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Hollywood sound mixer Simon Hayes is thrilled with DPA's new Subminiature microphones

Posted by Karin Cahill

23/01/19 16:23

DPA’s new d:screet CORE 6000 Series Subminiature Microphone has made its debut in film production, on the set of Oscar-winning production sound mixer Simon Hayes’ new major feature film.

The musically themed comedy is directed by Danny Boyle and written by Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis. Set in the 1960s and 70s, the feature film is yet to be named but it’s confirmed it will star Lily James, Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran.

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Simon Hayes opted for the new d:screet Subminiature lavalier mic for its natural sounding audio and size. At just three millimetres in diameter, these mics can remain unseen when attached to even the tightest costumes or behind an actors’ hairline.

“With other subminiature microphones on the market, there is an extreme, pronounced quality compromise when you are recording vocals and this is the reason why I’ve never liked using them,” Hayes explains. “However, with the DPA Subminiature you can have your cake and eat it because the sound is amazing and they are so small you can hide them just about anywhere. I don’t know how DPA have done it – they must have magicians in their R&D department – because they seem to have shrunk a normal sized microphone into this tiny package without any compromise on sound quality. What’s more, these new microphones sound exactly the same as the larger d:screet 4061 or 4071 lavaliers, including those fitted with DPA’s new CORE amplifier technology. This means you can use them together and you can’t tell the difference because the vocal timbre and the tonal quality is identical.”

Hayes is no stranger to DPA – he used d:screet 4061s and 4071s during much of the production of Oscar and BAFTA winning films Mamma Mia and Les Miserables. When he heard of the release of the new d:screet CORE 6000 Series of Subminiatures, he couldn’t wait to try them out

“When we shot the Danny Boyle film, we were recording live vocals and live music,” he explains. “We used the subminiatures for the actors’ dialogue and live vocals. We also used d:screet CORE 4061 microphones inside the acoustic guitars. This gave us a very natural sound and meant that we had continuity when switching from one microphone to another because they all matched acoustically. The sound and music post-production editing teams were delighted with this set up as they could carry out really creative mixes based on what they were hearing, rather than having to mix around any negative points from the lavalier recordings.”

Hayes adds that the costume department was equally impressed with the new DPA sub miniatures.

“On this film, a lot of the male actors were wearing tight t-shirts, which are always difficult to rig with radio mics. DPA’s new subminiature is so small that it can be stuck between an actor’s pecs on a really tight fitting, sheer t-shirt and you can’t see it at all.”

The subminiatures also won points in the costume department; the size and structure of the mic was ideal for wiring up to actors wearing suits. Miniature mics can often be hidden in the knot of a tie but the typical 1960-70’s tie knots were a lot smaller than they are today. This posed as no challenge for the new subminiatures.

“We could get the subminiature mics into any tie knot, not just some of them,” he explains. “This ability to be much closer to the source of the vocal makes the sound much clearer.”

With the evolution of film production, there’s been a gradual movement to small, high-quality mics. Hayes believes DPA is one of a small handful of manufacturers who’ve progressed with this change.

DPA is truly supporting the film industry because they are constantly pushing microphone technology forward and presenting viable solutions that we can use on set,” he says. “You have to remember that we are not shooting on film anymore – 99% of what we shoot is on HD and every year the quality of HD and the resolution of the pixels improves. This means that, on a cinema screen, audiences see everything in much greater detail, including the costumes. If we don’t rig a lavalier microphone very carefully and very sensitively the audience is going to spot it. DPA has recognised this and presented us with a solution. The new subminiature microphones are tiny enough to hide effectively yet accurate enough to make no compromise on vocal quality. That is a massive achievement. Also, because DPA subminiature microphones are sonically identical to their larger brothers, we can choose the right tool for the job without having to worry about them not sounding the same.”

With Danny Boyle’s latest movie ticked off the list, Hayes is now working on his latest project, a film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-loved musical CATS.

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Topics: DPA, microphones, film, small

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