Tips on getting the best performance from your Lav Mic!

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

A big big thank you! For taking the time to check out what I hope will be a complete, informative series & guide on the tips & best practices for video professionals dealing with audio.



Wireless Lavaliers (Lapel or Body Mic)


Lavalier microphones, or commonly referred to as "lavs", “Lapel” and “Body” microphones. We’ll call them Lavs (because that's what the cool kids call them), these are an essential piece of sound equipment in the video production world. When boom poles and longer shotgun microphones would be distracting or even visible in the shot, lavs are going to be your friend.

These microphones will not only let you get a nice and close to your subject's mouth but they also allow them to go and move freely, pretty much anywhere they want without the necessity for a boom operator to follow closely behind and supporting equipment.


But Lavs sometimes come under fire and receive scrutiny for the various external factors acting against the microphone’s performance. What’s the point in having a super expensive, crystal clear lavalier microphone on a subject with noisy items of clothing rustling through an important voice interview?


Well first and foremost, let's make sure you have the correct Lav for the Job! As some are designed to exhibit more advantages in different environments as others. Don’t worry there is only two main types to remember.


The two main types: Proximity & Transparent Lavaliers.


Proximity

• Works best when kept fairly close to sound source

• Less sensitive to background sounds and noise

• Volume change vs. distance is more pronounced

• Emphasizes voice in a “tight close-up way”, produces “lavalier perspective, voice of authority” type sound

• Ideal choice in situations where sound reinforcement (PA) is in use


Transparent

• Sound like an omnidirectional studio microphone

• Very sensitive to sounds

• Volume change vs. working distance is more gradual

• Can be deployed at greater distances

• Sound more natural and less forced

• Intercut well with boom mics on set

• Also sensitive to background noise

• Require greater skill to hide


Tips & Best Practice - Questions to ask yourself & things to consider.


1. Where can I hide this lav and where can I store the transmitter?

2. How am I going to secure the lav? A mount? Topstick? A chewed up piece of gum? (Just don't.)

3. How close can I get the lav to the subject’s mouth?

4. How noisy is the clothing? Do I need any covers?

5. Where can I create "natural cages" where the clothing and the lav don't touch?

6. Does my placement work with the camera angle and blocking?


Placement

First, you need to figure out where you're going to put it. If your subject is wearing a jacket with lapels or a tie, it's a piece of cake, but if your subject is wearing a costume that doesn't have a whole lot of hiding places, you're gonna have to get a little creative.


Mounting or Rigging

Okay, you've figured out where you're going to put the thing. Now, how do you do it? Typically three methods, tired and tested will get you out of most situations;


Broadcast loop To do this, insert your mic into its clip, then loop the cable back up into it as well. When you attach the lavalier to your talent's clothing, run the excess cable behind the fabric so all you see from the front is the microphone itself, the clip and a small cable loop. Tip: To create some strain relief on the cable, and also reduce potential movement noise, create secondary loop below your mic clip and stick this together with a small piece of tape. Vampire clips A vampire is another simple, frequently used lavalier clip, perfect for when you have no edge of clothing to attach to. The vampire (or viper) clip will have two small pins, or teeth, that will secure it to a T-shirt, dress or other fabric that a standard clip could not grip onto. Concealing the lavalier If you need to conceal your lav microphone beneath clothing, it is common practice to use a variety of tape techniques and other methods. Before testing these, ensure you are using a camera or gaffer tape that will provide a strong hold and not move or come off during recording. Try searching for the “Triangle Tape” technique or alternatively you can purchase specially designed concealers, sensitive to all skin types, transparent and long lasting. Perfect for reducing noise too!



Working to Reduce Noise


Since Lav microphones are potentially positioned between items of clothing that may be moving or exerting friction against the microphone we can expect noise to be introduced to the signal, luckily there are simple steps we can take to if not completely avoid, at least reduce the noise to a minimal and professional working standard.

Let’s break up the main forms of noise we are likely to encounter and develop cost effective ways to reduce noise without expanding our current kit.


Noises to consider;


Clothing noise

Contact – clothing rubbing against microphone

• Acoustic – clothing rubbing against itself


Cable noise

Mechanical noise transmitted up the microphone cable

Wipe down your cables frequently to reduce sound interference from friction against the cable.


Dealing with acoustic clothing noise

• Static Guard spray can be used to lubricate clothing

• Heavy starch conducts noise – wet down area around mic


Know your fabrics

• Cotton and woolens are quietest fabrics

• Silks, and synthetics should be avoided

• Watch for jewellery, beard stubble and other noise makers


Alternate hiding places for microphones

• Under collar with sweaters and sweatshirts

• Beneath hat brims or eyeglass frames

• Under hair in center of actors forehead

• Hollowed out plastic pen


And finally.... A quick word on “Pulling Your Mic Out” in the workplace. Joking aside, this one goes without saying but still… Be professional.


When touching other people's bodies, it's best not to be a weirdo lol but I have been placing Lavs on people for 15 years and sometimes it’s just awkward but you don’t have to make the subject awkward in doing so. The process sometimes involves putting yourself, your hands, in situations that could appear to compromise you but this rule NEVER fails...



Always communicate clearly and professionally with your subject before mic-ing them up to make sure they're comfortable with the process.


In a lot of situations you may have the subject place the pack on themselves or depending on the nature of the production, for a less formal talking heads situation they may even have the experience to place the Lav on themselves, to a tie, shirt or lapel. We want to achieve the best sound here so even if this is the case I’ll still observe to make sure a secure connection to the subject has been made, lav positioning is advantageous and we are all set. Again, don’t be a weirdo about it!


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