What kind of wireless microphone are they using on The Amazing Race?
April 8, 2010 5:52 AM   Subscribe

What kind of wireless microphone are they using on The Amazing Race?

Occasionally when some dude takes his shirt off during the show, you'll notice what looks like a wireless mic attached to his chest. It looks like a small black pad in the center of their chests, with a thin harness spreading out from each corner to attach it to the body. I've looked for a picture, but can't find one.

It obviously is strong enough to pick up dialog through heavy clothing and jackets.

Does anyone know what kind of mic setup this is?
posted by wordsmith to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I always assumed that those were a money belt / passport holder so they could keep their crucial passport dry and with them at all times without the worry of leaving it with their packs. Not all teams have them, and the ones that have lost their passports in the past have either used a fanny pack or not put them away when they should have.
posted by Mahogne at 6:15 AM on April 8, 2010

I believe the fanny pack is a standard issue to any team on The Amazing Race, and they must carry it with them at all times and not be allowed to check-in without it on their person.

This (what I assume to be a) microphone is smaller than a passport -- about half the size. I've seen it on more than one person.
posted by wordsmith at 6:21 AM on April 8, 2010

You know, I've never seen the thing that you're describing, but placing a mic under the shirt of a moving subject is a really bad idea. Maybe it's the battery pack - or something else?
posted by phaedon at 6:45 AM on April 8, 2010

The teams travel with a cameraman and a sound guy. So, when they travel, they have to book 4 tickets for each plane flight/train ride, etc. There's pictures of the sound guy with a boom mic out there on the internets if you look for them.
posted by inturnaround at 7:11 AM on April 8, 2010

The black thing you see is probably the wireless transmitter and battery pack for a lapel or headset mic. Contestants would use these mics when they're doing activities that put them beyond the reach of a sound guy and boom mic.

There's no reason you'd put a lapel mic under clothing; the rustle of cloth would be deafening. Lapel mics are usually attached at the collar, just below the voicebox. Or, maybe they're using flesh-coloured headset mics, which can be hard to see. I don't watch the show often, so I'm not sure.

People usually attach the transmitters to their belts, but since the contestants on the Amazing Race carry backpacks, the chest might be more comfortable for them.

Of course, it's also possible that you're actually talking about some new kind of wireless mic. If you think that's the case, could you show us a picture of what you mean?
posted by embrangled at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2010

This is the kind of mic I'm talking about. (Not endorsing that particular brand).
posted by embrangled at 7:34 AM on April 8, 2010

I've seen those on several reality shows and always thought they were special shirtless mics for when participants aren't wearing clothes to attach the regular mic to. That's just speculation.
posted by Mavri at 7:46 AM on April 8, 2010

The ones they use on a well known reality show are expensive, and trashing of said microphones can and has resulted in being tossed off the show, fwiw.
posted by mrhappy at 9:27 AM on April 8, 2010

They use lavalier (or 'lav') mics on the Amazing Race, as on most reality shows (and, actually, most film and tv productions these days). They're easily concealed mics clipped behind a lapel or just under a collar, connected to a wireless transmitter that's relayed to the sound person's rig, where it's recorded. Clothes-rustling, actually, isn't much of a problem because of the quality of the mics and the skills of the sound people at both knowing just where to attach them and how to dampen any clothes problems. The boom is for ambient sound, people they're talking to, whatever's going on around them, but is by no means important, and that source probably gets dropped out of the mix a lot. A lot of the sounds you hear during the show have been added in later during post; this is true for every reality show, but I can only imagine that it's true times twelve for the Amazing Race, where filming conditions could never be optimal. Headset mics are never used; they'd be very easy to see in HDTV, and there's no need for them. MrHappy is talking about Big Brother; I think last year a contestant on the show sabotaged her way off the show by, among other things, throwing her mic and transmitter into the pool. Big Brother and the Real World aren't shy about showing their lav mics, often worn like a necklace by shirtless young pretty 20-somethings imbibing booze in sunny settings.

Just about every TV and film set I've ever been on uses lav mics. When you're mic'd, please make sure you turn off your transmitter before going to the bathroom or calling your drug dealer.
posted by incessant at 9:36 AM on April 8, 2010

As mentioned by others, the black square is the transmitter (which contains batteries).

It may be in a waterproof case, making it look less like a transmitter.

Most transmitters have a clip, but if there's limited clothing, they might be on a lanyard.

I did a bit of sleuthing, and found the page of the recordist for seasons 2002 through 2008 of the Amazing Race. He supplies equipment, and his chosen lav mic is the Countryman B6, a very small mic that's water resistant.

I disagree with incessant that booms are for ambient sound though. Usually they are shotgun cardioids, which reject sound from behind and the sides. Note also that the B6 lav head above is an Omni mic, meaning it accepts sound from the complete sphere around the element. This means the element can be stowed pretty much anywhere near the mouth - in the hair, upside-down on the shirt, etc.

Most recordists will have many tracks being recorded, and the booms and lavs are sort of backup for each other.
posted by tomierna at 11:47 AM on April 8, 2010

Thanks. The transmitter makes sense!
posted by wordsmith at 5:53 AM on April 9, 2010

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