Miking several people

Anonymous (not verified)

I've just been watching some professional documentaries, and wondering how they are doing sound for interviews, particularly when there are conversations going on. Once in a while I thought I saw a lavalier mike clipped to someone's shirt, but more often not. Shotgun? Maybe. But what happens when you have, say, people sitting around a table, or a family in their living room talking to each other? Six shotgun mikes? And does a shotgun really give you the quality I've been hearing? Case in point: "45365."

Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 39 min 2 sec ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
Plus Member

Our company regularly records a French speaking doctor and his simultaneous translator, with a mic for a moderator and at least a couple of additional audio sources in the audience. We feed all the mics into an audio mixer, which then goes into one channel on the camera. The second channel is used with a shotgun for ambient sound.

To mic a conference table we often use PZMs, which don't provide the same sound quality a shotgun or lavalier mics would give us, but which have excellent pick up characteristics for folks at a table. If higher quality audio is required we use a shotgun on a boom pole or several shotguns on mic stands.

For situations where a speaker is addressing an audience in a Q&A situation we use a shotgun on a boom pole. This requires a separate operator but enables us to get a mic "up close and personal" rapidly.

Generally speaking, the best quality will be provided by having a lavalier mic on each speaker; a shotgun on a boom is probably next best, followed by PZMs. Everything else being equal, the closer the mic the better the audio.


EarlC's picture
Last seen: 4 years 3 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am

Rarely does a single mic solution offer the desired audio quality. PZM mics, those units that sit central on a flat surface, utilizing the surface as a "sort of" speaker, rarely (as Wolcott points out) provide decent quality and are notorious for picking up every pin click, cufflink rattle, fingernail clacking, paper rustling ... you get the idea.

The ultimate solution, again as Wolcott notes, is to mic each individually when and where at all possible, use a sound person to ride the mixer, and utilize quality microphones for acquisition. Close groups can be hardwired, while people spread out around a room will require wireless rigs.

It has been my experience that I can get better quality sound for less investment by going with hardwired and wireless lavaliere mic systems than trying to utilize shotgun mic systems of high enough quality to ensure the quality of audio I desire in most interview situations. You'll likely spend way more for the level of shotgun mic quality needed to match what those hardwired and wireless mic systems will get you.

grinner's picture
Last seen: 8 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 12/29/2007 - 2:56am

You'll do that in post. Dangle as you need to in the field then mask as needed later.

D0n's picture
Last seen: 3 years 10 months ago
Joined: 11/09/2007 - 5:28pm

I find wire under the shirt, and skin toned bandaids and or green painters tape (no residue on clothing) helps a lot with hiding mics. you simply have to be creative.

EarlC's picture
Last seen: 4 years 3 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am

I have to estimate that 80 percent or better of the documentary and/or interview productions I've seen do not worry about "hiding" the mic. Clean dressed mic such as what Don notes usually is accepted.

Personally, I don't think the added time in post work, rotoscoping out mic and wire assemblies, is being very efficient or productive and certainly will, all else considered time-wise, probably take ANY documentary project over budget.

Until I acquired a white lavaliere mic system (primarily for use with brides and those white dresses) I actually used Liquid Paper to put a temporary white coating on my black ones. As Don notes, I've often used flesh-colored bandage strips and various colors of gaffers tape to attach. I've also often dangled mic systems just out of frame for overheads, etc.

However, again, I simply do not think that the vast majority of documentary projects necessitates eliminating the visual presence of mic systems, so long as dangling wires, or messy dressing is avoided in the setup.