Lauren Banjo and her Spacer Bubble on a shotgun microphone capturing sound

Lauren Banjo Talks Tools and Speed in Capturing High Quality Sound for ENG

The US-based sound engineer explains how having the right tools for the job helps her achieve the best possible results for her clients.

Location recording engineer Lauren Banjo works in the fast paced world of ENG, corporate and social media content creation and has joined a growing band of professionals who are turning to Bubblebee Industries for their specialist sound accessories.

“Most of my projects involve one or two days of shooting, in various locations,” Lauren explains. “I’m also often involved in ‘Run & Gun’ productions, where environments can change quickly and there is no set subject or script. In those situations, I am the person who follows the camera crew wherever they go, which could mean being inside one minute and outside the next.”

Topping of her list of favourite Bubblebee wind protection is the Spacer Bubble, a multipiece adaptable windshield solution for shotgun microphones that is specifically designed to help boom operators and sound recordists cope with changeable conditions. The Spacer Bubble consists of a mesh base for use indoors, protecting against light winds caused by moving the boom, and a long-haired fur cover that slips over the base, providing excellent wind protection when moving outdoors. The whole setup can be easily adapted in a matter of seconds, so you always have the most transparent option for your surroundings.

“The great thing about the Spacer Bubble is that it is so lightweight and portable. If I’m outside in windy conditions, I can quickly slip the fur cover over my microphone and be confident that the sound will remain clear and intelligible. And when I don’t need it, the cover can be scrunched up so that it fits easily in a bag or in my pocket.”

Based in New Jersey, USA, Lauren spends most of her working life in New York capturing sound for film and television, as well as for corporate clients who want professionally produced content for their internal communications and social media channels. In recent months her client list has included Adidas, Michael J. Fox, Samsung, World Umami Forum, Michael Bloomberg, New York Comic Con and Coach.

A musician at heart, Lauren’s interest in sound recording was initially triggered by her desire to record her own band. This led her to discover the music technology programme at NYU, from which she graduated in 2015. In her final year she attended a career’s talk about location sound recording and realised this what she wanted to pursue.

“It was my last semester, so too late to take any classes in it, but I had a friend who was in film school and he asked around on my behalf and found some people wanted help with the sound on their projects,” she explains. “Film people all need sound so there were a lot of takers because no one goes to film school to be a sound person. It’s a shame they don’t pair people at film school with people at audio engineering colleges! I started taking on these projects and realised it was lucrative because not a lot of people were doing it and I was picking up quite a bit of work. It helped pay off my student loan but it was also really interesting and I quickly found I was enjoying it.”

Lauren believes her success in her chosen career is mainly down to networking and learning from other people who do the same job. Within three years of graduating from NYU, she was working full time as a sound engineer and the only time work ran dry was during the COVID-19 pandemic when the entire industry stopped for a few months.

“Live sound work was hit hard by the pandemic, but it didn’t take long for production sound projects to come back online, so I began focusing on those,” she says. “I love everything about sound, and I don’t like doing the same thing all the time, so it’s nice to have different projects to tackle and go to different locations.”

Film makers and content creators – especially those who are new to the business – often don’t realise how critical sound is to the success of a project. A common, and costly, mistake is believing that poor sound can be fixed in post production, but as any sound engineer will tell you this really isn’t the case. If a crucial part of an interview is rendered unintelligible by external noise, the only way to save it is to record it again.

“Outside of the studio environment you are at the mercy of the elements, and weather is certainly a factor you need to pay attention to,” Lauren says. “You also need to be aware of external noises and how sounds you don’t want can interfere with the audio you are trying to capture. A few weeks ago, I did a job where we were filming on the water in wind that was gusting at 55 miles an hour. Apart from being horribly dangerous, my main problem was the wind noise and how to deal with that. I used my Bubblebee Spacer and it was amazing – you could hear that it was windy but there was none of the distortion one would normally expect. If I had tried to record without the Spacer, I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything except wind.”

Having the right accessories does make a difference, Lauren adds, and investing in the best tool for the job is always money well spent.

“I am not snobby – I use what works best for me,” she says. “If a product, be it a microphone or an accessory, is reliable and sounds good, then I’m happy to use it, even if it isn’t the most expensive. Having said that, when I first started out and couldn’t afford to buy accessories, I tried making my own solutions using things like gaffer tape. But eventually I realised that properly designed products are so much better and more cost effective because I could use them again and again. For instance, I really like the Bubblebee concealer products for lavalier microphones. The rubber mounts have a very slim profile, and the metal guards stop friction noise from reaching my mic capsule. These days I use them as my default mounting option because they work well with the majority of wardrobe options. If I am working quickly and I don’t know in advance what the wardrobe will be, using Bubblebee concealers is always a safe bet. I also like Bubblebee’s lavalier Windbubble because these totally work when it comes to removing unwanted noise.”

Creating corporate content for social media channels has become a large part of Lauren’s work and this means that she often works with people who are not film and television professionals.

“When I’m involved with corporate projects, the main difference I encounter is that people are not used to being mic-ed,” she says. “Actors will happily lift their shirts and let you stick microphones wherever you like, but corporate people find that disconcerting. They don’t work with costume designers, so they don’t realise what is involved when it comes to sound. They might turn up wearing a dress with a high neckline, for example, and you can’t clip a microphone onto that because it will sound terrible being so close to their throat. Also, they don’t realise how much their movements impact the sound – for example, if they touch their chest and knock the microphone. They can’t hear every movement they make, but the microphone can, and I can’t just go to the costume department and ask them to sew a mic pouch into a jacket.”

Lauren adds that speed is also of the essence when she’s creating content for social media because clients want a quick turnaround. “These projects don’t get a lot of post-production, so the sound needs to be as good as possible from the outset,” she explains. “It is a challenge, and you have to learn not to be too much of a perfectionist, but it does help if you have accessories that allow you to create better sound in the first place.”

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