In “Wireless Mic Techniques for Theatrical Production” we’ll investigate commonly used methods in theater for miking actors with wireless elements. As with much of the knowledge in the theater sound community, documentation is light and information is passed from technician to technician, so consider Masque Sound’s guide just that, a guide. If you have tips, tricks, or suggestions you’d like us to test and add to our guide, drop us a line!
When competing with high volume music and sound effects in musicals and plays, vocal reinforcement can be difficult. In order to accomplish the quality and level of audio necessary, actors are often fitted with their own microphone and wireless transmitter when on stage. Keep in mind, softer performances may not require this type of mic placement and those placements will not be discussed in this series.
The ideal mic placement on an actor is one that is almost invisible, is not changed by the direction the actor faces, and sounds as clear and consistent as possible. To conceal the microphone and wire, making it almost invisible, a variety of “arts and crafts” techniques are used, including painting, dyeing, taping, and others. In order to maintain the mic’s relative position to the actor’s mouth, the mics are mounted on their head in a variety of positions. Clarity and consistency of sound is by achieved through trial and error – the microphone will respond to variations to each actor’s voice differently.
In theater, there are a variety of mic placements, but it is generally accepted that the best sounding placement is with an omnidirectional element on the forehead, just below the hairline where vocal resonance is created from the forehead and sinus cavity. Mic placement as low as the bridge of the nose, and as far to the left or right, directly above the eye is not uncommon. Generally, the closer to the mouth the mic is placed, the louder and closer sounding the audio is. Each actor’s mic placement is situational, with the timbre and volume of the voice dictating where the mic is placed.
At times, based on an actor’s, director’s, or wardrobe issues, placement is less than traditional. One such placement is over the ear which relies on the actor’s cheekbone for resonance instead of the forehead/ sinus cavity. The microphone will peek out an inch or two beyond the ear canal and follow the cheekbone line. If an actor’s costume wardrobe allows, mic placement may be achieved through eyeglass, hat, and lapel mounts, among others.
Wireless mic placement could be considered an artform, and responsibility generally falls to the show’s A2, with direction from the A1 and sound designer. “Wireless Mic Techniques for Theatrical Production” aims to document the most commonly used techniques in an effort to help all theaters and artists produce the highest quality sound and shows possible. To purchase any of the equipment featured in this series, reach out to Masque Sound’s experts with questions and comments!
Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing tutorials and descriptions of these methods, so stay tuned.