Production: How To Place a Microphone Correctly

Microphone placement can become a challenge in certain situations. There are many factors that can cause you to compromise high quality sound. There are many microphones you'll use on your shoot, and here is how to place them:

Boom Operating

A boom operator is one of the most informed people on set. In order to do the job well, he needs to keep track of every element of the shot. But first and foremost, the boom operator's priority is to get the mic as close to the subject as possible. This depends a good deal on the frame set up by the director and DP. Ask for a "frame line" to get the boom just above the top of the image. If the frame puts you several feet above the person's head, then consider booming from below. The trouble with booming from below is that more ambient sound gets in. But, if the overall sound is better in this particular case, then consider it.

Boom Shadow

Nothing takes an audience out of the movie quite so abruptly as a boom shadow on the wall behind the subject. While the DP is lighting the shot, keep track of where the lights are going and where they are pointing. Use this along with your knowledge of the frame in order to find the best spot to set yourself up. Also, try to look for anything that could potentially cause a reflection. In many cases, these disturbances may be so subtle that you will not notice them until you move. Nonetheless, it is important to keep track of.

Lavaliere on an Actor

Placing a lavaliere microphone on an actor requires some detailed knowledge. First, you need to try to work with the wardrobe department to find a part of the costume to clip the mic to. This spot will not only have to be hidden from camera view, but it will also have to be a scratch-free zone. So, if there are many layers of fabric, then this could help with hiding the mic, but it could also cause rubbing against the surface of the mic. You then need to thread the wire down through the actors clothing to the transmitter. This mic pack can go on the actors belt if the frame permits it. An ankle strap is a handy tool to have in order to keep the transmitter hidden at all times. Though this involves a lot of human contact, stay professional. Tell the actor how to mute the mic between takes.

Lavalieres on the Set

You can also hide lavalieres on objects in the set. The same rules still apply as far as getting the best sound while hiding the mic from the camera. However, you should also be aware of anything that could rattle the mic. If you hide the mic on a table and the actor slams the table in the scene, your ears will be ringing for awhile. Stay aware of everything in the environment to maximize sound quality.

Recording sound with the best results possible requires a great deal of awareness. An alert sound person will never steer you wrong.

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