TIP OF THE WEEK: Sound

TIP OF THE WEEK

If there’s one thing everybody learns from reading these posts and watching examples of excellent work…it’s that the folks who are are really at the top of the storytelling game sweat the details. They are, for the most part, perfectionists in an imperfect world.

Want to know a detail that gets careful attention on everything they shoot? Microphone placement.

Much has been written about some of the top contributors to this site who have gone to great lengths to capture sound. Yes, it’s fun to talk about putting the wireless mic in the cup on the 18th hole; attaching a mic to baseball players, square-dance callers and winning jockeys, but how many of us really care about getting good audio at news conferences, courthouse gang-bangs and those other nasty elements of local news that don’t make award reels, but are a staple of what we do?

Equip yourself to place the proper microphones close to the action every time you shoot, and not just in the same ZIP code.

The other day I saw a sat feed of a big market news conference…two microphones on the podium, on stands, pointed directly at the speaker, and the rest of the mics, maybe a half dozen or so, just sitting flat on the podium, pointed directly at the speaker’s navel. No stands or clamps used. One of those mics was apparently the source of the audio I heard, because there was much paper shuffling noise accompanying the speaker, as he moved papers around and over the mics cluttering the podium in front of him. Even without all that distracting clatter, the audio sounded, well, hollow at best.

If your station does not provide you with a folding, fast-action microphone stand, and (even better) a nice c-clamp with gooseneck, start lobbying for them. If you are really a perfectionist, you can buy them for a few of your hard-earned dollars at B&H and other mail-order houses. This may be the easiest way toward gathering a reputation for flawless audio.

Their uses are not limited to news conferences. Once you make fast-action mic stands and clamps part of your bag of tricks, they are absolutely essential as you expand your ability to get the audio that others can’t/won’t or don’t.

Here’s a way to turn a folding cart into a press conference mic stand, using a c-clamp, a gooseneck and a mic cradle. I’m on a busy Los Angeles street and the shotgun mic will also be an effective way to cancel much of the ambient traffic noise, in the “manual” audio mode. The RE-50 and any other omnidirectional mic stays where it belongs…in the fanny pack. This clamping rig is effective on the sides of podiums, under p/a speakers (when you arrive late) and just about any other place where you want to get good audio and need to attach a mic. At news conferences, when you attach to the side, it’s also a good way to grab your mic and leave early if you have to, without messing up the rat’ nest of other station’s mics.