The aim of any theatrical production is to immerse its audience in the story and create an intimate atmosphere. Technology can break that spell, particularly if it goes wrong, which is why productions will often look to keep as much of the necessary equipment out of sight.
When you are producing an opera, you rely on the power and talent of the singers and the acoustics of the venue rather than electro-acoustic support for the audience to be able to hear clearly and enjoy the performance. But with other types of productions, such as plays and musicals, miking up the talent on stage is essential.
There are many ways to mic up a performer, but these quickly become limited when you are trying to do things invisibly. The starting point should be wireless mics that can be attached to the performer or their costume. These give the players the freedom to move around the stage, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be moving in and out of the soundfield and will always be heard.
When it comes to hiding wireless mics, it is really a case of the smaller the better. Manufacturers like DPA make miniature lavalier microphones of outstanding quality that can easily be hidden. This kind of equipment makes a sound engineer’s life easier as you can rely on the performance and know that the technology won’t look obtrusive to the audience.
In terms of mic placement, there are a few options that you can choose from depending on the costumes you are working with. The first choice is always to hide the mic in the hairline or wig. This is usually done by running the cable up the back of the performer and under the wig to position the mic just in front of the hairline in the centre or above an eyebrow with the capsule pointing towards the mouth.
If the costume doesn’t allow for this positioning, the next best option is over the ear, with the mic positioned just in front of the ear and again the element aimed towards the mouth. This offers a much more discreet placement that a mic taped halfway across the cheek and will still capture the sound well.
A final option would be to conceal the microphone in the clothing. While this virtually eliminates the technical issues brought by sweat and makeup, this option comes with its own unique set of challenges as the element is not always at a consistent distance from the performer’s mouth and it is easy to pick up noise from the costume itself.
The most important factor to remember when miking up a performer for the stage is the need to build in redundancy. No matter how good your equipment is, or how well you have prepared, there is always the potential for a technical malfunction. Plan for this and always equip performers with two different wireless mics.
The award-winning team at Prosound has theatre in our blood. From sound to lighting, we have the knowledge and experience to help improve any production. Get in touch to find out how our theatrical services can help you.