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Peter Morley



Joined: 27/03/08
Posts: 103
Loc: Nottingham - England
How are shows miked? new
      #674265 - 02/11/08 09:37 PM
OK, I'm not proud of this but my girlfriend dragged me to a performance of Chicago in the West End over the weekend. Whilst I was cringing I noticed that every singer was heard perfectly over the miked up 12 piece band behind them.

So my question is....... How the hell do you mic up a whole stage to ensure that every singer including the chorus is heard when there's a 12 piece brass band no more than 5 yards behind them? Also, how do you make sure the principal singer is heard over everyone else?

I know it was all live 'cos I heard some of the footsteps on the stage and could see the drummer playing. I'm absolutely sure there was no miming going on.

The only thing I can think of is shot gun mics. However, I couldn't see that happening (could've been behind the scenes though).

Cheers

--------------------
"Don't you fuckin dare dampen or gate any of my drums; I'll tune them"


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_ Six _



Joined: 03/06/06
Posts: 1510
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674269 - 02/11/08 09:55 PM
They might have had wireless throat mics on.


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Peter Morley



Joined: 27/03/08
Posts: 103
Loc: Nottingham - England
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: _ Six _]
      #674288 - 02/11/08 11:09 PM
Quote SixStringzzz:

They might have had wireless throat mics on.




That's what I thought at the time but I invested 50p on the opera glasses and looked for battery packs and stuff stuck to the performers. There was nothing at all. If you ever have the dubious pleasure of seeing Chicago then you'll see that there's nowhere to hide anything on the female performers. To be fair, that's what stopped me from leaving!!

--------------------
"Don't you fuckin dare dampen or gate any of my drums; I'll tune them"


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turtles



Joined: 22/10/04
Posts: 244
Loc: Notts, mostly.
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674292 - 02/11/08 11:27 PM
There is always the possibility that the performers on stage actually know their craft, and can project properly.


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Microwave



Joined: 11/09/04
Posts: 977
Loc: London, Europe
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674294 - 02/11/08 11:29 PM
Are you sure it wasn't just a bad dream? I have nightmares like that sometimes.


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wigli
member


Joined: 31/01/04
Posts: 67
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674307 - 03/11/08 12:12 AM
More and more shows these days are running synchronised backing tracks with "backing" vocals on them.


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674323 - 03/11/08 01:32 AM
People like me get paid to make sure that they are heard and that mics are not seen.

I can't say what exactly is the case for what you saw as I haven't seen that production myself, but I would nearly wager that some wireless were used, probably one per principal. This is not to say the talent cannot project, in fact they still HAVE to project or else the A1's job is MUCH more difficult, but the general trends lately has been to increase levels, especially for shows like Chicago to rock and roll like levels which has required mics on the actors to match and ensure they are heard over the music.

In general you will see many more wireless microphones used in theater than you will on a concert stage to be honest. This is especially surprising to some when you consider in most cases these are omni-directional microphones, as they have to be for proximity effect and a few other reasons.

At any rate, look closely at the hairline, and behind the ear as those are the two most common mounting locations for MKE-2s or Countryman B3s or B6s, or DPA 4061 microphones which are the most common ones used. On some shows you will see head mount microphones like the countryman E6 used now as well, but these still aren't as common, and aren't likely to be seen on Broadway, for instance, anytime soon.

Along with this you will usually find a variety of spot and area micing with shotguns, boundry mics, etc. for chorus as well as a backup in case a mic fails depending on the show size. Generally though for the principles on large shows they will actually be double mic'd to prevent this from being an issue.

While backing tracks are possible, I personally haven't run any theater show recently where they were used, and even the ones I used to run that had them, they were avoided like the plague by most music directors for good reason, the audience comes to see a live performance, not hear a recording. That being said in specific venues they are very notable, for instance Sight and Sound Theater in the US uses them on every show if memory serves.

I think this should answer most of your questions, let me know if I missed one.

Seablade


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674324 - 03/11/08 01:35 AM
Quote Peter Morley:

There was nothing at all. If you ever have the dubious pleasure of seeing Chicago then you'll see that there's nowhere to hide anything on the female performers. To be fair, that's what stopped me from leaving!!




By the way, you would be amazed both at how small you can get packs, and how well they can be hidden on very little clothing. Even on the female actresses, hiding them within the bra is not uncommon, as well as hiding the pack under a wig as well.

As I said, people like me get paid to work around this as much as possible, and the ones paid lots of money to design the largest shows get paid that money for a reason. They are REALLY good at what they do, and between them and the costumer, they can usually figure something out.

Seablade


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22435
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: seablade]
      #674358 - 03/11/08 08:37 AM
I've seen that show (and many more like it) and as seablade says, it is radio mics hidden in the hairline. It's quite a skilled job to fit and hide the mics either on the forehead just at the edge of the hairline, or on the cheek or temple. Radio transmitters can be hidden in various places, and the costume department are quite adept at concelaing them, but the small of the back is a favourite for dancers, or sometimes under the bra at the front. Modern TX packs are very small.

There is an article HERE from 'my other magazine' Line Up (which is aimed at the broadcast industry) that decribes the art and technique of hiding personal mics in this kind of application. As you'll see, if fitted right you'd have trouble spotting the mic if you wre stood next to the artist, let alone sat in the stalls or squinting through opera glasses.

www.lineup.biz

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #674446 - 03/11/08 12:37 PM
There is some good stuff in that article, and whiel I don't agree with everything in it, thebasics of it are a very good read for people interested. I personally would actually try to get the mic on early, and use makeup to cover any tape and blend it with the skin instead of just trusting to transpore, which can be reflective and very noticable under lighting for example. I also don't tend to tape visibly on the skin, but rather tape at the base of the neck under a shirt when there is one, and behind the ear if extra support needed and the mic is going to be placed there.

I was introduced to another type of tape called Blenderm that worked rather well by a hair and makeup artist on broadway, like transpore it is clear and sticks rather well, but again you need to mask it with makeup. You will also find some people you need to use a skin-prep on wherever you want to put the tape as the people that sweat a LOT tend to sweat off their tape. I haven't run across to many of these myself, but it does happen on occasion.

And unless a wig is used I have stopped using elastic ont he head myself, prefering to clip it into place. Less noticable and doesn't get hair people pissed at you for messing up the styling when something happens to remove it;)

Personally I also haven't used toupee tape under the mic, but might be trying that sometime as it doesn't sound like a bad idea on occasion, particularly with the skin-prep victims I mentioned above.

At the very least next time I am training someone to be an A2 I might reference the article though, as I said, it isn't bad.

Seablade


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #674453 - 03/11/08 12:44 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Radio transmitters can be hidden in various places, and the costume department are quite adept at concelaing them, but the small of the back is a favourite for dancers, or sometimes under the bra at the front. Modern TX packs are very small.




To add on to this a little... look at the Leccy SM series transmitters for examples of how small they can get sometimes rather easily.

Also, small of the back can be good, but other alternatives can include inside of the thigh, which is popular for fighters and dancers both, as well as under the arm, which can be used depending on choreography if other places are not availiable. Another one that does get used on occasion, particularly for things like open back dresses, is under the waistband as well surprisingly, but it obviously depends on how loose fitting the pants are to hide it in that case.

Spend some time with an A2, their job can be surprisingly difficult at times. And by the way, I have always said tact and ability to communicate is essential to any engineer, this actually becomes even more important in my experience with the A2 position in theater.

Seablade

Who had to intercede before for a tactless A2 who said the wrong thing to a costume designer(Without realizing it of course) and nearly left without a head as a result. That was an interesting night.


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Dan LB



Joined: 28/01/06
Posts: 1009
Loc: Wicklow, Ireland
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: seablade]
      #674789 - 04/11/08 01:35 PM
Quote seablade:


look at the Leccy SM series transmitters for examples of how small they can get sometimes rather easily.




That's Lectrosonics for people wondering what Seablade's talking about. Also there is the Sennheiser SK5212

Dan


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Dan LB]
      #674814 - 04/11/08 03:11 PM
Bah thanks for that, I usually catch myself but have been around a contractor that refers to them as nothing but Leccy lately;)

Seablade


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stevie j



Joined: 22/05/07
Posts: 279
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674827 - 04/11/08 03:56 PM
You're lucky seablade, the show's I'm doing at the min are High School Musical tributes and the director insists on handheld wireless.

There's always one person in every scene who forgets they're holding a mic and the audience misses half the line.

--------------------
Disclaimer: Advice is taken at your own risk.


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: stevie j]
      #674836 - 04/11/08 04:25 PM
Quote stevie j:

You're lucky seablade, the show's I'm doing at the min are High School Musical tributes and the director insists on handheld wireless.

There's always one person in every scene who forgets they're holding a mic and the audience misses half the line.




Heh, for lack of a nicer way of saying it....

That director won't ever work professionally like that. No producer would allow it, and I am amazed a director would refuse lavs in favor of handhelds. That is ridiculous to me, even if it would make my job easier in some respects.

"I'm sorry, let me forget I am acting a moment and grab a microphone."

That was my thought when I was forced to pull a sound system out of my arse one time for some VERY extreme extenuating circumstances and we were forced to use two handhelds instead of the 24 wireless I had designed it for. It was the actor's thoughts as well. It made for a really bad show, not just from a sound standpoint, but from a performance standpoint as well.

Seablade


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stevie j



Joined: 22/05/07
Posts: 279
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: seablade]
      #674879 - 04/11/08 06:26 PM
TBH he's not a pro at all, he was hired to make a show by a promotion company I sometimes work for and somehow billed himself as an all inclusive package with his own PA, lights and mics etc.

It turns out he had a bottom of the range JBL rig suitable for audiences of up to 300 and that's pushing it. We've been getting 800 people on average per show and the back half of the rooms gets no direct sound whatsoever.

The director and promoters split once the trial contract was up and the promoters are getting a new cast with a professional set up that I get to spec for each show. I can't wait. They've ordered head mics and everything and I'll be getting better pay.

In the mean time, I'm doing the directors sub-par show for the money.

It was my first theatre gig and there's a whole different skill-set involved than doing bands.

--------------------
Disclaimer: Advice is taken at your own risk.


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: stevie j]
      #674891 - 04/11/08 07:23 PM
Quote:


It was my first theatre gig and there's a whole different skill-set involved than doing bands.





Yes... yes there is. And this applies to system design as well, given the audience sizes you are quoting I hope you are looking at proper delays, especially when dealing with omni lavs.

I pity you in the meantime. But it is a nice learning experience in what NOT to do for theater;)

Seablade

PS I am guessing you aren't dealing with live bands yet? Otherwise everything for theater just gets added right on top of what you do for live concert mixing


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stevie j



Joined: 22/05/07
Posts: 279
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #674937 - 04/11/08 10:38 PM
Oh no, just backing tracks ATM

When you say 'proper delays' do you mean in the delay stacks?

Oh yeah and the shows are mainly in hotel's function rooms and town halls, only one so far has been in a proper theatre with an in house set up

--------------------
Disclaimer: Advice is taken at your own risk.


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seablade



Joined: 21/11/04
Posts: 4055
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: stevie j]
      #674967 - 05/11/08 12:14 AM
By proper delays I mean delay locations. I don't necessarily recommend 'stacks' due to sight line issues in most places. But delay clusters placed appropriately will allow a lower overall level of sound to cover the same amount of space ina theater, and gets used much more often in theater than in music due to not always needing to blow things away, and due to the fact having 20+ omni lavs can make for some interesting feedback issues with high power stereo stacks only;)

Seablade


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stevie j



Joined: 22/05/07
Posts: 279
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #675041 - 05/11/08 11:39 AM
I've been trying to tell the director to hire a set-up with delays at each venue, but he wants to keep it as cheap as possible. So I do my best with what I've got.

TBH I don't really care as long as he pays me, I've got a decent run with a pro company as soon as they get a show together.

--------------------
Disclaimer: Advice is taken at your own risk.


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Jitter



Joined: 27/02/06
Posts: 9
Re: How are shows miked? new [Re: Peter Morley]
      #676023 - 08/11/08 12:51 PM
Seablade already explained almost everything there is about the "art". Often people don´t realize the the complexity of having lav mics on stage. Not only you have to place the microphone as good as you can, you have to alert talent to treat the mic+transmitter as their baby . For the really sweaty actors I discovered a good technique. Before make up I clean the actors face (if the mic is going on the cheek) with alcohol and when it is dry I stick transpore tape on the area i´m going to put the mic afterwards. Then when make up is ready I remove the tape and place the mic and send him/her again to make up to disguise the mic. I tend to use small knots of elastic band on the mic cord to ensure that sweat on the cable won´t get to the capsule. We could stay here all day talking about mic techniques used on stage. On the other hand, getting the system well calibrated is mandatory, if its a horseshoe theatre (like mine) you have to forget line arrays, and go for short throw with good vertical coverage multipoint design. Im not even going to talk about mixing the show....

Pedro


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cedd



Joined: 26/07/06
Posts: 471
Loc: Leeds, UK
Re: How are shows miked? [Re: Peter Morley]
      #676414 - 09/11/08 10:29 PM
I've seen a trend recently in a lot of the smaller work i've done for a low profile headset to be used with little or no masking at all, it's just accepted as being there. I personally like to hide the things as best as i can, hairline is always a safe bet.
As for hiding packs, i've done one show where the male lead ended up in just a pair of y fronts. The pack was placed down the front of them and he was wearing a very tight dancing jock strap so the natural "bulge" you'd expect was actually the beltpack. Needless to say i let him fit the beltpack!
The stage show of "The full monty" also poses problems for obvious reasons. The 5 male leads do end up completely naked. I've seen this done 2 ways, either backing tracked for the last few lines, or with beltpack and mic hidden in the hat they wear right until the final reveal. The last line is when the hat then becomes unuseable as it's moved down to preserve their dignity which then needs some careful thought, but luckily the last line is delivered pretty loud so the boundary mics can do the job.

But yes, it is very much an artform, it takes an awful lot of time pre-show to get everybody rigged, especially when it's a 20+ mic show and you've no A2!


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