BY THE POINT SOURCE SOUNDING BOARD BLOG
One of the challenges that face both designers and technicians is how to hide a microphone on an actor. In their hair or in their costume; there weren’t a lot of good solutions to this challenge, until Point Source Audio created its EMBRACE™ Earmount microphone solution. As a customizable mic’ing solution that is engineered for concealing, EMBRACE has earned praise from end-users, as well as two patents from the U.S. Patent Office. The innovative design means the patented EMBRACE’s shapeable structure can be trimmed, bent and, shaped to a custom-fit for each user allowing for microphones to be easily concealed and quickly custom-fitted for the wearer—providing a placement of the microphone in just mere seconds that is consistent and stable.
Built with Theater in Mind
Pierre Dupree, sound supervisor at the Alley Theatre in Houston, TX, feels that PSA’s EMBRACE Earmounts are “worth their weight in gold.” He has found that “The EMBRACE product is completely customizable, quick to build, durable; and most definitively, our actors love them.”
The Alley has two stages—the 744 seat Hubbard Theatre and the 310 seat Neuhaus Theatre— and there isn’t a bad seat in either house. It is this fact that Dupree attributes his long-standing mic’ing challenges, “The actor mics need to blend away and until EMBRACE, it had been no easy task keeping the actors and the rest of the production team happy. We in theater don’t get products specifically targeted for us so we were immediately captivated by EMBRACE,” said Dupree. Before EMBRACE, he notes, “We tried all the techniques out there to secure and hide the mic: metal earloops, Hellerman sleeves, metal clips, plastic clips… everything!” To do it right, each custom mic would take about 30 minutes to include shaping, sizing, molding, and painting… now, with EMBRACE it only takes five-minutes according to Dupree.
The Earmounts are custom designed for Point Source Audio microphones with a cable diameter of about 1.5mm, but Dupree found them highly flexible—enough that he has even used them with non-PSA mics that he previously had in inventory. “You can cut them to fit and I love the fact you can mold them to stay with minimal tape,” said Dupree. For actors with no hair, Dupree found EMBRACE to be a more aesthetic solution: “EMBRACE provides us with a method to better secure the microphone that is less clunky and lighter than past solutions.”
Sound designer Brad Berridge tried out the EMBRACE units for himself and was pleased with the results. “The material the EMBRACE is made from is soft, bendable, and holds a shape,” he explained. “You simply trim the bottom of the rig with wire cutters based on the actor’s ear size. There’s a soft cap for the cut end that slides on so there aren’t any sharp edges. The slot to trench the lavaliere wire through is easily accessible and installing the microphone in it is quick and simple. We all really liked how the wire exited the rig. Frequently, rigs have the wire exit at the bottom, making it much more visible to the audience. This effect is amplified when the actor turns their head and the wire sticks way out. With the EMBRACE, the wire is designed to exit towards the back of the rig, making it stream-lined to work into hair or attach to the back of the neck. It’s a nice touch.”
Low Visibility and High Audio Quality
At the University of Texas at Arlington, the Studio Theater is also a challenging space for hiding microphones. Musicals are a mainstay for the program and the theater has an intimate design that brings the audience close to the actors on its apron. Jared Land, the lighting and sound specialist for the school had experimented with different mics to solve this challenge before he standardized on the EMBRACE Model EO-8WLs from PSA for its superior audio quality and low visibility, “The cast is relatively close to the audience, and visibility of the mics was a huge concern. The EMBRACE mics allowed us to move the mic a lot further back, hiding it much closer to the hairline. So, from a reasonable distance, the mic is almost invisible so long as we match skin tone, which we’re able to do with the variety of colors offered in the EMBRACE line. It was nice to see that several of the mics came in different skin tones. That wasn’t always the case in other headsets that we bought, where the options were either beige or black. I’ve had students comment that it was nice [that PSA] actually had a mic that matched their own skin tone with the EMBRACE mics. The physical footprint on the face is a lot smaller, and it doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing audio quality for that footprint. Directors and I used to have conversations about how to better hide the boom; those conversations have completely gone away.”
The Sounding Board monthly column is presented in partnership by Point Source Audio and Stage DirectionsMagazine. To read the PSA Sounding Board Blog, go to http://www.point-sourceaudio.com/sounding-board/or visit www.point-sourceaudio.com