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Author Topic: Theatrical headset question...  (Read 1202 times)

Al Rettich

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Theatrical headset question...
« on: February 06, 2019, 09:54:02 pm »

Hey everyone... Was wondering if there are other ways to achieve the same goal..

Most times (in theater) when you have two folks so close you get phasing issues, etc. when their singing face to face.. How do you prevent this?
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Russell Ault

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2019, 10:04:28 pm »

Hey everyone... Was wondering if there are other ways to achieve the same goal..

Most times (in theater) when you have two folks so close you get phasing issues, etc. when their singing face to face.. How do you prevent this?

Unfortunately, the only real solution is to turrn off (or at least substantially down) one of the mics. It's one of the (many) reasons that musicals are traditionally mixed line-by-line...

-Russ
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2019, 10:36:12 pm »

Loudest sound at the mic, wins.  If the sound is equally loud a both mics (or within 6 to 9dB of equal) the "tie" is the lovely flanging/phasing comb filter.

A Russell says, it's up to the console operator to "fix" this - and many another - issue.  Mixing a musical is a fast paced affair.  I think there are a couple of U of Tube videos of Broadway show mixing.
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Robert Lunceford

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2019, 02:17:34 am »

Unfortunately, the only real solution is to turrn off (or at least substantially down) one of the mics. It's one of the (many) reasons that musicals are traditionally mixed line-by-line...

-Russ

But what if they are singing in unison?

I have only done one musical theater. It was a 13 show run.
There were only four singers, but when they came together, there was a huge low end feedback. I solved this problem by using the maxxbass section of a Waves MaxxBCL. I set the high pass at the upper limit and the Waves process created harmonics to fool the ear into hearing the low frequencies that had been cut.
Worked very well and made my life much easier.
I also brought in and installed my own K-Array column speakers for the run. These were another blessing.
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Justice C. Bigler

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2019, 03:40:51 am »

I think there are a couple of U of Tube videos of Broadway show mixing.
Unfortunately, what's not immediately apparent on those videos is the enormous amount of design and programming work that goes in to getting the mixer into a position where he or she can mix line by line on DCAs.


You really have to know the show, and the blocking, and figure out where each mic needs to be in the mix and how to deal with the phasing effect that you get when two actors are singing right into each other's mics.


It's not easy to get there, and really the only people doing it are Broadway and high level regional theatre shows. I doubt even most college theatre programs get to the point where their mixers are doing much of it at that level. I did it with some youth operas I used to mix, and we got three rehearsals and did 2 or 3 shows, then the run ended. I was reading the score the entire time, and usually missed one or two cues each run. You just can't get there without ALOT of pre-production, tech, programming and rehearsal work.
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Eric Snodgrass

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2019, 11:55:55 am »

Unfortunately, what's not immediately apparent on those videos is the enormous amount of design and programming work that goes in to getting the mixer into a position where he or she can mix line by line on DCAs.


You really have to know the show, and the blocking, and figure out where each mic needs to be in the mix and how to deal with the phasing effect that you get when two actors are singing right into each other's mics.


It's not easy to get there, and really the only people doing it are Broadway and high level regional theatre shows. I doubt even most college theatre programs get to the point where their mixers are doing much of it at that level. I did it with some youth operas I used to mix, and we got three rehearsals and did 2 or 3 shows, then the run ended. I was reading the score the entire time, and usually missed one or two cues each run. You just can't get there without ALOT of pre-production, tech, programming and rehearsal work.
Justice has hit the nail squarely on the head.  Planning, preparation, lots of time and rehearsing go into mixing a large musical.  The A1 will usually be on-book for weeks while mixing the show, learning every line in the script along the way.  It's really the only position besides Stage Manager and Musical Conductor that needs to learn the entire script in order to do the job effectively during a run of a show.  An A1 always has to be listening and adjusting during the course of a show and a show run.  IMO it's a tough skill to master. 

As for the OP's question - when the two actors get really close together, pick a mic and use that one. Be ready to bring the other mic back up when they move apart.  There is no trick to it nor any piece of gear that will fix the issue.  (The only thing that would help alleviate it would be to run an A-B p.a. system for the vocals, but I haven't seen one of those deployed for 20+ years on a touring show). 
I've found that headset and earset mics are a bit more forgiving in this situation than headworn omni lavs. 
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Miguel Dahl

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2019, 12:57:41 pm »

Justice has hit the nail squarely on the head.  Planning, preparation, lots of time and rehearsing go into mixing a large musical.  The A1 will usually be on-book for weeks while mixing the show, learning every line in the script along the way.  It's really the only position besides Stage Manager and Musical Conductor that needs to learn the entire script in order to do the job effectively during a run of a show.  An A1 always has to be listening and adjusting during the course of a show and a show run.  IMO it's a tough skill to master. 

As for the OP's question - when the two actors get really close together, pick a mic and use that one. Be ready to bring the other mic back up when they move apart.  There is no trick to it nor any piece of gear that will fix the issue.  (The only thing that would help alleviate it would be to run an A-B p.a. system for the vocals, but I haven't seen one of those deployed for 20+ years on a touring show). 
I've found that headset and earset mics are a bit more forgiving in this situation than headworn omni lavs.

Sometimes (I do mostly outdoor plays, with not so much time for rehearsals after audio comes in) when that happens I just as the director if they "have to" be that close to each other, it's worth a shot, some times they do not, and problem mostly solved, and some times they must. Flipping the polarity on one mic can in some situations help avoiding phase problem in the lower registry, so the voices suddenly don't sound thin, if they keep their distance more or less constant.. but higher up in the range it will still phase.
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Scott Helmke

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2019, 01:48:05 pm »

Unfortunately, what's not immediately apparent on those videos is the enormous amount of design and programming work that goes in to getting the mixer into a position where he or she can mix line by line on DCAs.

And practice for the mixer.  I've even given old fader banks to people to use for practice mixing before the rehearsals even start.
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Russell Ault

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2019, 03:31:29 pm »

As for the OP's question - when the two actors get really close together, pick a mic and use that one. Be ready to bring the other mic back up when they move apart.

If wearing head-worn lavs, I'd suggest picking the highest mic (i.e. the hairline mic on the tallest person); it takes advantage of the inverse square law, and helps to make sure that way you won't have a tall person singing a centimetre away from a short person's open mic.

I've found that headset and earset mics are a bit more forgiving in this situation than headworn omni lavs. 

This can cut both ways. Because the mics are closer to their sources, your actors have to really be in each other's faces to to produce sound within 10 dB at both mics, which means you can use both mics more. Unfortunately, when the actors are that close together, your margin for error in turning the second mic off when they get closer and then back on when they start to part is much smaller. The coverage area for two people sharing a single head-worn lav can be as much as half a metre or more (especially if you have an accommodating MD who can help balance what that mic is hearing), whereas the two-person coverage area on a headset might only be a couple centimetres.

It's not easy to get there, and really the only people doing it are Broadway and high level regional theatre shows. I doubt even most college theatre programs get to the point where their mixers are doing much of it at that level.

For what it's worth, I insist on doing full script prep (which is the most important part of prep, as far as I'm concerned) and line-by-line mixing on every musical I do, regardless of size or run-length (the last musical I worked on did 3 performances). This allows me to ensure, in real time, that only the correct mics are on, and makes dealing with technical (or balance) problems much easier (since often there's only one live mic at a time, and my finger is already on the fader). With a good script I'm usually at the point of only missing a pick-up or two after a couple of run-throughs.

Automation programming can often be done offline these days, and is really only necessary if you have more than about eight wireless mics (although I once did a show with 14 wireless mics and no automation, which is not an experience I care to repeat). If all you're doing is assigning mics to VCAs you can probably build the automation for even a big show in an hour or two. Of course, if you have time (and a real sound designer) more complicated automation cuing for things like changing input delays or re-balancing the band are great, but I rarely have those things...

-Russ
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Ike Zimbel

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2019, 05:20:43 pm »

Unfortunately, the only real solution is to turn off (or at least substantially down) one of the mics. It's one of the (many) reasons that musicals are traditionally mixed line-by-line...

-Russ
+1. I would just add that the way I have determined which mic to duck and which one to use is; I use the mic on the actor that has the first line after they part, or a line that is said (or sung) while turning away from the other actor.
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Theatrical headset question...
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2019, 08:31:35 am »

I agree with what the others have said about having to ride the faders and rely mostly on one mic when they are singing really close together. You really have to know when they are going to be this close and when they are going to pull away. I find that for a lot of shows when you have a number where they get that close the hard part is that they usually donít stay like that, they are moving in and out of that position and that is hard to keep up with them. If the movements are consistent from performance to performance you can eventually learn what they are going to do. I did a couple of shows recently where for a number or two we had a pair of actors that did almost the whole number face to face. Those are a lot easier to handle. 

Lately I make sure that I have a marked up script in a digital version and I control the scrolling of the script with a foot peddle. So my hands are free to mix and hit the Go button. I have not seen (as in looked exclusively at the stage) most of the shows I have done lately. I donít like that but the runs of these shows arenít long enough for me to really get to know them that well. Usually by the second weekend I almost have the show down without having to look just at the script. I also have the advantage of having someone sitting next to me telling me when to recall the next scene. They have been involved in the show longer then I have but donít necessarily have the talent to actually mix the show.

I am also using Palladium (from https://www.chsounddesign.com/ ) for the cue management. The advantage is it isnít snap shots, it works on changes from cue to cue. It also will control 3 mixers at once if you need it to and they donít have to be the same brand or model of mixers. They just have to have a Palladium mixer file configured for them.  I have been using 2 Midas M32 consoles for most of the Musicals I have been doing lately. More information available on request.

Now for the dialog parts I donít have an issue with the actors getting too close together. I use auto mixers for the dialog parts. This helps a lot. Specifically I use the direct outs of the digital mixer into a bunch of Shure SCM810 auto mixers and I return the output of that into a channel for the dialog parts only. Auto mixers donít work reliably for singing, they get confused. The Shure SCM810 has a comparator circuit so it tries to only have one mic on for the same sound source. It isnít perfect but it is close. I use multiple SCM810s to give me the number of channels I need for dialog. They interconnect so they all act as one. I have used 4 at once giving me up to 32 channels. For this to work you need a quick and seamless way to switch between the singing routing and the talking routing. I have done this with different mixers at different time. If anyone wants more information regarding this just ask and I will do what I can to help.
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Re: Theatrical headset question...
¬ę Reply #10 on: February 08, 2019, 08:31:35 am ¬Ľ


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