When prepairing wireless microphone body packs for amature stage actors (ie. high school productions), here are a few things to make sure you do before handing off the microphone.
1) Fresh batteries. This is a MUST before every performance. Having a fresh, reliable battery at the beginning of the show will minimize risk of running down. There are enough things that can go wrong with wireless mics that battery health should not be a contributor. If you buy batteries in bulk from a reliable industrial/commercial supplier, the cost will be about as low as you will find. Most like to use Duracell ProCell or Energizer Industrial. I’ll explain in another posting how these are the same as the consumer branded equivalents.
2) Strain relief on the microphone wire. Remember, some actors will hold a body pack via the wire while dropping down a shirt or coat. This can damage the microphone. To do this simply, use gaff tape to make a small loop with the mic wire. While the connectors on wireless mic elements (such as the Shure WL-93) are well strain relieved, they are most prone to failure by tugging and abrupt bending where the wire leaves the connector. With the strain relief loop, you can spread the strain out over a longer distance. It is not “actor proof”, but will help prolong the life of the microphone. And you can write the actor’s name on the gaff tape holding the loop!
3) Lock the body pack in the ON position. Read the user manual for your wireless body pack. Most modern packs have a lock out feature. For the Shure SLX shown in the photo above, you press the power and mode buttons at the same time and it locks the body pack on. This prevents accidental turn-off (for example, when an actor pushes the pack down if it rides up on the belt or back of dress), as well as accidental entry into mode or frequency selection. And let’s face it, actors are often nervous before a show and will play and poke at anything, including their wireless mic body pack.
4) Protect the body pack from sweat and makeup. Use a cloth “pocket” as shown in the photo (these were custom made by a friend), have the show’s costumers put pockets inside costumes, buy a commercial body pack belt/pouch, or put the pack inside a small zip bag with tape to make the bag fit closely to the pack. You might also have heard of people putting a condom over a wireless mic body pack. While that works, they are prone to tearing open from the extreme stretching, and in high school theatre settings you may upset a parent or embarass an actor. Actors are often wearing many layers of clothing in support of their character. Why worry about sweat? Winter coats or vintage clothing are common things to make an actor sweat, in addition to stage lights and overall acting energy. Often, body packs are placed right next to an actor’s skin inside a costume to help hide the pack, putting the pack in jeopardy of getting damaged by sweat. Remember, sweat is salt water, and it will corrode the electronics quickly. I’ve had what looked like battery failures that were actually corroded connections inside the pack electronics.
5) Manage your frequecies. Wireless mics need to each be on their own separate frequency, and not intefere with each other or surrounding services such as local TV stations or emergency radios. Make sure each wireless transmitter/receiver pair are not interfering with each other. TEST YOUR SYSTEM ahead of time with all wireless mics running at the same time. During a show is not the time to learn you have two packs interfering with each other. Also know that there are very specific laws about wireless frequencies you can use. Most modern systems are fine from a legal frequency perspective, but many older wireless systems are not. In fact, they may be blatantly illegal to operate. See our previous post on available frequencies, but also know the laws are constantly changing and depending on when you read this, information may be outdated.
Now you have the basics. For more information, please READ THE FINE USER MANUAL, and visit this blog from time to time to see if we have any updates.