Things That Happen When You Scream Into a Mic - Richard Sherman / Howard Dean

The following are just a few observations about the way mics are used for live television etc and gives viewers the impression of less ambient sound in some cases and that the people screaming into them are a bit crazy. Regardless of what you think about these people the way you perceive their interviews or sound bites taken from a football, a live rally or just street footage has more to do with the technology used to get clear sound and filter out unwanted background noise then with excesses on their parts. If a person is screaming because they can't hear themselves over a noisy crowd but you only get to hear their voice, then yeah, you might think they're a bit nutty. Anyway, as a musician there are many times I've gotten off a stage hoarse from screaming into a mic because I didn't have good monitoring and couldn't hear myself sing over a noisy bar or crowd.

  Things that happen when you scream into a Mic

 The Richard Sherman post game interview after the Seahawks beat the Niners on Sunday Jan 19, 2014 got me thinking about Howard Dean’s famous scream in Iowa after coming in third at the caucases. Dean is shown here trying to rally his supporters. The thing is, technology helps drown out crowd noise or ambient noise so that the mics will pick up what’s in front of them. There are noise gates, compressors, limiters and a bunch of other hardware that is used to filter out unwamted noise, raise the level of whispers, make everything sound equal so if a person is speaking and he moves away from the mic it still picks him up etc
In Dean’s case he was screaming into a microphone because the crowd noise probably didn’t let him hear the sound of his own voice, which probably was why Richard Sherman was screaming too ( apart from the excitement of the moment). When you are at a concert or disco you tend to scream at the people who are with you and if there is suddenly silence you tend to realize how loud you are actually talking.

 Now in the case of Dean and Sherman they were talking into mics that were a feed for TV and probably filtered out most or all ambient noise or gated it( A noise gate is just what the name implies - a barrier for unwanted sound. In this case, it would let the voice of the person speaking into the mic through, but “close” to keep out unwanted noise. If the only sound source is this mic than you would notice the gate, but sometimes there are mutliple sound sources mixed together). Anyway, the point is that what you hear coming into the mic is not the actual sound of the place. You’d get the real sound for example from a mic atop of the camera which picked up all it’s surrounding.

 Here’s a video of Dean’s scream isolated by his mic which is what most people saw on TV.

 Here’s the scream from the crowd

 Now another thing to keep in mind; When a singer sings into a microphone he usually has a reference of his voice be they monitors that are sitting in the front of the stage or earpieces. Usually if a singer has shitty monitoring sound he/she gets hoarse during a concert because they don’t have a reference as to how loud they are singing especially if backed by a loud rock band. In Ear technology has been a break through in that sense and has helped to lower volume levels on stage, plus singer get a neat mix right in their ears. ( Microphones are sometimes placed facing the audience to pick up some ambient sound which is mixed into the ear monitors so there won’t be a feeling of complete sonic isolation.)

 Here’s Richard Sherman screaming post game - Remember, the Seahawks have just won in their home stadium known for it’s decibel levels from the 12th Man as the fanbase is called. THe guy has also just played an NFL football game where the players are screaming all through the game. He is still on the field.

 Now watch this NFL Films video with Sherman mic’ed up during the game and post game including interview… THere’s a bit more crowd noise, but notice the difference between that and when it shows ( same NFL video) the difference in noise level… Anyway, technology is good cause it cleans up sound so you can hear interviews in noisy environments but at the same time without the context it makes people look crazy.

Reminds me of some extras in the DVD for the film Three Kings (George Clooney)… in the extras there’s a scene that I believe was deleted where they are talking in a disco or something , the background music hasn’t been edited in yet so you hear the actors screaming as if there were background noise. Couldn’t find a clip of it onlline but if you get a chance to watch the DVD check it out.

I don't understand why the people in the media business don't explain these things, though. In Dean's case the media could have played both versions of the audio or mixed it up to give the viewing audience some context as to why he was screaming. Probably wouldn't make that good of a story though, huh...
In any case just my two cents without getting into too much technical details which I probably haven't explained all that well.Some of my sound engineer friends might be abel to enlighten us.
Thanks for reading.
LS (ZGZ 1/30/2014)


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