Presenter/Actress Mic Thy Self.


It’s the age-old thing, the first time you meet a contributor or actress in some cases, the second thing you could find yourself doing is putting your hand up their jumper.

I’m talking as a sound recordist here, this doesn’t happen in any other element of my life. I’ve been a location recordist for 20 years and it’s still the most challenging part of the day for me.


Well in the main it comes down to trying to get a good mic placement on someone who might be wearing a recordists nightmare of an outfit (if it’s a woman then low-cut top, clanky necklace and figure-hugging dress/skirt/trousers. If it’s a man, silk tie, starched shirt and rustley suit). I’ve been on location and literally heard the contribs outfit as he or she has walked up to me and then been told to mic them up! You’d hope that you would be able to boom it, but in doco world that’s usually unlikely due to the shoot logistics or the style of the film. Next option is to have a change of clothes. This is obviously dependant on the person having access to their wardrobe or the production wardrobe department.

The next element that can cause a pause in the process is the “build” of the contributor and hiding the mic and the transmitter pack. All it might mean is that the cable run and the transmitter need to be more “personal”. This takes time. As a sound recordist you pride yourself on when using Radio Mics and Lavalier mics it doesn’t look or sound like they are on Radio Mics. You don’t want to see an unsightly lump on someone, or an aerial or mic capsule poking out of an outfit or worse still HEAR the outfit as people move and talk.

So, remember all of this is running through your recordist head as he or she approach the person that needs a radio mic.

Now add into this someone, whether they be a professional presenter, or in the case of the link above, a professional actress, who has had a “bad” experience of being mic’d or, a contributor who, quite unsurprisingly is a little nervous of the whole deal of having a mic put on, not due to the personal nature of it but they are a little bit freaked out but the whole “lights, Camera, Action” vibe that’s going on and by the amount of people that are surrounding them – how many times have you heard on location “I wasn’t expecting this many people/this much kit”?

This is the balancing act that the humble little sound recordist/soundo/soundie whatever you want to call us is dealing with. Yes, we could be Blaise about it and just bowl up and bang a mic on someone whether they like it or, whether they like the way we did it or not, whether the mic when its on looks any good on camera or not, whether it sounds any good in the edit or the dub or not, but………………….. what do you think will get us “Not Booked” for the next gig quicker? The edit saying the “the mic placement is terrible, there’s loads of clothes rustle”, or a DoP/Lighting Camera/Camera Dept saying “he mics them quick but they always look terrible” OR a cast member or contributor saying “He’s a bit rough and ready when he’s putting the mic on, I didn’t feel comfortable every time he did it”?

I’m not making out that mic’ing people up is akin to rocket science, brain surgery or finding the cure for Cancer. Far from it, it’s a process that the more experience you have the quicker you can find solutions before you’ve actually shaken hands with the person in question.

What I AM saying is that there’s a lot going on that a GOOD sound recordist will be dealing with.
We’ll be running through all the boring technical things about the clothing mentioned above whilst trying to possibly put a very nervous person at easy whilst putting ourselves where few have gone before. The last words in that sentence might sound a little condescending but believe I’ve been in that situation on some of the programmes I’ve worked on. Everyone on set should respect the fact that this might be the case – the title of the production you are working on in some cases will give you a clue – and its not a respect for the sound recordist I mean, it’s respect for the contributor.

I’ve been from one end of the spectrum to the other. Both these instances happened when I was a cub recordist. One of my first days on the job was mixing interviews in Leicester for a programme called Midlands at Westminster. First interviewee of the day, a woman in full traditional Islamic outfit. Get that sorted sound man. In this case me putting the mic on wasn’t an option so I’d have to explain what I wanted her to do in private. The polar opposite, mic’ing up a voluptuous farmers daughter who’s opening gambit when I was introduced as the sound recordist? “You’re going to have your hands full with these!”

The only thing you can do in these situations is be confident and professional and completely straight down the line. Be clear and concise with what you want them to do and explain what you are doing as you do it.

It’s be pointed out to me before that when I’m mic’ing people that I repeat exactly the same thing, at exactly the same time. It’s become a mantra it would seem. I suppose it’s trying to people, and myself to a certain extent, at ease. I do this multiple time a day, every day I go to work. There is no enjoyment gained from mic’ing up one person from another, its just a professional process.

Brie Larson obviously doesn’t want someone with their hands in her bra. I’m pretty sure that goes for a lot of people and as a recordist we have to respect that. I’m hoping that people reading this article don’t suddenly think “that’s because you’d only be a sound recordist to have your hands in bras” because it’s simply not the case. I’ll tell you why I became a sound recordist another time, maybe?

When you’re mic’ing people up you only need a couple of things:
1) A little bit of time – if it’s someone nervous most of the time will be spent introducing yourself, explaining what you are doing before you do it, explaining what you are doing as you do it and making sure it’s not happening to quickly for the person being mic’d and finally making sure that they are happy. Let’s not forget that once the mic is on it’s most likely that the next thing this person is going to do is go in front of the camera. So do you really want to spin them round in a circle with someone’s hand up their jumper just before you try and get the best out of them on camera?
2) A little bit of space. I can understand that when someone is having a mic put on it almost guarantees they will be in the same spot for0 a certain amount of time, but please, this is not the time to come and chat through what’s going to happen next. Whether the person is a seasoned pro who just lets the sound recordist crack on or someone who’s as nervous as a lamb. When the mic is being put on, capsules and cables hidden, it helps no end if that person is engaged with me and me alone. Weirdly the process becomes less personal when you can ask them to move arms or legs or lift an item of clothing, because you are asking them to do it rather than doing it for them. It gives them an element of control in proceedings.

One last thing, more of a pointer than anything else.

It’s really not a work of comedy Genius to walk passed the sound recordist as he’s mic’ing up the female contrib/actor and say “That’s his favourite part of the day!”. It doesn’t help anyone get things done or help relax the person being mic’d. Do this and I will happily work through as many “always waiting for sound” jokes as you’ve got. How’s that for a deal?

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