The Mysterious Art of Bodymic Placement
Where do you put the lavaliere mic? What in the world is a lavaliere anyway; a lava lamp in the back of a Chevy Cavalier? Will a headset mic turn your pastor into Garth Brooks? The answers to these and other provocative questions are found in this month’s Wireless World.
Few pastors wear a lavaliere, a pendant worn on a chain around the neck. Fewer still will wear a headset mic while speaking, even though the resulting audio quality is spectacular. That leaves the suit lapel and tie as usable places to position a microphone.
Positioning a bodymic properly is a combination of art and science. The key is to use general rules initially and then fine-tune by experimenting. As in all micing situations, the closer the element is to the source, the higher the gain will be. Too often, users place their bodymic mid-way along their torso, causing poor sound quality and little gain-before-feedback. The first rule, then, is to get the mic element as close as practical to the source.
Handheld micing situations give the user easy control of micing distance, but bodymicing presents physical obstacles to correct placement. Creative weaving of the mic and cable are necessary to get the mic into position. A coat provides a convenient place to hide cabling, but can create noise from movement of the fabric against the cable. A workable solution is to route the cable along the back of the wearer where less clothing movement occurs.
Additionally, the cable may be tucked in at the area between the shirt and pants and then brought up inside the shirt and out through a buttonhole.
Minimizing the physical presence of a bodymic starts by using a small mic element. Omnidirectional mic elements are inherently small and make little visual impact. They also usually have a reasonably flat frequency response and exhibit little mechanical noise. Placing an omnidirectional mic upside-down will maintain the signal strength while eliminating breath popping. Omni mics from Sennheiser, Crown, and DPA (formerly Bruel and Kjaer) are excellent examples of technically advanced designs that “disappear” in use while providing excellent sound quality.
Unfortunately, entry-level lapel systems typically contain the manufacturer’s least expensive element, thereby giving omni mics an undeservedly poor reputation. Upgrading just the mic in an otherwise functional system is perhaps the best-realized performance upgrade available.
The use of drama in the church has grown exponentially as the home of the arts has again embraced its offspring. Along with the powerful visual images presented by the actors, clear audio delivery serves to “drive home” the eternal message. Adequate coverage of every actor wearing a period costume can be an issue, but is easily resolved by careful allocation of available resources.
For instance, micing eight characters with four wireless systems can be managed if the following steps are followed. First, determine the four most significant speaking characters and assign them the best mic elements. Then, securely mount the mic element into the costume, using 3M Micro-cell tape to ensure a good fit. Position the elements as close to the mouth area as practical and check the positioning for feedback control. Locate the transmitter in an inconspicuous, yet accessible area on the costume. Next, allocate the original-equipment mic elements to the four secondary characters and optimally position the elements through experimentation.
Since only four wireless systems are present, the characters will need to exchange transmitters among themselves as the play moves between scenes. Assign a backstage person to keep track of the handoffs and relay that information to the A2 (audio assistant) via FRS radio. The assistant may then relay the assignments to the engineer. The limiting factor of four speaking parts with mics (at a time) is usually justifiable and is certainly cheaper than buying four more wireless systems.
Extending the placement of lapel mics to eyeglasses, hair, and headpieces are just a few more ways of getting clean audio in difficult environments. The next Wireless World issue will address the fine art of microphone and RF interplay. Until then, enjoy the mental image of your pastor wearing a gold chain with a large pendant around his neck (a lavaliere) while spouting Disco Dissertations!