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Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

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Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby TrianaSound » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:26 am

I need to record oral history interviews with subjects that have no experience speaking into a mic and are likely intimidated by doing so. I'd like to have everything set-up before the subjects enter the room so they can just sit down and get on with it. In other words, I don't want to call attention to the production process by wiring them up with lavs and/or positioning them underneath intimidating overhead boom rigs.

My question is, can I record both the interviewer and the interviewee using a cardioid (or super-cardioid) condenser microphone placed on floor stands positioned level with seated subjects' mouths, approximately 18" away and slightly off axis so as to be out of their line of sight (see attached photo)? What specific microphones would you recommend for such a set-up? I anticipate the interviewees may shift around in chair during lengthy interviews which is why I thought a cardioid pick-up pattern might be better than shotgun...maybe?

I'm new at this so all suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:44 am

Might be worth looking at fig 8 as well as super-cardiod? Position both mics off to one side with their nulls pointing to the other speaker and that should give you an environment that's easy to enter and leave, isn't physically intimidating, and gives you good separation.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:44 am

TrianaSound wrote:My question is, can I record both the interviewer and the interviewee using a cardioid (or super-cardioid) condenser microphone placed on floor stands positioned level with seated subjects' mouths, approximately 18" away and slightly off axis so as to be out of their line of sight (see attached photo)?

I'd suggest hyper-cardioid or super-cardioid mics -- with one facing each talker -- rather than standard cardioid (or fig-8) as their polar patterns would give better separation and less room sound, and thus better overall sound quality. The angle of the nulls also make placement and positioning easier to maximise isolation of each talker on their respective mics.

But yes, that arrangement would work well -- provided the room itself is quiet and has a reasonable acoustic.

Here's an image from a typical BBC 'soft chair' interview with a set up broadly similar to the one you describe:

Image

This is using old AKG C450-series mics with mic capsules on stalks to minimise their visual intrusion for to the TV cameras, and there are mics on both sides partly to cope with the talkers turning to look at the audience as well as each other, and partly to serve as main/backup pairs as this was a live broadcast. Obviously you'd only need one mic on each talker.

Most domestic living rooms would be fine as a recording location, but beware traffic noise through open windows, ticking clocks, and other background noises that we tend to ignore in normal life but which microphones magically emphasise!

What specific microphones would you recommend for such a set-up?

What's the budget, and what are you recording them onto? Personally, I record interviews like this with Neumann KM185s onto a Nagra VI... but I doubt you'll want to go quite that high-end... :lol:

I anticipate the interviewees may shift around in chair during lengthy interviews which is why I thought a cardioid pick-up pattern might be better than shotgun...maybe?

Shotguns don't really work very well indoors -- the interference tube doesn't work correctly when there are strong side reflections and so you're left with the underlying hyper-cardioid capsule polar pattern anyway. In which case, standard hyper-cardioids look better, sound a lot nicer, and are less expensive!
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Zukan » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:49 am

Is Obama available as a plugin?

I already have Frankie Howard.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby The Elf » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:59 am

IM(limited)E a lavalier seems to make interviewees less anxious than any visible mic - as soon as the lavalier is fitted they forget it's there.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:05 am

I'd agree and it would be my normal go-to approach for this kind of job -- especially if it was being filmed as it is a much less conspicuous solution (assuming the cables are dressed properly -- something so many ignore and it looks terrible!...

...but...

(1) In these days of social isolation it's not (theoretically) safe or practical to fit tie-clip mics to people.

and

(2) If a tieclip mic isn't fitted correctly you can end up with a lot of rustling and unwanted mechanical (clothes) noises, so asking the guest to fit their own rarely works well...

Reasonable pencil mics on well-positioned stands in a decent room will deliver good results with minimal fuss and inconvenience.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Kwackman » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:26 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Reasonable pencil mics on well-positioned stands in a decent room will deliver good results with minimal fuss and inconvenience.

+1.

Is this being filmed?
If not you could perhaps use a table and use desk mount stands which can be fairly small with pencil mics.
If the interviewer's questions are not going to feature in the final product, a small recorder with a built in mic could maybe be used instead?

Years ago on another forum someone was asking a similar question, especially about not wanting the interviewer to be intimidated by microphones. An old hand suggested the best way to relax a novice interviewee was a cup of tea/coffee for 5 minutes before hand (with the interviewee in position) and a friendly chat. If it's not being filmed, you can keep the cups on the table to distract from the microphones/recorder!
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:50 am

Just one thing to think about with the table idea is the likelihood of accidental thumps from hands on the table etc. It's surprisingly how people hit the table for unconscious emphasis when talking....
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby MOF » Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:14 pm

Just one thing to think about with the table idea is the likelihood of accidental thumps from hands on the table etc. It's surprisingly how people hit the table for unconscious emphasis when talking....
The Rycote Invision suspension mounts are very good for reducing mechanical transmission and are not very expensive. Worth getting for mic’ stands, boom pole or table stands.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 3:39 pm

Clearly H's point about social distancing is v important and dictates what can/can't be used here.

But just wanted to say that I've done a lot of on-camera interviews with many members of the public (i.e. no TV/sound experience whatsoever) and I've never once had an issue with the participants and lav mics. Nobody has ever asked not to wear one or expressed issues with putting one on (and that includes hiding the cable inside their clothing).

The most important thing going into those situations is ensuring they're fully informed of what's going to happen BEFORE you arrive (so they know what they're signing up for), and that they are kept informed during the shoot & given the choice to say 'no' to anything they're not comfortable with once you're there with them (e.g. attaching a mic to their clothes). This is especially important if interviewing kids, and of course their parents need to be informed/give permission too.

Equally, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere goes a long way too. Good luck OP!
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:09 pm

paddy2424 wrote:But just wanted to say that I've done a lot of on-camera interviews with many members of the public (i.e. no TV/sound experience whatsoever) and I've never once had an issue with the participants and lav mics.

Nor me with members of the public. They are normally so pleased anticipating their 15 minutes of fame that they'll happily let you get on with whatever is needed. But I have had one or two situations with the odd prima-donna 'star celebrity' in the seven or eight years that fitting mics was a frequent part of my day job.

A friend and long-time professional TV sound recordist recounts a tale of a certain TV-actress turned movie star (with a Dame-hood) who, when he asked to fit a lavalier mic, threw a total hissy fit, wrestled the mic from his hand, threw it to the floor and stamped on it!

Replacement mic billed to production company, and the sound assistant fitted a spare mic later once the 'star' was in a more balanced state...
:lol:
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 6:04 pm

I'm a pretty patient person but I'm not sure I'd have it in me to politely accept that kind of behaviour, even if they are famous! Though I'd probably be out of a job pretty quickly of course.

Also, just to add that if you're filming in the EU then GDPR rules need to be followed with regards to getting INFORMED CONSENT from anyone appearing on film (even if you edit them out of the final product). Informed consent basically means they know how and where the footage will be used, e.g. on a website/at conferences etc.. and that they give explicit permission (signing a form, for example). That applies whether the film will be available publicly or privately.

I believe that it's slightly different if you're filming on the street and pick up people in the background going about their normal daily lives, but I'm not entirely certain of the laws. And if filming in a public building (e.g. a supermarket), they're likely to have a CCTV notice which I think covers anyone lurking in the background (i.e. by entering in this building you agree to appearing on CCTV, which also happens to cover people filming in the building - at least that was the case about 5 years ago in the UK).

Might be different in different parts of the world, but definitely worth checking on these kinds of things to ensure you're respecting people's privacy whilst also protecting your own a$$.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:02 pm

The only time I've had an issue with a lavalier mic was with a lady who was wearing an nice, fitted, high-necked dress. There was literally nowhere to clip the thing on! :)
I ended up clipping it to a spare camera tripod and doing a closer frame to keep it out of shot.

Privacy, the law and filming is a very interesting kettle of fish. It's worth remembering that the law has different expectations of privacy around audio and video as well. If you're filming in a public place and someone is in the shot in the background then legally they have no additional expectation of privacy - i.e. you can film them, and even if they complain, you don't need to delete any footage* you've captured. But if you're close enough to capture audio, that's a different kettle of fish.
Which makes sense if you think about it.

* Unless you're a news reporter, I would never recommend this approach! :) It will almost always be quicker, easier and generally less hassle just to delete and re-shoot.
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:02 pm

I'm sure you're right Drew so I assume it's just paranoia, but why does news, documentary, and reality TV footage blur the faces of so many in the background (and car number plates)?
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Re: Can you help me replicate this interview set-up?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:45 pm

Probably because it's not worth the hassle of a challenge. There's also the risk of the production being accused of defamation if they're including somebody in footage of something less than flattering. "I wasn't rioting, i was just walking home with some brick samples in my hand."
The threat of legal action can frequently be as effective as the real thing.
Also, just because somewhere looks like a public space doesn't mean it is - especially in London and increasingly in other big cities. So additional considerations come into play.
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