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Old February 16th, 2004, 11:11 AM   #1
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Wireless small theater shoot

I've been about to spring for a wireless lav system that will mate up well with my XL-1 for some time -- from the comments I've read, it seems like the Senn Evolution 100 series might be a good match.

In addition to the normal talent clip-on they're designed for, I would like to be able to use it for a special shoot. I'll be going back to the Boston Conservatory to videotape a performance my son is doing in one of their small theaters-- the last time I did this a couple of years ago, I used the on-camera mike, with the resultant lousy audio one would expect. Since I plan to get the wireless system anyway, here's the question:

Is the mic that comes with the Senn suitable for suspending over the stage, i.e. will it work with the talent more than the usual distance away? Or, do I need a different mic to use with the transmitter for this kind of shoot?

This particular shoot is only for personal use, so I'm not looking for resale quality -- only a better alternative to using the on-camera mic on the XL-1. I have other uses for the wireless system, but I'd like to use it for this occasion if it's appropriate.

Thanks for any insights.
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Old February 16th, 2004, 06:29 PM   #2
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I haven't done many theatre shoots, maybe 6. In all of them, I ran across some interference. From occasional buzzes to heavy pops when they turned the lights on and off.

I've gone to wired microphones with better results. Since I have a couple of PZM I run them into a mixer and then up the sides to my camera.

I've also run a shotgun and my SM81C on stands at the edge below the stage. Worked OK but needed more coverage. Probably the combo of the PZM & the directionals would have been better.

Hanging a microphone is said to not be a good idea. Don't know why as Shure discusses this type of application with their SM81C but haven't tried.

Actually, what I've decided is I'm not going to tape any more plays as the folks that want the recording seem to expect it to turn out like a Hollywood production no matter what you tell them.
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Old February 16th, 2004, 08:24 PM   #3
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Yeah, I know what you mean. I do lots of theater here in the Seattle area, and in all cases I either run wired PZMs or take matrix feeds from the house board into my own Mackie. Running wires while in Boston probably isn't in the cards though, so I'm hoping to use a wireless to get a better feed than I would with the XL-1 on-camera mic. It's a pretty small stage, non-musical, with only 4 actors. The mic probably doesn't even have to up with the lights, just on-stage somewhere. I'm not familiar with the Senn system to know how much "reach" they have.

You're right about folks' expectations, though. The contrast problems with theater lights are even worse than the audio challenges.

Hopefully someone else can weigh-in on this.
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Old February 16th, 2004, 09:04 PM   #4
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My radio system is a Sennheiser EW100. It isn't reach, it's the high level of the interference that will get you.

I'm cleaning one up now. Small theatre, maybe 50 feet from the transmitter to the camera. At least 100 random snaps that I have to go through in Sound Forge and fix. PITA!
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Old February 17th, 2004, 03:18 AM   #5
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Presumably you're using wireless because you worry about the long cable run to your camera or you're going to move about while filming. The solution is a minidisk! Run wires to a mini mixer of some kind, sort your mix and out to the MD. I try and get some peaks tested prior to the show and then set them at around -3 to -6 dB. Since you can't monitor, you have to be pretty careful about the clipping. You can always boost in post. Then you synch the sound track to the video track. You can always use your on board or wireless as a back-up. One note though. Record your MD in Mono or standard. Any other long play mode will cause problems.

PZMs are the way to go. There's nothing in particular that's wrong with point shotguns straight down at the stage, it's just that you have to imagine them as spotlights. If your talent isn't in the beam then he's in the rejection zone. If your talent is standing still and you know in advance where he'll be, then you might be able to rig it.

For small theatre a single PZM midstage is ideal. If there is any off stage action you can point a shot gun at it for the MD mix or you can try can capture it with the on board mic.

Lighting wise, spotlight mode is pretty good sometimes, but mainly I try to run at 1/60-1/25 and vary aperture. Gain when desperate. Talk to the guy doing the lights, it your camera isn't picking it up, then I reckon it's too dark for the audience. Set your zebra to about 85-90% and never let it show on anybody's face, most other flare outs are forgiven.
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Old February 17th, 2004, 02:08 PM   #6
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Some interesting dialog -- however, the thread has kind of morphed into broader areas, different from the intent of my original question. My original question regards the effectiveness of the mics with the Senn EW series when separated from the talent by 10-15 feet. Does the gain boost needed render them useless, or will the effect be the same as any mic at that distance? These comments are directed particularly at the mics that come with the Senn wireless xmtr kits -- I'm presuming they're omni?

Thanks.
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Old February 17th, 2004, 03:45 PM   #7
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OK, the ME2 lav that comes with the bodypack transmitter in one of the EW100 systems is omni. And although it is reasonably sensitive, it won't be great at the distances you describe. Still may be better than the camera from the back of the theater. You didn't mention that distance.

I'd probably tape the microphone head to a plate of maybe 6 by 6 inches. Steel or something quite rigid . . . 1/4" plex would do. Put the plate on a carpet scrap or foam pad. A foam mouse pad would work. What you would be making is a poor-mans PZM setup. Place it front and center and you should be OK.

Make certain you test this. May have to play with the attenuator to set it correctly.
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Old February 17th, 2004, 04:05 PM   #8
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Good answer, Mike. I'm not real familiar with the Senn wireless systems -- are they compatible only with the supplied mics or could a plug one of my Shure PZMs into the tmtr?

BTW, the front to back in this particular theater is around 30 ft -- I'd most likely mount the rcvr on the MA-100 battery bracket.
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Old February 17th, 2004, 04:58 PM   #9
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You could if you build a special cable. The transmitter is designed to handle both microphone and line level inputs.

The tip of the 1/8" plug is microphone in and also has some small voltage for powering the microphone. Might have to block that with a capacitor. The ring is for Line input. The sleeve is ground.

Another option, if you get the Senn, is to get the kit with both the bodypack transmitter and its lav and the plug-on transmitter that will convert almost any XLR microphone into a wireless. You could plug that one into the Shure as long as the Shure has internal power. Otherwise you'd need to either get the Sennheiser eW500 system (Plug-on supplies phantom) or an auxiliary Phantom power supply (about $40-$50).
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