Microphones & Sound
It might seem like a small subject, but it’s important.
So you’re on set, dressed up, made up and ready to go. Then the sound technician wanders over and decides how they’re going to mic you.
different kinds of mics
Essentially there are 2 main options. If you are shooting a scene and the camera will be close up on your face then they may well decide to use a boom microphone. This is simply a microphone on a long pole which a boom operator will dangle over you just out of shot to pick up what you say.
Alternatively if it’s a long shot and they can’t get the boom microphone close enough to you, they’ll use a radio mic. This is more common nowadays and simple to set up. A technician will clip a tiny microphone to your collar, under your lapel, inside your blouse or someplace out of sight.
The technician will then run a wire from the mic under your shirt and connect it to a transmitter about the size of a cigarette packet which you’ll slip into your pocket or maybe clip to your belt out of sight.
Don’t try to do the job for yourself while this is going on, just hold up your shirt and let the technician get on with their job. And don’t worry, they’ve seen thousands of bras and aren’t interested in getting a quick feel, they just want to do their job and move on so don’t be squeamish or precious about them seeing some flesh.
And once this is done, the technician will be able to pick up every single thing you say and record it.
be careful what you say
Remember that comment about the sound technicians being able to hear everything you say.
Remember they will hear EVERY SINGLE THING YOU SAY because SOMEBODY IS LISTENING no matter where you are… So… just remember these simple things when you’re wearing a radio mic.
They can hear you whispering even if you think they can’t. This means before the shot happens and you lean over to another actor and bitch about the director in a low whisper, the sound technician can hear you and is probably recording what you say. So don’t bitch when you’re wearing a mic.
When you nip to the toilet and are sitting there on your own enjoying some peace and quiet, the sound technician may well be listening to everything that is happening. Of course they are 99.9% not interested in hearing the sounds you might be making, but do you want to take that chance? The answer: make sure the mic is turned off when you take a bathroom break.
soft and loud sounds
When a take is in progress the sound technician is listening through a pair of headphones to everything the mic picks up. Occasionally they may stop the take because an aeroplane is passing overhead or a police siren sounds in the distance.
Before you begin, the technician will ask you to say a few sentences in the scene so they can get a sound check. If you have to whisper they will turn up the record volume; if you are shouting they will turn down the record volume.
But what if you whisper a little bit then suddenly scream?
Golden Rule: if there’s a sudden, large change in volume tell the sound technician beforehand! This is because they may have the record volume turned right up for you whispering and then you suddenly scream and it bursts their ear drums which won’t make you very popular.
Finally, if you’re recording live the technician may suddenly demand that there’s silence on set. The entire the entire cast and crew stop what they’re doing and stay silent while the technician records the background noise or ambient sound. You don’t have to worry about the technical side of this, but when the sound technician tells everyone to be quiet, take notice and don’t make a single, tiny, sound until they yell, “Cut.”