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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Talent is a Reality

When it comes to reality shows, there's a fine line between professional actors and people reacting to a camera on the street. The cast is generally used to the micing process, and while it might've taken them a few times to get used to it, they at least come into it with the right mindset of, "OK, so it's gonna just be like this everytime." But when other friends or guests are part of the action, it can sometimes be a different story.
I've definitely found you have to take a careful approach when micing people that have never even so much as been around a camera. Some people, men and women alike, are completely comfortable with some stranger sticking his hands up their shirt. Others...not so much. I find it very important to kinda feel out the person's persona, so to speak. I always try to explain what I'm going to put where and how I plan on getting there. The typical response is, "Go for it. You gotta do whatcha gotta do." Although sometimes they are a bit more hesitant, in which case I'll say, "Does that work for you?" They might wan to run the wire up or down themselves, which is fine with me, but I never let them take over and try to adhere the mic themselves. You're just asking for trouble if you do that.

When I'm using a vampire clip, I always try to remind them that it's very sharp. That way they don't try to take it off themselves and possibly damage the mic or prick them their finger (both of which have happened regardless of what you tell them).

Sometimes the process can be a bit awkward, specifically for the women. So long as you're being the professional that you are, there should be no problems. It's easy when you get to deal with a professional actor. They're very used to the process and what needs to happen. Other "real people" can still be a bit finicky. I'm sure it's easier on a female sound mixer or A2. I don't know any, but I'd love to hear from their experiences. At the end of the day, if you show them respect, you'll get it right back. 

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beta Testing: COS-11 mounts from LMC Sound

I was recently offered the task of testing out some prototypes of a new mount for the popular Sanken COS-11 lavalier, from LMC Sound.  These guys originally broke into the lav accessory market when they rolled out their vampire clips for the COS-11.  I was glad to hear they were rolling out another mounting option for this industry-standard lav.

Clean and simple design allows it to be virtually unbreakable.
Basically, it's a very thick, hard, plastic cylindric tube that is fitted perfectly for the COS-11.  There currently is no other mount on this prototype, like a vampire clip, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When I first got the plastic cylinder, it reminded me of a "Hush Lav".  The biggest problem I've had with hush lavs is the fact that you can't just tape them to talent and expect it to hold it's original traits once removed (for me anyways).  They're pretty much disposable when you use any kind of adhesive on them.  I guess that's just the sacrifice that has to be made for the extra grip.  This little hard plastic piece seemed like it would remedy that issue.  

I used it in neck tie knots, as well as full length button down shirts.

Simple design makes for a versatile mount
Application Method:
I found Joe's Sticky Stuff to be very effective on this mount.  A little strip wrapped fully around the cylinder allowed perfect placement on the button down shirts.  And with adhesive on both "sides" of the mount, it kinda did the job of topstick, or other double sided tape, by not allowing the clothing to rub against itself.  This proved to be especially useful on starchy shirts.  And it's reusable for at least 10-15 applications before it needs to be replaced, unlike moleskin which has a lifespan of 1-2 uses at best.

Why It's Awesome:
-Reusable; You can apply and remove tape/adhesive as many times as you want.  It won't destroy the mount.
-Rigidity; The mount is hard, but still slightly pliable.  I like this characteristic specifically because it won't crush under the weight of a shirt or a tie.  It stays intact and in it's original shape where ever it's placed.
-Audio quality; The capsule sticks out from the containment just perfectly.  There's absolutely no way you're gonna lose any acoustic characteristics from your COS-11 using this mount.
-No clip/fang; I hope it is kept like this, or at least have an option to have no vamp mount.  It would still work with a vampire clip on it, but I think it's most effective and most versatile without one.
-Snug; It's a perfect fit for the COS-11 and very tight, but still able to be removed without damage to the mic.  It's the same fit as their current vampire clips, but it's actually easier to remove because of the nature of the thickness.
-No parts; There's nothing to break, and it seems indestructible.

Just enough capsule exposure for optimal acoustic properties
Why You Might Not Want It:
-Windscreen; I found I needed room for a windscreen on occasion.  (NOTE: There are plans for a version that fits with a windscreen.)
-No grip; I'd like it to be a more of a textured rubber compound than maybe the slick plastic, but that's not a deal breaker at all.  I think the extra grip would come in handy in the neck tie knots, but it works well enough as is.  I'm not sure I'd want to sacrifice the slickness for grip.  I could see the pros and cons in both options. (NOTE: This prototype version was offered in only a hard plastic version.  They are working on a different rubberized material.)
-Specialty item; I wish I could use them more, but it doesn't always make sense to.  I'd do almost anything to cease the mind-numbing task of cutting strips of moleskin, but it just works so well in most situations.  This mount will get seldom use, but it's very useful when needed (so maybe not a con after all).

Overall, I was impressed with this little thing.  It's a very simple design with a very simple purpose; separate the capsule from the clothes.  Needless to say, it truly delivered.  The only major change I'd make is to have room for a windscreen, but that's already in the works.  Even as a prototype, this new plastic mount from LMC Sound is ready for the field. Look for a finished product in May 2011 from your favorite location audio vendor.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Show, Another Crew

The thing about our industry is that you're always working with new people on nearly every project.  For example, on the reality show I'm on for Bravo right now there are about 20 crew members, of which I've worked with only 2 previously.  We're on for about 4 straight months, so you always just cross your fingers and hope everyone clicks.  It's important to maintain a good rapport with your fellow colleagues because you'll never know where you're next job will come from.

Once we loaded the vans and started chatting, we realized we were all only about 1 degree separated from each other.  Even though everyone lived all over the country (Los Angeles, New York, Dallas), we actually ran in the same circles with other shooters, sound mixers, producers, and even execs.  "Have you ever worked with Joe Schmo?" "Why, yes!  I actually just finished a show last year with Joe.  What a small world!"  I've had several jobs fall in my lap from someone I worked with in LA that knows someone that's doing a show out my way.  They enjoyed working with you (and you gave them good results), and BAM, you're in like that.  So keep your professionalism in mind if/when things go awry on set.  Don't just walk out because you can. Take the time and do everything right.  Think long term because if you want your job in this industry to be more than just a job, then you have to.

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