The history of the Second City comedy theatre in Chicago is filled with stars. Over 5,000 of them have honed their storytelling, acting and improv skills at The Second City’s Training Center.
Shure microphones have been on Second City stages for decades now, but we wanted to see what role our new MOTIV™ MV51 digital microphone could play with students. After all, this simple-to-use, super-affordable mic is designed to plug into any iOS device. Perfect, we thought, for on-the-fly recording and playback of the kind students do as part of finding their voice.
To find out, we tested the MV51 with Second City Training Center instructors Kathleen Puls Andrade and Steven Tobiasz.
First Period: Voiceover for Improvisers
Kathleen Puls Andrade teaches Basic and Advanced Voiceover for Improvisers. With a career that has transformed her into a talking cashew, a singing chicken, the Russian coach of a supermodel competition and more, she knows how to use her instrument to create characters in the moment. This is Second City, don’t forget. The ability to lift the words off the page is the goal. For students working toward that, having a decent mic to capture their progress is a huge help.
Students come to the basic voiceover class without much mic experience, so mic technique is part of the curriculum. According to Kathleen, the rig is simple. “There’s a microphone, a music stand and my laptop.” She uses Twisted Wave as her recording software and uploads the recordings to Dropbox for students to access.
The audio quality of the USB mic Kathleen had been using wasn’t winning many accolades. So how did the MV51 compare? So far, so great.
Its cardioid polar pattern eliminated most of the problems she used to encounter with background noise. She also liked the fact that she can set it to its Speech Mode to automatically apply gain, EQ, compression and limiting.
“The room we use is not soundproofed, but the actors sounded natural, and we didn’t get the hollow sound we’d experienced with our previous mic,” Kathleen said. “I didn’t hear any of the distortion that I’d heard before when we listened to playback.”
Another surprise: “It doesn’t need a pop filter.” Plus, the MV51’s metal construction gave the mic a substantial feel that both teacher and students liked.
Nutshell: the MV51’s plug-and-play engineering made it pretty easy for Kathleen to discard its predecessor. Once she mounted it on a boom stand (voiceover talent is rarely seated), she was ready to record.
Second Period: Podcasting 101
When Second City was looking for an engaging teacher to lead a podcasting class in their Chicago Training Center, they didn’t have to look far. Not only had Steven Tobiasz launched his first podcast Seriously?!? in his parent’s basement several years earlier, but also he’d picked up a 2013 Top Podcast Award from Time Out Chicago for writing and producing NPR’s How to Do Everything.
Podcasting 101 teaches concept, format, production and marketing. The first weeks of the eight-week class focus on developing and pitching podcast ideas (anything from empire-building cats to conversations over board games). Students leave Steven’s class with the building blocks of a launch plan that includes a final, professionally edited first episode.
Like Kathleen’s setup, the rig for Podcasting 101 is simple: the MV51, a USB cable and Steven’s MacBook. Steven set the MV51 to Speech Mode, so setup was foolproof, even for the least experienced user. The cardioid polar pattern was a real plus for his students too.
“When I was just getting started, I recorded podcasts in my parent’s basement or in green rooms at comedy clubs,” Steven explained. Background noise in uncontrolled environments was a given. “Anything that can be done to produce a professional recording is a huge benefit to our students.”
Kathleen gave the MV51 high marks: “It’s a very nice all-in-one mic.”
Steven did too: “This mic provides close to, if not true, studio quality sound.” he said.
The full line of MOTIV mics will debut later this year. The MV51 is just one model in the new MOTIV digital microphone line, which features powerfully compact, stylish and solid solutions for plug-and-play digital recording. With seamless Mac/PC/iOS integration, and the free ShurePlus™ MOTIV™ mobile app for recording and monitoring, the focus is on capturing the best take at home or on the go. No recording studio required.
Each MOTIV microphone offers a wide array of DSP presets (unless you choose to set your own), including Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic and Loud, depending on the model. They’re ideal for newbies as well as pros like Kathleen and Steven.
Want a preview of the MOTIV series? Check them out here.