Mic-ing Techniques

By writing this post, I hope to firstly inform people who might not be aware of these tools and techniques, then secondly create discussion with people who may know other mic-ing methods. Do please note that this information is best used as a guideline, not as absolute fact. If you’re looking to find a seamless way to hide a mic on talent with absolutely no problems or imperfections every time, you’ll be looking forever. There is no “perfect” way. This information is simply a good starting point.

The standard attachment accessories that come with every wireless mic or lavalier microphone just might not be right for every job you find yourself doing. Although the various mic clips, clamps, vampires, or accessory mounts that come with most mics are perfect for many situations, they might not be a good option for any particularly challenging scenarios.  Whether you’re working on a simple news promo, corporate interview, or an all weather – all terrain adventure show, you need to have the right tools and the right accessories, as you never know what you might be up against.

Although I’ve found good and bad ways to mic people for certain situations, there isn’t just one correct method used when mic-ing. Your goal simply is to get the absolute cleanest sound you possibly can regardless of the circumstance presented to you. Whether it be large cast reality shoots or simple interviews it’s a good idea to develop a variety ways to attach and place the mic, then work on adjusting that method for each scenario. To develop these techniques, it’s important to experiment and test as many different methods as possible.

You will certainly have your fair share of fails on mic placement alone. I haven’t met a sound person yet that’s been able to mic everyone perfectly, that is impossible. We could go through every outfit and discuss the different fabrics and clothing that sound best or worst. We could even categorize the outfits using some sort of complexity scale: straightforward interview being a one, and bikini wearing adventurer being a nine. With so many variables to deal with, creating a foolproof answer for every scenario would also be an impossibility. So for that reason alone you can’t stick to one method of mic-ing. You have to be able to invent, adjust, and adapt many different methods.

In order to be prepared for a multitude of different situations, you should have a few of the items listed below. The contents of your mic-ing kit will inevitably change depending on what mics you use and also whether you’re hiding the mic or not. For the majority of hidden mic situations, having some of these items and using similar techniques will hopefully enable you to overcome more complex and challenging scenarios, resulting in better, cleaner audio.

Double sided tape. Also known as toupee tape, grooming tape, or fashion tape is used in many inventive ways when attaching mics to talent. It can be used in conjunction with other tape products as it attaches with a much stronger adhesive than a lot of medical tapes or moleskin. It can also be used to hold clothing to skin, or clothing to clothing. Its limitations though become apparent when sticking to very wet or sweaty skin/clothes. Also, when attaching to wool or similar materials, Topstick will lose its stickiness very quickly when removed multiple times.

Top Stick Tape

Dr Scholls Moleskin is another great product I’ve seen used many ways. I personally use this moleskin as a small disposable mount for the Sanken COS11 or even a Tram TR-50 in a pinch. Using two pieces of the moleskin, you can sandwich the mic head between the layers exposing the mic filament at the top. Adding a piece of Topstick to the back, this becomes a very cheap, quick, and easy way to attach the microphone under the clothing or also to the skin. This technique and variables of this method have worked very well for me in the past. Its all about finding what works best for you. Limitations I find with this product is that the adhesive strength isn’t always good enough; you should add additional Topstick. A lot of mixers only use Dr Scholls brand for its higher adhesive quality, but if you’re adding Topstick to the back of the moleskin, I find any brand acceptable.

Padded MoleskinCOS11 Setup

The thick moleskin “With Padding” is also a great way to attach a vampire clip to talent who don’t want holes in their clothing. Simply cut a square of the thicker moleskin and attach the vampire clip to this first. Using Topstick for extra strength, you can “stick” the mic as opposed to pinning it. In addition, another use for this padding is to create a buffer between the skin and the mic, or the clothes and the mic. Often the mic filament needs a little more room to breath under clothing. So using a small strip of padded moleskin, it can be attached to the topside of your mount. This helps prevent clothes rubbing the end of the mic, and also conveniently helps prevent the mic from being pushed up against sweaty skin.

Tram Setup

Nexcare Absolute Waterproof tape can be used to cover the moleskin so you have a smoother surface. It often sounds better against clothing than moleskin alone.

Nexcare WP

3M Transpore Tape and the RM-11. I’ve used this 3M tape over RM-11s attaching them directly to the skin–usually on the chest. If you use the Sanken COS11 mics, the RM-11 rubber mounts that come with the mic are definitely a good item to keep handy in your case. They can be used in many situations and are very efficient in eliminating direct clothing noise. Another great use for the 3M Transpore tape is to tape the cable to the back of the shirt when going under the collar and through a tie. This eliminates any cable weight pulling the microphone. This is an important factor when placing any mic, as tight cable or weight on the cable creates unwanted movement and noise. The COS11 is one of my favorite mics to use in the majority of situations.

Hush RM11

The trusty Hush Lav is always a good accessory to keep in your case. These simple devices work best with COS11s, but I have had some success with other small mics. The most common use I have for these Hush Lavs is mic-ing ties. You can often get away with just cutting one in half for the job. The sponge helps to give the mic room to breath. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative for these clever devices, cosmetic makeup pads are perfect; just get some good scissors and a small sharp skewer.

Rycote Covers and Undercovers. The Countryman B6 microphone has been part of my gear for many years now. It’s this microphone that works best for me with the Rycote covers. Due to the lightweight tiny design of the B6, the Rycote wind jammers and the under and over covers work great with the mic. I tend to stay away from using these covers with the COS11 mics. But there really aren’t any right or wrong answers or does and don’ts with the Rycotes. It is just trial and error and personal preference–do whatever works for you. One reason that I tend to stick to the moleskin and Topstick technique when using COS11s is because quick fixes and replacement Topstick can be added in seconds, and sometimes seconds is all you get. I find the Rycotes to be a little more fiddly. I’ll always have pieces of fresh Topstick cut to size in my pocket, standing by ready for mic fixes.

Rycote Covers

Joe’s Sticky Stuff. This is actually something that I’ve started using quite recently. I was first introduced to Joe’s by a guy who wasn’t sold on using the Hush Lav. He would simply use a tiny blob of Sticky Stuff wrapped around the end of a COS11 and place it inside the tie. Job done. This sticky substance is also great for planting microphones. It will stick to many different things and Its simple to use and cleans up easily. You might not use it every day, but you’ll be glad you had some handy when the time comes. If you’re not familiar with this product, you will be surprised at how effective it can be.

Non Lube Condoms are an extremely effective form of water protection. Although I would never willingly fully submerge a transmitter using this method, the condoms have definitely saved more than one of my transmitters from total destruction.  The condom method also works well against sweat. Placing the transmitter in a NeoPax body strap or a similar velcro strap, the condom will keep the transmitter safe from excess moisture.

These are some, but not all, of the most common items found in any mic-ing kit. The best way to use them is to try and test different methods. I’m constantly looking out for different products to use when mic-ing. I learn something new every day. There definitely isn’t any one specific way to do it. You simply do whatever gives you the best results.