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Microphone Month 5

Why two SM-57’s on the President’s podium

“I have noticed that when the U.S. President speaks at a podium he uses two SM57’s with wind screens. Why?”

According to Shure, the two SM57 podium setup started with the Johnson administration in 1968. So, why are there two? There are two main reasons for this two mic setup; one is for redundancy. If one microphone should fail, they are able to receive the feed from the other. The second reason is that one mic typically feeds the in house PA system while the other feeds the press/broadcast. Generally speaking, the two microphones are not mixed together for the same feed. So, the tip? When you feel your message is important, REDUNDANCY is one of the easiest methods of prevention on the planet. You simply never know when a mic, cable, channel on your mixer, or whatever, could go wrong. In situations such as podium miking, multiple mic setups are commonplace so you shouldn’t have to worry about aesthetics either. When using a wireless system always have a wired mic nearby as a backup, particularly in circumstances where a lot of media is present. You never know when someone will fire up a transmitter that will step all over the frequency your wireless system is using. Plan ahead and always remember that when it comes to live sound, more is generally better than less!

As a side note on the presidential mics (your inSync editor having done presidential gigs before), they travel with their own setup for the mics. The sound reinforcement and broadcast people are given breakout boxes to obtain signals that are well away from the podium – no unauthorized personnel go near the podium at any time.

Any finally, this isn’t really a tech tip, but worth mentioning – when doing a gig like this it is really not a good idea to go through any doors in the facility you aren’t familiar with (or at least be very careful when doing so). It just may lead to an unexpected encounter with armed secret service personnel. I can tell you first hand these guys have no sense of humor at all. Fortunately (for me) they are disciplined pros.

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