Demo: Lavaliere Microphone
Best way to really drive this point home, if I haven't done enough, is that we're just gonna do a quick demonstration. So I would like one of you to just go ahead and wear this, it's gonna be you. So, we don't have to do the whole up the shirt thing, just go ahead and clip this on right there. There we go, stick that in your pocket, and I want you to do me a favor, I want you to read this part right here, and you can just sit down as you do that. I want you to read this part right here once.
And then I'm gonna have you read it again. So, in this demonstration what we're gonna do, is we're gonna listen to the audio coming from two different microphone sources. One, is that we're gonna listen to your shotgun. So our shotgun is here, is channel two. If you could do me a favor, and go ahead, and read just the first two sentences, let's say, of that course description for me.
Just because you're a photographer, doesn't mean you can't shoot compelling video. If you have a digital...
SLR, you have the equipment.
Okay, in that, hopefully in this demonstration, we can hear her, but it's not super crisp, super sharp, because it's only being picked up by this. Now, we've put a lav on her, we have the volume turned down. I'm gonna go ahead and turn that volume up, and if we can listen to channel one now, we're gonna have her read that same course description and we're gonna hear how different the sound is, go ahead.
Just because you're a photographer, doesn't mean you can't shoot compelling video. If you have a digital SLR, you have the equipment.
Hopefully, everyone at home could hear how much closer, tighter, close to the skin. Now the other really interesting thing, and I feel like we always forget this, is that the lav is not just about the person that's wearing it, it's about the fact that that person might be interacting with others. Sometimes it's impossible to put a mike on the person you want to put a mike on, so you put a mike on the person that they know, you know they're going to be talking to. So if you could hand that piece of paper to the right, and if you could just read off two sentences from there. This guy is not wearing a mike, but the fact that someone next to her is means that we should be able to pick up that audio as well. So let's keep going on channel one, can you read that for me?
Just because you're a photographer, doesn't mean you can shoot compelling video. If you have a digital SLR, you have the equipment.
Great, chances are we're not hearing it quite as loud, but it's doing a ton, it's way better than this. So the idea is that for a lav, it's not just about an interview setting, it's not necessarily just about even the person that's wearing it, but it's about getting sound closer than your camera can. The other thing to keep in mind with the lav, is that you don't necessarily always have to wear them. You can also do what's called planting a mike. I wanna say that that's called that, because you would drop that into a plant. Cause I always think of that, it's like, oooo... there's a house plant, and I can just put it right there, but that's not necessarily the reason. But you can plant a mike in all types of situations, where you know that you need sound, but it's maybe a little tricky for someone to actually be wearing it. This is a screen grab of one the last scenes of our film, in this situation here, she's in the bathtub. I can't put a mike on her, it's gonna get wet, but I know that part of the sound that happens, she's probably not gonna talk, part of the sound that happens when someone takes a bath, is that they go (sighs) and I knew I wanted that sound. I knew that the sound of the water was gonna be important. So, I just put it under that scarf there. She doesn't have to be wearing it in order for it to be very close. So in this situation, I just kind of balled it right up, put it right here, put something over to hide it, and then I had access to all this great sound. You can do that at dinner tables, you can do that in people's offices, you can do that when people are going to bed. If you wanna film someone going through their nightly ritual, maybe they pray before they go to sleep. Maybe they tuck their kid in and there's this sweet little exchange, but then they're gonna be sleeping, and they can't be wearing this thing, you can clip it on their pillow, you can hide it under their bedsheets, there's all types of really creative ways that you can use these, and really enhance the sound that comes into your video and into your storytelling, because of this great, little thing, yes?
So in that demonstration, which thank you that was awesome to see, what's the distance, or is there a distance that that lav will still be effective, or better than a shotgun?
That is a great question, so lavs don't go forever, certainly in this room, probably everything is fair game. It's somewhat dependent on the environment that you're in. Sometimes in an environment with a lot of interference, a hospital, with lots of monitors, a place where there's a cellphone tower, or electrical wires it can get a little bit... it can change a little bit. But usually they're good for about 25 feet or so, it also really depends on what kind of environment. If you're in a little tool shed, or a little kind of backyard shed, you can walk out of the room and let someone... or I can be outside of Amy's house for example, shooting through a window, no problem. If it's a brick wall, or a metal wall, it's kind of a different story, so it's a little bit variable. Chances are, if you work with the sound guy, they will have more high-end equipment, and part of that is about getting an even farther kind of distance between your transmitter and your receiver, but definitely, you don't have to be this close, and that's kind of why they're so great, yeah?
This question came in from Elaine Go, who said, "If you're shooting several children, and yourself, or all by yourself, and you prefer to hide those microphones using lavaliers on the kids, so that everyone looks natural, do you need to have a lapel lav for every person?" How many do you have to have?
No, not at all. So in this demonstration, part of what we can see is that when you've got one person miked up, it can kind of help collect sounds from the other. The thing with kids is that they're a little bit like herding cats. Just cause you've got a group of kids together doesn't mean they're gonna stay together. One might go this way, one might go that way, if it's a controlled environment, like in a school setting, or kind of around a table, maybe one or two strategically placed throughout the room, even three, could be great. The other option is that if you know kids are all gonna gather in one place, and you're shot is really about one central thing, and you don't care when they go off, maybe you wanna plant that mike there, so that it's not dependent on Johnny sitting still, even if Johnny decides he's gotta get up and go play with toys over there. If your scene is all about one area, you might want to think about just planting a mike there, then maybe having one or two others. It really depends mostly on how many channels you have available to you. If it's one camera with two XLRs, you could put two lavs in there, and get rid of a shotgun, you won't hear the environment quite as much. If you've got several cameras, now you're starting to go two, four, six, eight, yeah?
And just to clarify, this from Arati Kumar Rao, who says, "You are speaking of throwing a lav track away, if you don't want it, because it's on a different channel, but doesn't the shotgun pick up the sound as well, granted not as clearly but somewhat, and then what do you do to clean it up fully?" So you can be recording with both at the same time, yeah?
So here's an interesting thing with the lav is that, I might be, if we're in the same environment, if we're in the same room, and the lav is in the same room as my shotgun, absolutely it's picking up the same thing. But maybe my lav is on someone who decides to go away, and go into some other room, shut the door and play video games. Now, all of a sudden, I'm hearing all the stuff, and this happens all the time. People go to the bathroom while they wear these things, just because you put this on, doesn't mean people don't have their real lives happening, so they might go in the other room and urinate, you don't necessarily want that ever. But, you can't run in and say, "No, no, no, stop," or whatever, you can tell people that they can always mute it, which is a little, tiny (clicking) little mute button there, but often if that didn't happen, they might be in a different room, with a different sound going on, playing video games, cooking, whatever, and that's not necessarily sound that your shotgun will have, in which case, you can toss that stuff away. Or, they might go into another room, and have a really in depth, important conversation. In which case, the sound from your shotgun might be the stuff that's tossed away. It's really great to remember that these live, they can be married together, but they can also be separated and used separately.
I'm glad you mentioned that Jessica, because another great question had come in on exactly that. "Do you match the sounds to their exact scenes, or do you play around in terms of mixing and matching, if you have happen to find a powerful scene, which may have then the audio different from the actual scene, and in documentary, is that a conflict?"
So that's a great question, we of course, what you never wanna do is be inaccurate and dishonest in any of your storytelling. There might be situations where the audio from some situation really works with the scene, even though it wasn't the audio of that scene. You're not necessarily faking it, you're saying, while these people, you know, a great situation for example, is let's say someone's having, you wanna kind of demonstrate that someone's having a little bit of a emotional reaction, or almost like a flashback, because they've been through something traumatic, and even though they're just sitting there on the coach, what they're hearing in their head might be the audio that you collected from a fight that happened earlier in the day. And you wanna show, here they are and they're sitting here, but what's still kind of ringing in their head is the fact that they had this fight earlier. Using, if you had that audio, using the audio of that fight underneath, is getting at an emotional accuracy, and an emotional honesty, that can be compelling and interesting, and helpful to your storytelling. Obviously that fight wasn't happening while that person is just sitting there on the couch, but you can still use that audio in a way that's honest. As long you're not trying to kind of go into the realm of trickery, where you're saying this sounded like something that it didn't actually sound like, but if it's part of the craft of storytelling, it's very fair game, and we do things like that, not all the time, but often. Sure, okay, so the last thing I'm gonna leave us with is that once you kind of start thinking about sound, it also might really change the way you approach storytelling. This last thing is a short film that I did about the Flint water crisis, I co-directed it with another filmmaker, Zackary Canepari, and this is a short film that really just exists in two worlds: slow motion video of details and audio. It's very much dependent on people's interviews, but also started to think about sound design, and how a sound landscape, an atmosphere, can make for a very emotionally compelling piece. So it's a film about the water crisis in Flint, where we really wanted to get away from the CNN coverage of how it happened, and how it started, and who was to blame, and just get into the emotional, psychological experience of what it would be like to be in a situation where, all of a sudden, you find out that you're water, this clear substance that you just trust and take for granted, is poisonous. And so, we created a short film that very much lives just because of sound design. (water dripping) (water boiling) (washing machine running)
They got a sign over the water fountain say that, "Drink at your own risk." (slow ambient music) My nephew started getting tiny bumps and red, little rashes on his body. The principal kept saying, "Don't wash your hands if you have a cut." We thought he had cradle cap cause his hair kept falling out. We kept taking him back to the doctor, and they couldn't say what was wrong. Months and months we've been drinking this water, and we had no idea what we was drinking. You can't really get around it. (water running) When I wake up, I gotta brush my teeth. Taking a bath, washing your hands, wash the dishes. I was giving my daughter and my son the water. My mom used to make chicken noodle soup with water. Watering your plants, washing clothes, taking a shower. Cooking with it, wash your hands with it. My girlfriend was pregnant, she was drinking the water. Are those ice cubes from the water? Boiling macaroni in it, making coffee, rinsing off your fruits, vegetables, meat. Did you wash that lettuce in Flint water? I wash my hands, I wash my face. Every single day, that's something we use. Every single day. (water splashing) You know how hard it was for us to retrain our children, that they can't turn on a faucet. When we see all over the TV about our toxic water in our hometown, it does something to you. (slow ominous music) It makes you fearful. (water churning) What are they going to do to us next? (slow ambient music) (water churning) I don't trust nothing, I really don't. I don't trust them, I don't trust, no I don't, I don't, I don't because we people, and they're not treating us like we people. How can I fight this? You're supposed to be able to protect you're kids, and this is something you can't protect them from. Everything water touches, I wouldn't trust it, not at all. I don't trust that anything that they say now, I don't think I would ever. They could have this whole place knocked down and picked back up, I don't think I would ever drink their water again. (slow ambient music)
Once I kind of understood what sound could do for me, and how it important it was, in a weird way, it actually, this video feels like a somehow full-circle type of experiment because by concentrating so much on the sound, sound design, that kind of environment that's created by these tense sounds, this musical score, the real sounds of what water sounds like, but kind of heightened, and dramatized, by focusing so much on the sounds it actually really gave us this liberty to really play with visuals. That once we kind of conquered, and thought about, oh, we could really use sound in this way I did something visually that maybe I wouldn't have done, which was I just got to experiment, and we got to play and think about the types of visuals, and it really kind of liberated us to just, in a weird way, concentrate on the visuals again. So, sound kind of gave me this opportunity. At first I thought it would be this distraction, but it some ways it also allowed me to really return to a very, very visual aspect of storytelling, because I realized I didn't need the visuals to do everything for me, the sound could do part, and the visuals could then do this other thing, and really be lifted off from the job of having to provide all of the information.