Monday, April 11, 2011

Twisted Listener

Garden Sound
In the exciting world of TV News photogery, you get to drive past the barricade, hobnob with the rich and broken, then splay their fate all over the tube. Mostly though, you attach microphones to people. For example, here I am pinning one on Kat Siladi, moments after interrupting her best carrot seed material. I had no choice. She was breaking photosynthesis down to toddler level, forcing me to lunge from the row of rutabagas row and indulge in a little cameraman charades... Sounds like, "I'm totally screwed if you don't put this thing around your neck." Actually, I was smoother than that. Not enough to avoid skeeving out a few of the Moms on hand, but smooth, I tell you! Actually, there is an art to microphone placement: knowing when to approach, properly telegraphing your intentions without bringing the room to an awkward halt, remembering to retrieve the damn thing when the interview is through. by the way, have you ever tried to track down a state trooper that didn't want to be found? Those jokers lay LOW - no matter what's stuck to their lapel...

Anyhoo, there's more to microphone management than knowing when to strike. There's proper placement. Do I run it up under their sleeve? Loop it around their collar? Bury it in their bosom? The answers, my friend, are blowing in the wind - but if you don't choose correctly, a little moving air static will be the least of your problems. Don't believe me? Sidle up to a biker bar and start playing pin the tail on the donkey. They'll never find your body. Or bum-rush a beauty pageant with talk of silicone rub and droopy acoustics. Some of those women are black belts. Hell, I nearly got a full body scan from the TSA while trying to stick a mic on a beefy flight attendant. How was I supposed to know lady was a dude? Don't answer that. Just know that I'll be more careful the next time I use the line, "from one sexy stew to another". I'm still not allowed back on that concourse!

Okay, so we've covered the troubles of being your own sound guy. We've talked about when to do it, how not to do it and why you should always check for an Adam's apple when considering where to bag a few soundbites. What we haven't discussed is lineage. Think of it as Six Degrees of Amplification. See, I only got one lavalier microphone. And since I blanch at the sight of those King sized overly-logo'd hand(held) jobs, I use my lav A LOT. Thus, the microphone I clip to the neat freak CEO may very well have just come off the homeless guy he stepped over on the way to his Benz, the same one I used to record some American Idol wannabe crucifying Whitney will soon snuggle up the powder blue baby-T Simon Cowell's stylist picked out for him. Oh, and the Governor wants to know why the thingie I attached to her designer scarf smells so funny? It's just a little cadaver dog. Okay, so it was a BIG cadaver dog, but he had the most plaintive howl, so I ran the microphone up his collar and chased him up a river bank. Like YOU'VE never done that.

Sooo, what have we learned? Simple. Microphones are intrinsic but clumsy. The people you most want to pin rarely submit, but that truck driver's more than willing to step out of his Carrharts if it'll get him on the tay-vay. Oh - and batteries only die when the speaker is inaccessible, famous or about to say something so cosmically wrong, they'll open an investigation as to why you didn't properly capture it. I just wish some engineer type would invent the ever-hovering invisi-clip(less). You know, some naked to the eye electronic bug that floats just above the subject's sternum. I myself have mad a few sketches of such a device, but if I were smart enough to develop it, I wouldn't be laying in wait beside some egg plant, untangling the same cord I ignored the day before as a Horticulture Major eyes me with growing disdain...

I guess that goes without saying.

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