When there is something to see there is something to hear. Audio levels in a newscast, microphones specifically go unnoticed when done correctly. They also are one of the biggest distractions when somethings not quite right. Since my station switched over to an automated control room the biggest hurdle has been finding ways to prevent mic clips. While the tips below are not the end all answer, here are a few ways I’ve found a director prevent mic clips on air. 

*** The cast I will use in examples below will consist of***

  • 2 anchors – Anchor 1 & Anchor 2 
  • 1 Reporter 
  • 1 Sports Reporter 

 

Know Your Talent:

A leopard cannot change its spots. All talent will approach reading and anchoring a little bit differently. Ideally, talent should stick to the script and only talk when their Camera shot/VO is on air. They should keep adlib chatting only to where it is called for in the script. However that will not always be the case! It is important to differentiate between talent tendencies so you can have a good plan of action with all of your colleagues. You will begin to know if you should change your approach accordingly. 

Example- 

Anchor 1 has great discipline! They will not break from script, they will wait till on cam to talk, and they are a dream to work with. When I know the read is for this Anchor, I will monitor the show closely and be ready, but for the most part I’m not too worried. When it comes time for Anchor 2’s mic & VO I’m comfortable that I won’t need to bring Anchor 1’s Mic up. No further action is needed.  

Anchor 2 is very witty, and has a tendency to react to stories especially those with humor regardless of who’s read it is. When I take note that anchor 1 is reading the story about a bear going for a swim in somebody’s back yard on a hot summer day, I will bring Anchor 2’s mic up. Anchor 2 will most likely make an unbearable joke, (see what I did there) but we are ready for it. If there is no joke made, then no problem because the next VO is their read and the mic will stay open as I wipe in that VO. 

Anticipate Adlib:

After a while talent tendencies will become obvious. It is now time to put that knowledge to use! Anticipating ad lib is important because it is one of the only practical ways to prevent mic clips. In my experience stories that contain an extreme amount of emotion wether it be: upsetting, funny, bizarre, shocking, etc is generally a good time to make sure both anchor mics are on if they aren’t already. 

Example-

Anchor 1 is reading a VO about a family who lost a loved one in a fire. When you take the SOTVO Anchor 2 is clearly moved by the story. As soon as the trailing VO hits the air, both anchor mics would be up in anticipation. 

 

Open Mics Early:

There are many situations in which opening a mic slightly early may prevent a mic clip. Rapid back to back VOs with alternating anchor reads is one example where I might open the next mic slightly early. With both mics open should either anchor jump the gun there will be no mic clip. This can be especially handy should the anchors start reading at a pace faster than you’re switching. Another situation that comes to mind would be on franchise opens. With my stations Sports open, I will open the mic when it says the talent name because it transitions to the on-air camera shot immediately after. This eliminates the issue of talent speaking early out of the open. The take away from this is that it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Examples-

Producer has called for a series of back-to-back VOs with alternating anchor reads. As Anchor 1 begins reading the first VO and the next VO gets prepped I will open Anchor 2 mic shortly before I take the next VO. Should anything unexpected occur, I can rest easy knowing there won’t be a mic problem.  

Out of the break we will have a sports open. In a perfect world the sports talent will wait until the special open concludes and is on cam. We live in the real world however, so when the sport open says, “ and here’s ABC insert name here” I will push the mic up so if they happen to jump the open we have a mic available. 

 

Open All Mics On Tosses:

Last but certainly not least, here is a method to prevent mic clips on tosses from Anchors to other talent regardless of if they are in studio or in the field. Personally I always make sure everybody that should be talking has their mic on when it comes to a toss. This practice will help immensely because so much can go awry during tosses.  

Example-

Anchor 1 & 2 are tossing to a reporter who is somewhere live downtown. When I take the stinger open the anchors are reading the intro for I will have the audio up for the live shot. Once my anchors stop talking I can take the live shot cutting their mics. If I did not have the live shot audio up for the stinger and for some reason the reporter started to talk before the anchors finished tossing it would be a hard mic clip when the stinger goes out to the talent in the field. The live shot should hear the talent in their ear via Mix Minus so they should be spot on when they should talk and most likely will not talk over your anchors.

A picture of the control pad

 

As with all things in a live news environment things will certainly vary day by day, station by station. Keeping Mic clips in mind is something that will only benefit your newscasts. I assure you there is no worse feeling then having an Emmy quality show ruined because of mic problems. The unique thing about this industry is that news always offer you a second chance to have an even better show, it’s called tomorrow!

If your were looking for a few more pointers, try checking out my article below on four techniques to improve your
next newscast!

Improve Your Newscast With These Four Techniques