Making the Custom Microphones for Hamilton!


Adam Savage here from tested standing in
the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco where Hamilton is enjoying a nice long
run and I’ve done a video here about Kevin McCoy and his sound mixing but I’m
here to cover another aspect of sound today and that is the customization of
the sound equipment to each actor every actor has a different size head
different shaped ears different needs and different performance requirements
and all of that customization falls under the purview of Adriana Brannon
we’re gonna go down into her workshop in the basement of this theatre and see
just how she customizes each microphone to each actor and each performance
Adriana this is your domain and we’ve been covering how the sound gets mixed
during this show but you’re the business-end these are the actual
microphones and you’re not just buying microphones off the shelf and putting
them on the actors are you walk me through what your what you have to do
here I mean I’m noticing like all these different skintone colors because of all
the different colors of skin of the performers in the show of the show yeah
so if they have a broken mic we don’t really have time for them to come off
like during a song that they’re not in to change the mic because they’re in
most of the songs so we put two mics on them so you can see right here Hamilton
has this mic right and then this mic and then one of them is a backup one so this
one room one right here is the main one and then this is the backup but on the
console so if Kevin is mixing on backstage and I radio like hey
Hamilton’s a mic is going out it’s bad you can hit a button and it goes to the
backup immediately Wow same with fur so and the Bur mic is
a little bit different so with the Hamilton Mike he wears it right on his
hairline and I will clip in all of his clips here but with the fur Mike it is
actually worn over the ear and so these mics we fit to every person’s ear so
that way no one else can wear that my dad so I’ve worn these kind of mics and
I find them the retail version to be very difficult
to get to the right shape so tell me how you get the alchemy of getting this we I
take like a pretty like flexible wire first and I just get the shape there
dear okay and then I take a this is called music wire a piano wire and so
then we bend this to the shape of the flexible wire that I got of their mold
and so this can take you know a hit but it’ll still keep its shape
spring raised that I call yeah but once you put force behind it then you can
like get this to stay am I looking that that’s the primary and that’s the back
up exactly fascinating I’ve never occurred to me that there just be right
there in line so the same thing with too Mike if this goes out then there’s a
button on the console that goes to the Burpee Mike with just this backup so
then we have this but it still means that if we do have to go to this we
should try to change the entire rig as soon as we can
right this is you know our last leg it’s slightly less it’s less awesome sound
totally okay and those are the only two actors that have a redundant exactly yep
so our ladies are all my ladies so they’re all in wigs so they can just
wear these much like Hamilton but under their wig kimono doesn’t have a wig but
they have hair so this just you know so it’s right here much like Rick as well
so and we call that a hairline Mike do you find it funny every year when the
Tonys shows some camera shots of a Broadway show that people type online I
hate seeing the microphones like how else do you think you’re gonna hear this but and each of these rigs your custom
making each of the actors yeah and also matching skin tone or matching hair
color sometimes we have sweaty or actors which you know it’s a common thing
they’re dancing and singing or they get very sweaty but we’ll add some like
reinforcements so this is an O ring that’s just glued on to the cap okay and
it just acts as like a dropper for water Oh what protects the cap of it
oh fascinating so that like if water is slipping down the Mike it’s not getting
in the element exactly yep so that protects
that which also too helps me during the show because if it does get waterlogged
we call it a sweat out things like this sounds pretty terrible so that means
that I would have to go up and try to get them as soon as possible so this
helps you know all of that not from not happen so now I seem to have a memory I
think in one of the productions of Hamilton I saw some Mike went out and it
was dry during a or after the rap battle and so someone grabbed a hand mic like
to finish a song I mean if it works whatever it takes to get across the line
yeah that’s lucky right iteration for that part you know so can some of these
break in performance sometimes the music wire can just be so long abuse fragile
they’re so flexible and flexible they’re still fragile I mean you know this right
right this is also like the connection is where most other breaks happen and
also too you know so we wear these on our back so they’re sitting like
sometimes that can like you know cause damage to the connection and yeah you
see you’ve already done a lot of strange leaf there just try and run that off and
also something else that I do is I when I start to build these I break away the
connection just a little bit when I put superglue under it and I put it back on
and then I put heat shrink over it as well so that really helps to you know
keep it a little more stable and I know that the low profile is really key but I
have a suggestion dude have you ever considered 3d
printing a little thing that that would go over these two and just provide a
little extra strain relief but not inhibit necessarily the form factor but
I would like to know more its try strain relief is a bugbear for me it’s it’s
it’s a constant problem item at it’s also was super annoying because when the
connector goes there’s no repairing it and it’s broken
exactly exactly how many microphones are you’re managing all this full number is
like 20-plus mics everything so 20 well so every single night yes this is
24:28 something like that I always forget yeah so you know per
show yes but also we have so many swings and understudies we have so many people
who cover different roles so like our man 5 he covers him Alton he cubs covers
bird he covers George Washington he covers her son’s old Sons of Liberty so
that’s let me think it’s step into any of those roles exactly yeah and so and
also he covers his own role which is Man 5 and so he has I think like 14 mics for
himself so like cuz and every it’s also too you know like Julius who’s our main
Hamilton he has this rig and there’s a backup rig in my lovely cubbies so that
way I have something to ready to go but so with our man 5 vents he’s got 14 mics
ready to go oh my god yeah so I think we kinda DUP recently and I
think it’s like 116 mics that we have just like at the ready hum what is an
average show night for you like do you have many disasters to take care of the
general it’s really pretty yeah it’s I like to say it’s really quiet and if
it’s not quiet there’s something going wrong right you know so it’s lots of
boredom phone followed by moments of abject terror
yeah any but I have time to like you know fix any notes that I have piling up
or like read or Facebook no I see you’ve got a dremel vise going on here and I’m
just here and Vice I’m curious so can you walk me through some of your the
maker stuff that you do here oh yes I just found one of these this little
stretcher for those torture devices well this is like I found it I think the one
I found was for banding birds oh yeah to put a little number ban on their foot so
this is reciprocal it’s a pair of pliers with three things that stretch out a
rubber band well this the Hellerman tool and then
these little sleeves yeah these are called Hellerman sleeves and they come
in different sizes as well and probably different colors and actually they only
come in black and pink and there’s a black that turns into a brown
but on purpose no okay so here’s an earpiece that is
you know kind of blank right now so you’ve bent this to the actors shape and
this is a little bit to help its have some fiction like a little bit of
cushion as well sure and then this is measured kind of up to her mouth but
also it takes away from the length of the mic because it will tie it there
okay yeah so now I’m guessing that this Hellerman sleeve helps hold the mic on
that yeah so the Hellerman sleeve actually helps me tie it on because I
can’t tie it without it actually being you know attached and then I’ll later
I’ll put a Hillerman sleeve here to keep it oh that is so cool-looking so alright
so then this so we are basically using a fly-fishing rod I’m told the whip
finisher I’m not a fly fisher fly fisherman five footer one but i know how
to do this put to you well so and this is the thinnest piece of material that
they have this is like that is Cle yeah yeah so you can like I mean you can
actually so what I do first so I just make a holding not mm-hmm at the very
top so that first Hillerman sleeve is just
really like a little bit of an extra pair of hands exactly and later I can I
will cut that off because I don’t need it anymore oh wow so this is just a few
wraps and then the dead and so now this I can walk away
I can go use the bathroom if I’m doing this during a show to like then I can go
take care of an emergency but if you’re doing this during a show it’s also
potentially an emergency yes all right just like I got you know oh you’re just
taking care of some other ok yeah so now we’ll do the whip finisher so this is
called the whip finisher tool really yep and it’s kind of cool so like this is a
little like free-form from the tool itself and then these balls help like if
you hold it and the acid line so you can kind of it spins by itself or you can
grab that and get to oh I think I see what’s happening here this is really
cool this is something that you had to make or this is something okay which and
I especially this one like like this one I really like I’m never gonna lose this
tool this one works for me alright so you hook it and then it goes under this
little elbow piece you kind of make like a little triangle and so basically what
we’re doing is we’re wrapping the old line around the new line so you can see
the old line is up here and then the new line is down here and that’s going into
the spool so wrap Wow this is totally changing my whole
reality that is super neat and then oh and you can use it to tie a knot
so like if I were to cut this yeah exactly yep and I mean do you then like
it can there’s still potential for movement up in here is there securing
yeah so I do put I’ll put some superglue I only put superglue here and then at
the end so I’ll do another what finisher and I kind of would finish up until like
this point and I just but and then I finished with it with
another book finisher so I have to take a picture of this is super super crazy
cool so then a finished one that looks like this
so you can see it the whip finisher and then wrap wrap wrap wrap wrap and it
wraps all the way down and so I mean when these are on them they’re very
low-profile or you don’t see like you know you don’t see a Holliman sleeve all
the way down the mic no no it’s very and this sauce it – like this is behind the
ear right this little I just don’t see it yeah exactly
yep so I’m a big fan favorite thing to me this is I mean I imagine it’s very
relaxing yeah yeah once you get the hang of it when you first start doing it it
is incredibly frustrating because you’re working with invisible line can’t
literally can’t see that yeah when I first started doing this I was like but
once you get it down it’s just like it’s very zen that is I had no idea that that
the construction was so delicate and then you get into like you know people
have different ears like I have an attached lobe so like this doesn’t work
very well for me so you have to make you know the earpiece just a little bit
bigger right um yeah so you get until I carry like weird intricacies with like
you know just help people’s like faces are shaped now I know that King George
where’s my his mic is in his crown so that’s a totally different kind of
construct yes and also like this one is much easier than that
so the mic packs all in there yep so we’re at the keeper of the crown and
strands enough people don’t know this but the whole thing is edible is that
right yes total I yeah so we keep the the mic packs of the transmitter inside
the crown it’s actually just fell prey to this bit to the last I’m holding the
line and this mic cable is only 18 inches long so we don’t have a lot of
like most of my cables come I think they come in six feet sizes so this one is
nice and we’ve had a custom-made – we ordered it right yeah but exactly I
see the microphones disguised as a spot of your mind exactly yeah
so that way I mean this is the perfect position for a mic when it’s on him and
you know what’s the flip side of this is when he wears the crown the mic under
his wig so you know we love the mic crown yeah exactly yeah yeah I’ll go
grab a hand mic off stage oh all right that’s also have you come down here to
get this put on every night we send it out it’s because with all the
accoutrement that I have oh yeah you’re not bouncing around yeah man hold it
it’s a okay it’s a little lighter than I thought but still this is wait there’s a
way to it the reason I said edibles because this look like candy canes to me
is beautiful I mean that’s there’s a whole character right here isn’t it oh
absolutely and I have a nice I know that that’s my my comfy spot right there and
I have to get it over the hump of this little hump of the ponytail okay and
then bring it forward and then it’s it settles right in right in now I’m really
in character it’s beautiful yeah and it’s funny cuz if you if you tilt your
head there is some way don’t thank you momentum grab him gravity’s working on
you with Adrianna thank you so much you


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