LESSONS LEARNED: People move when shit gets real. Pin a mic on. Let it happen.

During my interview with Fred Toye, which you can get HERE on iTunes, HERE on Stitcher, orDownload HERE , I learned something important about people and podcasting. Up until episode 5 of MAKE MOVES, I recorded my live interviews with a single stationary mic placed between me and the guests.  It simplifies the recording set up and gives a sense of confidence because there are less things that can go wrong.

Shure MV88.jpeg

HOWEVER, when I was talking with Fred, I noticed something important.  When people start giving meaningful answers to questions, they shift their bodies around.  For example, when I ask a question that causes somebody to think hard or give an answer that makes them feel vulnerable, it isn’t uncommon for them to lean back before answering.  I think it is human nature.  It provides my guest a little time to think.  Or, if the answer makes them feel vulnerable, something about increasing the physical distance between us seems like a natural impulse.  When I ask a question that requires a private or confidential feeling answer, sometimes the guest will lean closer to me.  People seem to use proximity to help them accomplish communicative goals.

So, if I’m doing my job, when the shit gets real in an interview, people move around.  They lean back.  They lean forward.  This is all good.  But… What happens when they are constantly changing their distance from a stationary mic?  The volume goes all over the place.  Up.  Down.  Up. Down.

I tried solving this problem of shifting bodies and fluctuating volume with simple production solutions, but two big problems kept coming up.  (1) “Fixing it in the mix” takes a crap ton of time.  So far, I’m a one man shop — time sinks are not the best idea.  (2) Futzing around and moving the mic closer and further from the guest during the interview distracts the guest and takes them out of the zone.  I can imagine that guests feel like I do when trying to have a conversation with my daughter while she is playing with her phone.

After much thought, I came up with a good solution.  Pin a mic on the chest of the guest so it doesn’t matter whether they are leaning forward or backward.  Wherever they go, the mic is leashed right to them.  I did some research put together this super simple two lavalier-mic set up for my iPhone.  The mic is a Rode Smart-Lav.


One mic clips onto my shirt.  One mic clips onto the guests shirt.  They both plug into a little magic widget.  Then I plug them into my iPhone.

Using a lavalier mic presents its own issues.  The most obvious issue is that you have to pin the mic onto some article of clothing.  I ask my guests to wear a button up shirt because it is easier to get a mic affixed mid-chest.  It takes a little adjusting.  Not really a problem.  However, the first time I interviewed a female it gave me some anxiety.  Imagine me fumbling around trying to pin a mic mid-chest on a woman’s bosom without getting nervous or embarrassed.  I’m a quick study, so I’ve since perfected my technique… but it must have been a funny sight at first.

I must admit, I think the sound quality of a stationary mic does sound better than a lav mic, but the quality of the conversations improves when people become less aware of the mic.  So, my lesson learned: People move when shit gets real. Pin a mic on. Let it happen.

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