When and How to Use a Wireless Lavalier Mic – Types of Microphones for Video: Part 2 [Reel Rebel #14]
When you are out shooting and recording someone's speech is critical to your final video quality, using your camera's on-board microphone, or even a shotgun mic may not be your best option. In cases where your purpose is to capture a subject's voice, (e.g. public speaking engagements, talking head interviews, etc...), you'll want to consider a lavalier microphone, also called a "lav" or lapel mic.
This week, on our Reel Rebel video production tips series, Stephen Schweickart discusses when and how to correctly use a wireless lavalier microphone.
Basic Tips for Using Wireless Lavalier/Lapel Microphones
Wireless lapel mics are often used in order to allow for a more hands-free operation and because they're less conspicuous, they may help your subject feel slightly more comfortable as they wont be paying attention to the microphone itself. You simply clip it on to your talent's clothing and it will enable to you to be able to get a crisp, clear sound without having to pay additional crew to following your talent and collect sound.
Lavaliers come with two pieces - a transmitter and a receiver. The best place to put the microphone is around the area between the chest and the throat. If it's too high you'll get a muffled sound. Too low and you'll have to turn up the levels in your audio recorder which will pick up more room noise. It's a good idea to start with the microphone about 8 inches below your talent's chin and then adjust it as necessary.
The receiver plugs into your audio recording device and make sure it's turned on.
As a tip, when you purchase or order your microphone it's a good idea to order batteries at the same time since most of them won't come equipped with batteries in the box.
The transmitter and receiver should have matching frequencies since they talk to each other wirelessly. Usually they will come out of the box already set, in the event they don't or you need to adjust it, be sure to keep the manual so you know how to adjust the frequencies as needed.
Be sure to check your levels. They should be landing between -12 to -6 decibels. You don't want anything higher than that.
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View The Full Video Transcript:
Hey, I’m Stephen Schweickart with VScreen where we make videos for companies. And, today we’re going to be talking about lapel mics or lavs or lavs or tomatoes or tomatoes.
So you’re out shooting and using a shotgun mic is out of the question and you need an alternative quick. Well, we’ve got one. Lapel mics, also know as lavaliers or more simply just “lavs”, clip onto your talent’s clothing just like this guy here providing a crisp feed of your dialog without a boom operator having to chase everyone around the scene.
This is a huge bonus for you because put simply, you don’t have to pay an audio guy to come collect sound for you. If the scene is simple enough for you to use lavs, it’s simple enough for you to mix the audio yourself while you run the camera assuming you’re a half-wit. Sure it’s little extra work for you, but the process is a simple one, and I’ll show you that right now, so pay attention, newbie.
Lavs come with two very similar looking pieces, a transmitter and a receiver. The end with the microphone on it, this guy again, clips right around here between the chest and throat. You don’t want the mic to be too high or you’re going to get more of a muffled sound out of your talent, and you don’t want it pinned too low otherwise you’ll have to turn the levels up on your audio recorder causing you to pick up more room noise than you want. Start with the mic about 8 inches below your talent’s chin and adjust it from there until it sounds natural in your headphones.
Next, you’re left with the receiver, which, if you haven’t figured out by now, plugs into your audio recording device whether it be a Zoom H4N or your camera depending on what you’re filming with. Once you’re all plugged in, now you get to the hard part...turn both pieces on.
Here’s a protip for you: When you place an order for a lav mic, also place an order for some batteries. Most will run on AAs or 9volts, but 99% of them don’t come with them in the box. So avoid the panicked run to the 7 Eleven for batteries 20 minutes before shoot time, and just buy some when you buy your mic. Easy peasy, you just saved yourself a headache.
Out of the box, the transmitter and receiver should have matching frequencies, meaning they can talk to each other wirelessly, but in case they don’t, keep your instruction manual handy and ignore the male predisposition that you know everything so that you can adjust the frequencies if need be. And finally, check your levels. Looking at your meters, the levels should be landing between -12 and -6 dB. Higher than that and you risk peaking or “clipping” your audio, lower than that and you may not hear squat! Take our word for it, -12 to -6 dB is the place to be.
Like we said before, if you can shoot with shotguns, do it, but if you can’t lavaliers are a perfectly viable option to keep your production smaller, cheaper, and more mobile.
Like we always say at the end of every one of these videos, feel free to like us, comment, feel free to have a discussion.