Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mic Station and Medical Dispensery

I've added to the stack of supplies kept in the room where we apply microphones to actors. In addition to transpore surgical tape, we've added toupee tape, Tegaderm, moleskin, latex exam gloves, rubbing alcohol, alcohol swabs, and a pair of suture scissors (for cutting the various tapes). Plus an assortment of Decocolor paint markers in various skin tones, bobby pins, barrettes, and wig clips.

I haven't tried the Tegaderm yet. I've learned how to use toupee tape, though. Nasty stuff to work with. It is double-sided flexible tape. Very flexible, very sticky. It's like trying to work with flypaper made of gauze. You stick the stuff to the actor, stick the microphone element on top of it, and then put some transpore tape on top of that so hair and fingers and random set pieces don't get stuck to the actor as well.

The moleskin, I am cutting narrow strips and putting around the heads of the elements just behind the grill. It absorbs incoming sweat and keeps it from dripping inside the microphone element.

The Decocolor markers are to paint elements up or down and get them closer to the actor's skin tone. The paint does rub off in time, and toupee tape will pull it right off, meaning frequent touch-ups. When choosing element colors or painting elements, work down; lighter colors will read as scars, but darker colors usually read as shadows, or stray hairs. Or so I am told!

Another fact of life for wireless microphones is some actors are mic-killers. It's not their fault. Just for whatever reason, microphones fail when put on their bodies. Many shows will have one. Just treat that actor's mic with extra care and suspicion and don't stint the microphone check.

And while we're on the subject: There seems to be this impression (including among board operators who should know better) that microphone check means bringing every actor on to the stage, asking them to sing as loud as they do in the show, and adjusting their trim.

Sorry, no. To be blunt; that's why you are on the board. Expecting the actor to perform cold, without accompaniment, and sound ANYTHING like they will for the show is no better than setting a number blind and expecting it to be good.

Once your mics are dialed in, microphone check is to confirm they are still working properly and working the way you set them. If they sound obviously different, or you had to change an element or transmitter or the actor needed to change placement, then you start messing with the gain and the EQ until you think the mic is dialed in again. And then you tweak again when you hear it in the context of the performance.

Barring that kind of obvious change, don't mess with them! It's stupid. You'll muck up a perfectly good set of mic settings based on what random thing the actors do during mic check and what your tired ears are telling you on a cold morning.

Many, many actors will attempt to do mic check by wandering out with the mic held on with their hand, because they haven't gotten to taping it down yet. They will of course give you mic check without the wigs, hats, glasses, false noses, or whatever will be coloring their voice during performance. Work with stage management to explain to them why this won't work.

But use your regular pre-show mic-check to listen for problems, listen to the sound of the mic, and get a leg up on a congested or hoarse actor or anything else that may have changed and will affect the performance. Don't use it to re-design the show.

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