Lavaliers are the go-to microphone when requiring a localized, portable and hands-free solution when miking your talent. Lavaliers are primarily used with dialogue, where headsets or handhelds are usually used by singers for reasons of quality and proximity.
Types of Lav
Most lavaliers are omnidirectional and offer consistent capture even when the sound source moves--for example the subject turning their head.
Different designs include some that are more durable, moisture resistant, or more sensitive to higher frequencies. Dual clip designs attach the cable to the clip to reduce tension and vibration noise. The differences in design revolve mainly around the clips, housing, and mounting styles.
The biggest divergence is found in lavaliers that use a cardioid pattern. These highly directional microphones should be considered in cases where a narrow pattern is needed to reduce the impact of noisy environments.
There are three main methods to consider when attaching a lavalier to the talent: clip, adhesive or strap. Your decision is based around the type of production and amount of permissible visibility, wardrobe limitations and the potential mounting points.
When mounting the mic, the sternum is a suitable location as it strikes a good balance between proximity and distance from the sound source. Try experimenting with different positions, like mounting towards or away from the sound source while paying attention to the resulting changes in sound.
When mounting the mic, the sternum is a suitable location as it strikes a good balance between proximity and distance from the sound source.
There’s Clips and There’s Vampire Clips
Your garden variety lavalier clip does what it says on the box, find an edge and clip on to it. Vampire clips come into their own when there are no edges to clip to. Instead, they have two little teeth that latch into the clothing when gently pushed in.
Straps and Tape
Trew Audio makes the Lav-Strap,which is a combination strap and lavalier housing product that can be clasped around the talent’s upper torso area. It comes in multiple sizes and can fit lavaliers housed in a variety of windscreens and sleeves.
Moleskin tape is a favorite of engineers because of its strong adhesive and one side being covered in felt. It is safe to use on skin and will hold up in most cases. Medical tape is also an option. Both tapes are not immune to heat and sweat, but can hold up a fair amount. Also, try to be careful if mounting to a hairy chest — be gentle.
Regardless of how you mount the microphone, you will need to address the cable tension so that it doesn’t snag or pull on the mic capsule. Taking the tension out and securing the cable can be done with tape, tucking it behind the Lav-Strap, or using dedicated cable management clips.
Avoid cable snags that pull on the capsule or cause vibrational cable noise, or movement that make it rub against clothing.
The broadcast loop is a familiar sight, where the mic is attached to the clip and cable looped back on the clip. Hide half of the cable loop behind the article of clothing, with the other half of the loop remaining visible near the capsule. A second loop can be formed and taped to further reduce cable tension.
As you will see below, the set, script and sequences will directly impact where and how you mount your microphone.
Low mobility, Standard Visibility and Standard Wardrobes
A conventional talk show will be fairly predictable in its wardrobe choices, with shirts, suits and dresses being the norm. You will have your choice of collars and straps that you can run your mic around and attach to. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about the hosts performing extreme stunts.
A mic clip will suffice in a lot of cases, but extra discretion can be achieved with clear mounts like the RØDE invisiLav.
High Mobility, Low Visibility and Complex Wardrobes
Your microphone placement will have to be both secure and discreet in these cases owing to what will likely be active, warm and complex shooting arrangements.
In the event you cannot attach to any clothing, you still have the option of using a strap or tape. A common technique to use is to cut two strips of mole skin, one smaller than the other and to adhere one to the subject, place the microphone on top, and attach the second strip on top of the microphone and existing strip — a moleskin mic sandwich, if you will.
This is also the perfect time to use a Lav-Strap, as it is completely hidden under the talent’s clothing and can be expected to stay still in high energy moments.
Wind and fabric noise are your enemies whenever working with lavaliers. The techniques above have shown how to minimize mic movement through isolation and clever mounting.
The items below give you more flexibility when addressing these concerns. Silky garments are more prone to producing noise than cotton fabrics.
Furry Windscreens and Windscreens
Fuzzy windscreens are commonly available in black, grey and white. They are used to shield from wind and are very good at reducing the sound of clothing rubbing against the microphone. Their appearance and color variety make them ideal for hiding; cutting them down in size and roundness is also a neat way of making them even less conspicuous.
The classic windscreen is always an option to reduce wind and contact sound, but are limited in the color and shape department. Both types are effective at reducing the effects of wind and clothing.
Go Forth and Capture
As with any other technique, practice makes perfect. Try to become familiar with your inventory; experiment with different placements and try various ranges of motion. What is the difference in comfort and adhesion of medical tape vs. moleskin? What are the smallest amounts that you can get away with?
These are all questions answered by experience, which will help develop your own style. And remember, always show up with a charged battery pack and plenty of spares!
Blag spends his time between web development, IT, and audio. His background is oddly enough in the same things. Blag works in a software company and is a contributing editor at Videomaker, where he mainly focuses on, you guessed it, audio.