Episode Show Notes
007: Lavalier Microphone Tips
In this episode, we share some tips to help you capture nice sounding audio with your lavalier microphone.
Almost without exception, the microphone that is built in to your camera is not very useful for much of anything. A lavalier microphone (or “lav mic”) is one of two microphone you ought to have in your video creator’s tool bag to make your video productions sound – and therefore, look – more professional.
So here are some tips for using your lav mic:
Read Your Microphone’s
Microphone manuals are close cousins to stereo instructions. They are dry, boring and full of technical information that you have no use for. Buried somewhere in there, however, is some information you will want to know.
If you have a wireless microphone, you will want to know how to change the frequencies of both the transmitter and receiver, how to adjust the gain, how to mute and unmute the transmitter (if your mic has that feature) and a number of other operations. It can be very frustrating – and embarrassing – to try to figure out why your microphone is not working four minutes after you were supposed to begin filming.
If you have a wired lavalier microphone, there typically are not a lot of options to figure out but it is still a good idea to peruse to make you know how to use it.
Placing the Microphone
Generally speaking, you want to place a lav mic on or close to the breastbone of the person doing the talking. Don’t drift too far up towards the neck or too far down towards the belly button.
Hiding the Microphone Wire
Regardless of whether you use a wireless or wired lav mic, you should always hide the wire connected to the microphone. Nothing screams laziness more than seeing a black mic wire running down the front of a person’s shirt.
With a little effort you can find a place to hide the wire under the speaker’s outermost layer of clothing.
For wireless lav mics, the wire should come out where their shirt meets their pants and then go to the transmitter. The transmitter can be attached to their belt behind them or can be placed in a pocket. If the person will be sitting in one place the entire time – as in an interview situation – you can just place the transmitter on the floor next to them.
For wired lav mics, the wire will come out and run back to the camera. Be careful to place the wire in such a way that it does not become a tripping hazard for anyone walking through the set.
Hiding the Microphone
In many situations, it is not necessary to hide the microphone itself. We have all become accustomed to seeing a lav mic on news broadcasters and people being interviewed.
If you do want to hide the mic, you can use gaffers tape to tape the mic to the inside of the shirt. We always have both white and black gaffers tape available to make it less obvious under light and dark sheer fabrics.
When you have more than one person speaking at a time, it can be tempting to place a mic on one of them to capture audio from all of them. This can be done with two people who stay pretty close together and it helps if they are nearly facing each other, but the best audio will come from having a mic on each speaker.
There may be times that you need to film several speakers talking to a live audience from a podium. If the podium has a microphone for amplifying their voice in the room, you can piggy-back a single lav mic to the microphone on the podium. By hiding the transmitter on the podium, running the wire up the mic stand and clipping or taping the lav mic near the event mic, you can use one lav mic to capture clean audio from several speakers in a row… as long as none of them decide to grab the mic and go for a walk during their presentation.
Camera Doesn’t Have Enough Inputs
If your camera doesn’t have enough inputs for the mics you are using, you can use a digital audio recorder to capture audio and then match it up with the video when you are editing.
Lav Mic Alternative
Tascam now makes a lavalier microphone that looks like a typical wireless mic, but uses a digital audio recorder in place of a transmitter. In addition to being about a third the cost of a wireless lav mic, you don’t have to worry about signal interference between the transmitter and the receiver.
One drawback to this piece of equipment is that you cannot monitor the audio while it is being captured. If you fail to start the recorder or the batteries suddenly die, you will never know until you begin to edit the video and realize you have no audio.
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