’re gonna talk about the dark art of concealing microphones.
There are a couple of places that you could hide a microphone on a person and most commonly it’s done in the clothing but there’s a lot of things to consider when you start to hide a microphone in fabric. One thing to be concerned about is high frequency fall-off. When you place a microphone under a person’s clothing the high frequencies of your talent’s voice tend to get lost or muffled, so what you generally want to do is take your microphone and place it under the first layer of clothing that the person’s wearing.
You always want to add a little bit of strain relief to your cables. You never want to have a cable that’s perfectly taut. Essentially what you want to do is make a little circle with the cable and then tape it together before you attach it to your talent. This adds a little bit of flexibility and slack so that when your talent walks around the cable doesn’t pull off.
One of the first things you’re gonna run into is clothing rustle or the sound that the cloth makes as it rubs against the microphone. Now generally wools and cotton are considered least noisy of the fabrics whereas synthetic fibers and silks are extremely noisy, so you want to minimize that.
A clever way to minimize clothing rustle is to use mole skin. Essentially you want to cut a thin strip off a piece of mole skin and wrap it around the microphone element before you place it on your talent. This adds a very fine barrier between the layers of cloth and minimizes the noise rustle.
You can find mole skin in the foot care department of any supermarket or pharmacy and I don’t think they make it out of moles anymore. Attaching the microphone to your talent’s chest or directly under the shirt is the most common microphone placement but there’s other places that are just as unobtrusive.
Another common place to hide a microphone is directly under the collar. This has the benefit of being very easily concealed, although you do have to worry about somebody with an unshaven chin causing rustling on a microphone element.
A particularly good spot to conceal a microphone on a woman is in her bra, actually just right here in the center where the two cups meet. A couple of additional tips to keep in mind when you’re attaching a microphone to a person is to, one, make sure you’re never accidentally covering the microphone element with any adhesive that you’re using and then, second, when you’re attaching a microphone or wiring to a person’s skin you always want to use medical tape. Don’t use gaffer’s tape.
Probably the best place to hide a microphone on a person is in plain sight, and there’s a couple of ways that you can do this. One of the easiest places to conceal a microphone is on a hat. Simply place the hat on your talent’s head and run the cable down the back of the talent’s neck to the transmitter, then take the pick-up element of the microphone and place it somewhere near the front of the brim of the hat.
Another common place to hide a microphone in plain sight is in your talent’s hair. You simply run a microphone cable up the back of the neck, through the hair, and have the microphone pick-up element rest just in the front hairline. The benefits of hiding these microphones in plain sight are that they’re much more natural-sounding than a microphone that’s hidden under a talent’s clothes.
A good way of concealing a microphone in plain sight on a man is to use the microphone clip as a fake tie clip. Simply turn the microphone tie clip backwards and clip it onto the front part of the tie. You want to use a piece of mole skin around that microphone element to keep it from rubbing against the back.
My favorite place though to conceal a microphone in plain sight is in a hollowed-out pen in the talent’s shirt. This is really easy to do and a very effective microphone placement. To do this simply hollow-out a ball-point pen, take your microphone and thread it through the empty tube, then you want to cut the top off of the pen cap and place the microphone at the top of the cap, then put the whole thing in your shirt front pocket and you’ve got perfect microphone placement that no one will see.
Using these microphone concealment techniques allows you to get that microphone as close as you want to your subject without it being seen.
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