A scene from Theatre Under the Starsâ€™ production of Anything Goes
Vancouver, BC, Canada â€“ October 2011â€¦ On warm summer nights, both the locals and tourists of Lower Mainland Vancouver gather outdoors in Stanley Parkâ€™s historic Malkin Bowl for a 70-year-old entertainment tradition: Theatre Under the Stars. In addition to delivering outstanding performances, this non-profit society provides amateur performers and technicians of all ages a training ground to hone their skills. This year, viewers enjoyed two musicals: Bye Bye Birdie, featuring the lyrics of Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, and Anything Goes, from composer/lyricist Cole Porter. These hugely popular shows both have a wealth of singing and dancing, so ensuring vocal clarity and projection presents significant technical challengesâ€”thatâ€™s precisely why the microphone of choice is none other than the B3 Omnidirectional Lavaliere from Menlo Park-CA-based Countryman Associates.
Alex Livland serves as the sound manager for Theatre Under the Stars. After starting as the house mix engineer, he now handles all sound design considerations for the companyâ€™s theatrical productions. In preparation for the start of this season (which began in mid June), he purchased 68 Countryman B3W5 (red band) microphones, which are optimized for theatrical useâ€”particularly when placed in a performerâ€™s hair. He discussed his reasons for selecting the Countryman B3â€™s.
â€œUntil you put on a costume and perform under the lights, you never really gain an appreciation for just how hot it can get on stage,â€? Livland explained. â€œAs the heat builds, perspiration occursâ€”particularly when thereâ€™s as much dancing as we have in these two shows. Perspiration and moisture, in general, are frequently the â€˜kiss of deathâ€™ for lavaliere microphones. In past seasons, this was a huge concern because we never knew when a mic might just call it quits. After wrestling with this issue, I was determined to find a better solution, and we found it with the Countryman B3â€™s.â€?
â€œIâ€™m really impressed with the reliability of these microphones,â€? Livland continued. â€œBetween the costumes, the lights, and all the dancing, it gets really hot. I need a microphone that withstands perspiration and the B3 has proven itself an excellent choice. In addition to the micâ€™s ability to resist moisture, itâ€™s ideal for placement among wardrobe and is terrific when you need to hide a microphone in the performerâ€™s hair. The B3 is barely noticeableâ€”if at allâ€”and the sound remains constant as the performerâ€™s head moves.â€?
With almost a full summer season of outdoor theatrical performances under his belt, Livland reports he couldnâ€™t be more impressed with Countrymanâ€™s audio quality. â€œThe sound quality of the B3â€™s is terrific,â€? he says. â€œThese mics are extremely crisp and clear. The high end is just amazing. Further, the ability to change the plastic caps in order to get different high-end response characteristics is tremendously beneficial. With the Countryman B3â€™s, I can switch the cap to boost the presence of the showâ€™s lead actors above that of the chorus members, and this has been extremely useful in helping me get the mix Iâ€™m looking for. In addition to the standard 0 dB caps, we have both the +4 dB and +8 dB caps to choose from, so thereâ€™s never an issue in terms of achieving suitable gain. This incredibly useful design characteristic helps me get that â€˜Broadway soundâ€™ we want.â€?
Livland is using the Countryman B3â€™s with Shure UHF-RÂ® series wireless systems and he reports this is a wonderful match, â€œI love using the B3â€™s with this equipment because they have a lower input sensitivity, which I use to keep the transmitter packsâ€™ gain at 0 dB. This enables me to trim the mics down for those performers with loud volumes so that I get the best possible mix balance.â€?
Before turning his attention to the business of the day, Livland offered this parting thought on a very successful season with the new Countryman B3 microphones. â€œThese mics have been nothing short of terrific,â€? he said. â€œThanks to the Countryman B3â€™s; we didnâ€™t lose a single microphone all season. In past seasons when we used other mics, we were literally contending with mic failures on a show-by-show basis. The B3â€™s sound exceptional, thereâ€™s plenty of gain before feedback, and their reliability has been amazing. Iâ€™m so glad that I no longer have the stress that accompanies not knowing whether the mics are going to last through the show. Itâ€™s very reassuring to know the B3â€™s will deliver when theyâ€™re supposed to.â€?
For additional information about Theatre Under the Stars, visit them online at www.tuts.ca.
About Countryman Associates
For more than 30 years, Countryman has focused on developing microphones and accessories that deliver maximum gain before feedback, with the highest possible rejection of wind, vibration, interference, and other unwanted sounds. The result is warm, clear vocals in speaking and singing applications, delivering natural audio reinforcement that requires almost no attention from the sound engineer or the performer. For additional information about Countryman Associates, visit the company online at www.countryman.com.