Wire-Lists #22: 5 Steps To Getting The Most Out Of The Broadcast Loop

Social Media WireLists22 300px The next time you're watching the news or a live narrative-type program - pay attention to the person speaking. You might notice their lavaliere mic, but more importantly, how it is placed. Chances are, it has a loop in it, with the mic head pointing up or down. Called a "Broadcast Loop" or "Newsman's Loop," this technique and mic head placement is effective for specific scenarios and, when hiding the mic isn't the main priority, can fix some common audio problems.

Why Would We Use A Loop?

The most obvious reason why you might arrange a Broadcast Loop is for esthetics and ease of movement. A lavaliere cord draping down the talent's chest is visually distracting, and the cord can get caught on things as the talent moves about the set. The loop addresses this by making only the mic head and the loop visible to the camera/eye (the remainder of the cord would be hidden under clothing).
The more important technical reason as to why you would use one is to preserve sound quality. A lav mic on talent offers closer audio than a boom mic, but by the same token, lavs notoriously pick up every bit of sound around them, particularly crunchy rustles from clothing and skin contact. Any movement of the cord can result in noise traveling up the cord (which your techs will mistake for static/interference in your signal). The Broadcast Loop creates slack in the cable at the lav clip, so if the cable moves, the slack creates a vibration-diffusing buffer. The orientation of the mic head can improve your frequency response and the quality of the sound you capture.

5 Steps To Mic and Loop

Most lapel-worn mics have a jawed attachment that resembles a tie clip, and some models have accessory hooks to help you fashion a loop. If you're using our M150 or M152, for example, the C-150, will also hold the cable for you.

  1. First, power up your transmitter and test the mic before placing it on the talent. Be sure the battery is fresh. Wipe the cord with some baby oil to keep it pliable and cut down on cable noise.
  2. Place the tail end of the lav cord on the talent, out of immediate sight. Hiding the cord is an art onto itself and most techs have their favorite ways to do it, but your main goal is to place it where it can be easily connected and disconnected to your transmitter and where it will not be in the way of free motion. Some techs prefer to hide it under clothing or tape it to skin, while others place it under jackets or around the talent’s torso.
  3. Next, consider the acoustics of your environment and the sounds of the talent themselves. Does the room have an echo or any audible ambient noise? Take a few minutes to listen to your talent's speech and breath patterns, relative to the room you're working in. This is a necessary step, even if you work with the same people all the time, because situations like allergies, emotions and dry mouth can alter a person’s normal speaking patterns. The things you are looking for are sibilance (the hissing "s" sound that is noticeable with higher-pitched voices), plosives (hard B,T and P sounds), and hard in/exhales, all of which can cause distortion and wind-like noise. If you notice these, you would address them through how you direct the mic capsule.
  4. Check the direction that the talent will primarily speak in. A reporter will speak directly to the camera, while someone on a panel might turn towards the moderator or other participants and a pastor might speak in a sweeping motion across their congregation. In the case of multiple speakers, you may have one that is much louder than the others. So, you would clip the lav on either the left or the right lapel area, or in the case of a forward-facing speaker, in the middle of their chest. You are aiming for a natural, well-balanced sound.
  5. Clip the lav to the talent’s clothing. If the clip has a hook built in, you would simply hook the lav head into it.
    If it does not have a hook, you will use the jaws of the clip to hold it in place. Open the clip, then loop the cord into a teardrop or circle shape and trap it between the fabric and the jaws of the clip. Although clipping the cord might go against your normal best practices, mic cords are designed to be used this way. The mic head can then be swiveled to point upwards (in the case of a forward-facing speaker) or downwards (accounts for speech patterns), depending on the sound you're compensating for. The end result will look something like this:

Photo of lav loop

The Broadcast Loop is an old-school technique that can offer some tangible advantages when working with today’s highly sensitive audio equipment. Need additional pointers for your unique situation? Reach out to us by email or on our Facebook group.