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Hello,

In the film I am working on there is quite a bit of cloth scratch I am getting on the lav mics used by the boom op.

After watching The King's Speech and the interview from the production recordist, I was amazed at how much lav mics were used in that film.

Do any of you have any tips I can use to minimize cloth scratch on a lav mic while shooting or point me in the direction where there might be more data on this?

I am honestly amazed at how films are able to use a lapel mic at all hidden under all that clothing.

Is there something basic I am not doing? I feel like there is because no lapel recording I have gotten yet is very mixable. There is slim to no level and there is no presence.

  • Guys, a lot of help from this post! I had to place a mic under a heavy cape and even though I got to minimize cloth rustling with cloth tape and cotton, the sound got really muffled and kind of dead. I believe that with this tips I'll be able to get it right next time. Thanks a lot! – user5812 Mar 5 '13 at 12:52
  • Just wondering about noise not from contact on the mic. I'm on set micing an actor who's stubble is rubbing like crazy on his shirt. Not to mention the tie. The boom is ok but even that is picking up the rustle. I'm using countryman emw and have moved the mic from a vampire clip under the collar too the looser area of tie below knot to taped under the shirt. All noisy.?? Any thoughts – user6118 Jun 10 '13 at 0:07
  • Speak to the producer/first AD and tell them what's happening - ask them to tell him to shave that region - the stubble is not visible as it's rubbing on the shirt collar (hence it's under it) so he should have no objection ... You can't isolate the mic from that kind of noise. – user7571 Feb 25 '14 at 12:29
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A lot of it has to do with the type of mic you are using. The mics that come with Sennheisers and Shures are quite large and will give you problems if you're not very careful. I recommend using a Countryman mic - the head is a few millimeters wide and can easily be hidden without worry about scratching. On the skin, protected by a piece of mole skin should eliminate most of your problems.

What model mics are you working with? Where are you placing them?

Also pay attention to the materials used - lacy bras tend to cause scratching not only on the mic, but just on skin and clothing nearby. It's an uncomfortable conversation, but if everybody is professional about it, you can request soft cotton undergarments. Same goes for undershirts, etc.

There's a lot to lapel micing - there are some great conversations here as well as other guides online. Do lots of reading, and do some testing on yourself in spare time.

  • Thanks. The mic used was a COS-11. I have no idea where they were placed because I wasn't there on the day, but it is so incredibly dull that I don't understand how these types of recordings get mixed - which is why I think maybe the recordist is not doing something right. – Utopia Feb 21 '11 at 3:57
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Practise is the key to finding good spots for hiding the mic while keeping the clothes noise to a minimum. If you have the chance, try and experiment with gear before you are on the set, as time is limited and placing the microphone can be an awkward situation. Try out different kinds of clothes too.

The best microphones I've used are the DPA 4060 miniature mics. They are a little bigger than the Sanken COS-11 and a lot bigger than the Countryman (which is extremely small), but they sound 10 times better than the others. And they come with a specially designed plastic "concealer" which is really simple to use and eliminates about 50% of the clothes noise. You fasten the plastic thing together with double sided tape to the inside of the outermost layer of clothes.

Whatever the mic, try to get hold of some double sided tape and some medical tape, if you need to place the mic directly onto the skin.

When you place the mic, try to place it in the middle of the chest, right above the heart, where the chest caves in a little bit. If you place it higher, you get more clothes rustle, and if you place it close to the neck you lose a lot of the high frequencies, as the chin shades for the direct sound.

If you are working with a shirt with buttons, or a polo shirt, you can place the mic between the buttons, facing towards the open air. If the actor wears a tie, you can place it in the knot, facing down. DPA has a special foam piece for this purpose, but you Can make your own foam piece if you are using a different mic.

There is a lot more you can do, for instance you can sometimes hide the mic in the actors hair, with a little help from the makeup department, but you'll have to learn by experimenting....

  • Great examples! I think this question has become an authority on lav technique! – Brendan Rehill Mar 1 '12 at 8:44
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I hate lapels and was also amazed by the fact he said there was a lot of lapel work involved. He does mention though that he spoke to the costume designers during pre-production so it's possible there were hidden areas on the garment to place the mics which weren't under lots of layers of clothing.

I have found though that looping it between tape or two bits of sponge or card or rolled up tape to the lower part of the chest between garments works at times, I try to hide mics in shots more than anything though.

Not had to deal with it in post yet, but I would try a decrackler and spectral repair I guess. Which just sounds sooo painful :(

Interested to hear how you get on!

  • Thanks Ed. Sponge is a great idea. I have no problem editing it out or using the boom instead, I am just more curious as to how people rely on a lapel so heavily when it's got such finicky mic placement issues. – Utopia Feb 21 '11 at 3:56
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Good ol' fashioned tape my friend, especially if it's going to be underneath clothing. Ideally, you tape it on both sides; kind of like a lav sandwich on two piece of tape as the bread. For example, you might use some "topstick" to secure the mic to someone's skin, then use some double sided tape or medical tape to tape the other side to the inside of the garments. If there are multiple pieces of garment/costume in that area, tape each layer to the one above and below it.

Doing this will minimize cloth movement in the immediate vicinity of the mic. If done properly, you can get up to about 65 or 70 percent reduction in clothing noise (sometimes more, depending on the fabric and the design of the costume). Useful trick.

  • Thanks for the answer, Shaun. Now, how do you get presence out of a lapel that is placed under a shirt or in a neck tie? Adding enough high-end to where I am happy just makes it sound hissy and noisy. Is it really that tough to mix a lapel? – Utopia Feb 21 '11 at 3:55
  • @Utopia - Yes, you're going to lose some high end. If you're able to stabilize the clothing around it, however, you'll be able to add in an upper frequency shelf that will help even things back out. Indeed, lavs can be tough. There's a reason most people prefer to boom a shot over using lavs. ;) – Shaun Farley Feb 21 '11 at 13:55
  • @Shaun Thanks a bunch for the tips. Someone should invent an acoustic cloth that they can make actor's costumes out of that doesn't deaden sound. lol. Now, how do you stop the tape from making sticky sounds once you've mounted it? – Utopia Feb 21 '11 at 19:03
  • @Utopia, @Shaun, I'd rather have someone invent the invisible mic :D – Justin Huss Feb 21 '11 at 21:37
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To follow up Shaun's reply, it can help to fold the tape (I used to use 1" cloth gaff tape if the mic was being taped to clothing) into tight, sticky-side-out triangles. This is a good shape for securing the mic firmly without getting in its way. (As mentioned, obviously use medical tape and not gaffers' if taping to skin.)

Here's a nice article on lav technique from the guy who got me into production sound: http://www.filmunderground.com/46/Article/NWFS/mics%20-%20lavalier.htm

I always found that the water spray/Static Guard trick helps a lot with (acoustic) clothing noise.

To borrow Fred's terms, I believe the COS-11 is fairly transparent as lavs go (as opposed to proximity, which will capture voice with very little presence). Not sure why it would sound so tight -- I'd guess maybe it should be moved an inch or two away from the talent's mouth, but if you're having trouble with level too...hmm.

  • Thanks! Great article. One thing I was running into yesterday when I was testing out gaffer tape on the clothing was that it sounded like it was slowly coming unstuck from the cloth and creating this constant popcorn type unsticking sound. Is there any way to avoid this? You mentioned cloth gaff tape - maybe I have the wrong type of tape? – Utopia Feb 21 '11 at 18:39
  • @Utopia I use Pro-Gaff cloth gaff tape, though I'm sure other brands are comparable -- it seems to be gummy/gluey enough to really grab the mic and cloth and not let go (after settling down for a few seconds and making that popcorn sound). I always made a point of taping the wire at a few other spots along the way (inside the garment maybe at or just below the newsman's loop, then every three or four inches afterwards) to strain-relief it so the transmitter or conn box wouldn't be pulling down on the capsule. – Tyler Feb 21 '11 at 18:50
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Last week I was on a WW2 period short where the SS officers were wearing woolen uniforms. The noise from the wool rubbing on itself was incredibly loud, but fortunately most of the time they were wearing hats. I was using Lectrasonic transmitters with COS-11 mics, and just taped the mics to the underside of the hat brim - perfect clean audio.
There were a few scenes where the main character had his hat off, which meant I had to reconsider mic placement. If the scene allowed I would plant the mic on set instead (office, little actor movement), but for two scenes I had no option but to plant it on the uniform. I used every trick I knew, but sometimes the costume material just makes too much noise on its own to be able to work around.

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COS-11's, B6's, ME2's, and Trams are all used widely in location sound. The advantage of the B6 is that it is waterproof although it tends to send a bit more harsh than the COS-11 which is my preferred lav as well. Although the ME2's and it's variants that are included with the Sennheiser G2's and G3's can sound pretty decent as well.

I've tried many different tapes and techniques. To my ears, cloth tape rubs against itself and is easily picked up in the lav. What usually sounds best and what I end up using 90% of the time is 3M Transpore Tape (clear medical tape with small holes found at CVS or most drug stores) or 3M Blenderm Tape (clear brownish surgical tape - much harder to find). I use both of these tapes in different situations. You can tape either directly to the skin, and they don't usually make any noise (the Transpore tends to be louder than the Blenderm). Blenderm is waterproof and is immune to sweating actors. The Transpore can irritate some people's skin but most actors don't even notice it's there. A stress relief guided under the pectoral area and taped on the side of the body will help reduce strain and unwanted sounds related to it. An ankle pack for the transmitter is usually best if you don't want it to print, although ankle and thigh packs are useful too in certain wardrobe situations.

For outdoor use the Rycote windcovers can work pretty well. The undercovers and overcovers can both be used indoors especially in cases of noisy layers rubbing against each other, mileage varies with this one. Experimentation is key in awkward wardrobe situations.

Anyways, seriously try the Transpore and Blenderm if you can get your hands on it. I feel it is the one production sound secret that I must share with the world because when I tried it for the first time my ears really perked up! It's still not the universal solution but there never is one for location sound. It's about improvising and making the best of what you have! ;)

  • Thanks for your answer bpert! I must ask, is there a penalty for bad production audio? What happens when a recordist turns over a bad job on production sound? Is he just not hired again or docked pay? – Utopia Mar 2 '11 at 3:56
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    It's not unusual to see said production mixers hired again and again, despite having poorly recorded tracks in the past. The burden of bad production audio almost always falls squarely on the shoulders of the post crew, who have to find creative ways to "fix it in the mix" and/or record a slew of ADR to make it acceptable. And it's the rare director or producer that learns to be more selective on their next project after having slogged through a difficult mix. – Jay Jennings Mar 2 '11 at 6:16
  • i do have a roll of transpore in my mix bag, but i usually use it in combination with undercovers and things. are you saying you just tape the lav directly to the actor's chest in most cases? cheers. – Max H. Mar 1 '12 at 18:08
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This has been a great conversation. I was one of those sound guys that had to learn the hard way. I had some seriously noisy recordings and certainly caused some post guys some grief! Through experience and discussions with sound guys and actors I now have a good handle on dealing with most issues, and editors and directors use terms like "phenomenal" to describe my audio. I like to carry a mix of a few mics. The Cos-11, VT-401, and Countryman are great for ties and taping to skin. I will usually place a piece of 3M medical tape to the skin at the most concave point or between the breasts as high as possible but out of view, then tape the mic over that piece so it's not touching skin. Talk to wardrobe dept. and ask them for 100% cotton when possible. If not, mole skin is amazing and can be placed on the underside of a garment where it contacts the mic. An actor also taught me a trick a sound guy used on him: he taped a small paper clip to the wire below the mic and bent a piece of it over the mic to keep the clothing from touching. (Brilliant for heavy stuff like jackets).
My absolute favorite lav mic, though, is the Voice Technologies VT-506. It has a slight bump in the 8k range that overcomes the high-end deadening caused by clothing, and it comes with an amazing mic clip set that is very intuitive and versatile. Tram also uses a similar set. My favorite is the vampire clip that has two down-pointing pins like vampire teeth. It can be pinned quickly to a bra or a jacket or shirt, and the mic can face out or be reversed and faced inward with a small gap between the mic face and the clip. This is absolutely amazing for reduction of clothing rub! All the advice I've heard here is good stuff, and I learned some more tricks myself. Take care guys!

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My biggest problem is the costume parts rubbing against each other. Tram makes a great plastic "case" that completely isolates the mic and has a vampire clip in the back. So the mic never touches the body or clothing. Wig tape is useful also. I use it to tape the pieces of clothing together. Suits are the worst, everything needs to be taped down or you hear the shirt on the jacket on the tie etc. Still haven't figured it out 100% but these things help. Any advice on costume on costume noise?

  • Micing in the hair or just at the brim of a hat worn loosely will put costume noise out of focus definitely. This is a preferred spot in broadway musicals for example. On the best ones, the hiding of the element is quite effective. – he_artburns Mar 13 '15 at 20:14
  • hi pinkie, welcome to SSE. Although most of your answer is on topic and informative, can you please edit the 'question-part'? Stack exchange tries to keep things focused and insightful. I hope you understand that adding a question to another question is somewhat confusing to other users. Furthermore your question is almost the same as the main question. You could add it as a separate question if you add some more information. I'm sure people will help! – Arnoud Traa Mar 14 '15 at 13:22

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