PRO TIP: Lavalier Mics - OFFICIAL DISCUSSION


#1

In this pro-tip, Kevin goes over the basic ins and outs of lavalier mics! What they are, when to use them, where to place them – including some handy tricks when dealing with certain kinds of costumes and actor movements.

Equipment shown in the video:
Sony UWP-D11 Integrated Digital Wireless Bodypack Lavalier Microphone System
Rycote Stickies
Rycote Undercovers
Zoom H6 Handy Recorder
Short XLR Cable

Have more questions? Ask us below!


Lavalier Mics & Audio Recording [Help me]
#2

#3

#4

11/10 I ordered three of these mics on amazon and they just came in today.
This video could not have come out at a better time.


#5

I know it’s no longer October/Halloween season but…that’s SPOOOOKY. :stuck_out_tongue:


#6

So what sort of dialogue usage would LAV’s get for professional films? I know in some scenes it may be almost impossible to record dialogue via shotgun microphone, and a LAV is used instead. But is the LAV used to later change out with ADR, or can some LAV`s match shotgun microphones in audio? Thanks!


#7

Lavs and shotgun mics usually sound noticeably different, so it’s about proper mixing and editorial choices to make the difference less noticeable (or ideally invisible). EQ and reverb can go a long way towards matching disparate elements, and also smart dialogue editing to minimize flip-flopping between lavs and boom as much as possible. ADR can also be difficult to match (for other reasons; a pristine studio rarely sounds like the on-set location, and the performance may not quite match for energy level, emotion, etc.), so ADR as a lav replacement isn’t necessarily the easier choice!


#8

I’m thinking you should mentioned to not mix the boom and lav together in post. Would you not introduce reverb or at least suffer degraded audio from the sound arriving at the sources at different times then mixed together. This may become especially noticeable with digital wireless systems such as the Sennheieser AVX where the analog to digital to analog conversion introduces an additional 19 ms delay in the signal. The times I’ve done this by mistake it was clearly noticeable when you don’t compensate for the delay.


#9

It’s situational. You typically don’t need to use two microphone recordings overlapping for a line at the exact same time unless there’s some very specific issues you’re compensating for (or the mics are covering different enough angles that there isn’t a lot of doubling), but it’s not uncommon to quickly back-and-forth between boom and lav if it provides the best overall quality - that is, if the increase in objective recording quality makes it worth the extra effort to try to match different mics. There’s some situations where I’ve had a bit of a phasing or offset issue, but many other times I’ve had them overlap with no issue whatsoever - however, I still usually try to drop down to one track just to err on the side of being safe.

As the above video was production-based, we didn’t get into any dialogue editing, but lav vs boom is something absolutely worth digging into when we start covering more on the post side. Thanks for bringing it up!


#10

I have a few questions about the LAV mics.

  1. Do they work well for live stage performances? I’ve looked some up online and they do seem to have LAV mics for music production, but I don’t know if those are a different type of LAV and I was wanting to use a few for an actual stage play.

  2. Can you connect LAV mics to different transmitters? I was wanting to buy the mics themselves and change them out with older, no longer working face mics and was wondering if I could keep the body packs and just use new LAVs.

  3. If any of this can be done, would I have to change anything around on the soundboard? I don’t know if the mics would have any different frequency if I could just use the same body pack or adjust any specific setting to make sure I don’t break anything.

I’m actually asking these questions because I want to recommend LAVs to the local theatre troupe in my town that is in dire need of better mics. Since LAVs are usually omnidirectional and you can hide them under clothing, I feel like they wouldn’t have as many issues as they do with face mics. Especially when people constantly want to bend and adjust the face mics and end up breaking them. So any information would be great before I try to sell them on the LAV mic.


#11

You could use lavs for some types of live performances (especially if you just want to record, but not necessarily amplify), but you’re going to run into some major problems the minute you’re working with high volume.

Lavs are generally omnidirectional mics, which means they’re going to pick up sound roughly the same way from all sides. This is the natural enemy of a feedback-free performance, since you’ll have a much harder time controlling for the reflected sound from your PAs. For this reason, when you see wireless headset mics worn by public speakers, singers, etc., they’re almost always directional vocal mics, not omnis.

There’s a reason that you usually just see a very directional mic (e.g., cardioid family) used on-stage for loud music shows. Just makes your life easier by cutting out sound from directions other than your intended source.

Yes, so long as there’s basic compatibility between mic and transmitter, i.e., input jack type / threading if applicable, voltage, etc.

Different mics are…well…different. Whether it’s so noticeable that you have to make changes is a question for you to figure out. One thing that can help if you can’t tell with your ears is to take a look at either a spectrogram (which shows you frequency distribution in a visual way) or look at the frequency charts for the different mics and see if they’re markedly different. Let me know if you want more info on this!

Keep in mind this can actually be a problem. Again there’s a good reason for face mics in a performance setting. If you turn your head significantly, there is no mic placement with a lav that’s going to give you good sound throughout the entire range of head movement. A face mic stays with the mouth at all times and gives consistent tone and volume.


#12

Question:
I and my friends are producing short films, and we need better audio. We have a very low budget, so the mics used in the video are far too expensive. I’m looking for 3-4 lav mics for around or under $100. If the recorder must be directly connected to the microphone, and still be placed on the actor, that works perfectly fine. It just needs to have good audio, be completely contained on the actor, and be around $100. Any suggestions?


#13

Hi @doc_general, $100 for 4 lav mics is a very low budget, let me explain why and afterwards I’ll try to help you out.

Pro lav mics are expensive pieces of wireless gear that can cost a lot of money, but even the cheapest wireless lav mics will cost around $60 - $100 a piece (see this Boya microphone: https://www.gearbest.com/microphone/pp_640662.html?vip=778436&gclid=CjwKCAiA07PRBRBJEiwAS20SIKCFchZ0XoPjUNjbCWVWOUffBz08dyeiaeREc8IJsVjgdcYJs5WmHRoC2ZQQAvD_BwE) not a great mic (although it might not be a bad “started mic”, I don’t know…) and it has several problems (for example, it has a 4-frame delay). But even buying just 20 of these will put you $20 over your original budget.

Therefore, your best solution would be to buy lav microphones that have wire that plugs directly into your recorder but that presents a problem. If you want the actors to be able to “carry their own set-up”, you need a small pocket-size recorder for every actor and that is not only costly but also very time consuming because you’ll have a greta deal of files that you’ll have to manually sync in post. Also, you’ll have to press record on every device for every take and that can be really annoying not just for you but also for the actors (trust me, I’ve done it).

So it would seem that all hope is lost, but don’t dispair my friend, we can still make this work!

  1. RE-READ THE SCRIPT => Do you really need fro lav mics? Are there any scenes in which 4 characaters speak simultaneusly? If not, you don’t need for lav mics. Maybe you can get away with just two or three.

  2. TALK WITH THE DIRECTOR, D.O.P. AND EDITOR => How will the scene be shot and cut? Maybe you never see the 4 characters mouths at the same time when they’re speaking at the same time (if you can’t read the actor’s libs, maybe you don’t need to put a microphone on that actor).

  3. DOES THE MICROPHONE NEED TO BE ON THE ACTOR? => Can you hide the microphone in a prop or something like that? If it’s a dinner scene in which all the actors are sitting around a small table indoors, maybe you can hide your lav mics inside of props, etc (lav mics are not meant to be used like this but I can give you plenty of examples in which something like this has saved my butt). Maybe you can get away with two hidden microphones? Who knows…

  4. A.D.R. => I personally try to avoid ADR if I can because it means more work and more complications. Also, you are "throwing away the actors "real"performance and replacing it with another which might not be as good because not all actors are good doing ADR. Nevertheless, ADR has its uses and in your case, you might want to consider this option.

  5. MOVE YOUR MICROPHONES => Maybe you can cover one actors dialog and then take his microphone away and put it on another actor so that you can cover his dialog. Do you know what I mean?

  6. RENT => You don’t have to buy all your gear. Maybe you can rent it! Renting lav microphone is not particullary expensive (here in Barcelona, Spain renting a pro wireless lav costs about 20€ a day). Maybe youcan buy two lav mics and rent the other two for just a day.

  7. WORK YOUR WAY AROUND THE PROBLEM => If none of these options work for you, maybe you can look at the script and see if all 4 actors need to be there or if all of them need to speak all of the time, maybe you can cover the scene in a different way that requieres less microphones… If you’re all friends and you explain what your problems are to them I am sure you can work something out.

PS. A good shotgun microphone to put on a boom is key if you want good audio, the lavs will provide you with the “the constant presence” of the actor’s voice, but your boom will give you everything else (room acoustics, actors movements, etc). So I’d suggest buying a shotgun mic or renting it as it will significantly increase the quality of your production sound.

Also, look to buy things in the second hand market. Maybe you can find a bargain that can save your live.


#14

I’d second everything @Guima793 said (thanks for the awesome response, by the way!).

In most situations, when you have limited budget and resources, I’d actually recommend a boom over lav mics. A boom is quicker to handle, can potentially cover multiple actors in a single take, and will also (as long as it’s handled reasonably well) often sound more natural than lavs, at least with minimal to no post editing.

I would consider everything in Guima’s post, but then also consider whether a boom would potentially work instead.

Let me know if you have any further questions, and feel free to @ me so I get a notice!


#15

Thanks Kevin, and @Guima793! That was really helpful, I’ll keep all that in mind.


#16

Mr Senzaki, have you ever used boundary mics for film? I’ve used some for theater production where we had a weird decor with walls and some scenes had the actors hide behind the walls and talk and often for tap dancing in festivals. I’ve never had the chance to test one for video production. I was thinking of using one for a game talk show where 3-4 people are sitting around a coffee table. we tough of that since it could easily be hidden on the table since the ceiling is low in that room and we had a hard time placing booms on stand where they wouldn’t cast shadows on set. The mic would be a back up since everyone has a lav but with the nature of the show it’s common that people burst out laughing or get into heated arguments. just to have a back up if any of the lavs peak or fall off.


#17

If you have access to it and it doesn’t cost you any “extra money” I think that it’s a no brainer! Put it in there and, if you find out that it is unusable for whatever reason, just delete the track in post.

I believe it’s a good idea because, since booms can’t be used, this microphone will give all your lav recordings a bit of “air” (room accoustics, etc). I’ve never used a microphone like this ever but if it is an omnidirectional microphone I believe it should be able to fulfill this purpose.

Another thing you could do is mount an extra boom mic on the camera if it is impossible to boom. Hopefully, if the shot is tight enough it’ll give you some decent sound.


#18

I agree with @Guima793; if you have it available, definitely feel free to try it, or do a test before the shoot and see what you get! I’ve not used one personally for a film shoot, so if you’re unsure, trying it out in a setup similar to what your shoot will be like would be the best way to find out if it’s a viable option. You could test it on your own, simply by rolling a recording, sitting in each position and talking at different volumes.

An alternative option would be to have a boom basically above the camera aimed in the general direction of the coffee table, which could also give you some of that “room” feel.

If you can do both (and have the channels available recorder-wise), might as well try 'em all and then decide in post what to use!


#19

Thanks for your input guys, I have a friend who just told he’s selling a pair of crown pcc and he’ll let me try em before buying them. I didn’t think about trying to put the boom close to the camera at mouth height.

I was curious to see if anyone on here used it and had some opinions about it.

Thanks!


#20

Having the boom at mouth height may not actually be the best placement; having it close to the camera but elevated and angled down at the table might get better results. You actually don’t usually aim the boom at a person’s mouth, but rather a little lower at their upper chest, since that helps “catch” their voice and also reduces your chances of overshooting and missing them. In the case of having people around a table, a little bit of elevation on the boom angled towards the middle of the table (or maybe aiming a little higher than that) should hopefully catch all their voices evenly, and the table itself will help catch and reflect their speech.