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There are different types of microphones on the market, but if you’re looking for hands-free and unobtrusive recording equipment, then a lavalier mic is a recording device worth looking at.
Lavalier mics or lapel mics are often used in film, theater, broadcasting, content creation, and sit-down interview applications because of the natural sound reproduction it can pick up from the sound source while remaining discreet to the naked eye or camera.
Find out how you can get the best sound quality possible from your lavalier mic by knowing the best way to use it.
A lavalier microphone has many names; collar mic, neck mic, personal mic, and body mic. However, it is more popularly known as a lapel mic or clip-on mic because the mic clip is often attached to a clothing lapel or taped to the in-body of the user. Additionally, it can also be used as “planted” hidden mics on or in a stage prop.
Since lavalier microphones are clip-on and discreet by design, these lav mics are a favorite amongst users who typically need to be in front of a camera or audience and keep their hands free for movement. With that said, a lapel microphone is typically used by live broadcasters, reporters, on-stage and off-stage actors, and even singers. Although, a lav mic can also be used by content creators, speakers, and even office employees who may need to talk in front of a large audience.
There are two types of lavalier microphones: wired lav mics and wireless lav mics.
A wired lav mic is more affordable than its counterpart simply because it makes use of a plug-and-play system. While you still need to attach the mic to a piece of clothing or in-body, a wired mic also has a cable that should be plugged directly into the recording equipment such as a DSLR camera to record the audio. As a workaround to the distance limit and movement restriction, an extension mic cable can be purchased.
A wireless lav mic may be more expensive because of the transmitter pack and sound mixer used, but it allows for more flexibility in terms of usage, distance, and audio pickup from sound sources in opposite directions. One should be mindful of the frequency response and range of a wireless lav mic because it makes use of a wireless system. A lavalier mic of this type can be further categorized as either a UHF wireless lavalier microphone or a 2.4GHz wireless system lavalier microphone.
In the same way that other microphones work, a lav mic is a type of transducer that converts mechanical wave energy into electrical energy. These microphones convert sound waves (mechanical wave energy) into audio signals (electrical energy) to reproduce the audio. It is due to the category type of the microphone and its varying polar patterns that the audio quality becomes different from one another.
In the case of lavalier mics, they are considered electret condenser microphones, which means they have a permanent charge built into them to help in recording audio and transmitting it to the equipment. The audio transmission can be done via audio wire cables if it is a wired lav mic or a radio frequency response if the lav mic is wireless.
Either of the two, the lav microphone will then convert the analog signal into a digital signal for clear audio recording.
There are multiple scenarios wherein using a lavalier is most beneficial because of how versatile it can be. Let’s take a look at the ideal situations and applications when a lav mic can be more useful compared to other microphones.
Situations wherein the mic placement needs to be close to the user or sound source while remaining unobstructed is a common application for a lavalier microphone. This is most often used during sit-down interviews where the lav mic is often placed near the speaker’s mouth or talent’s sternum.
When using a lavalier in close-miking situations, one should attach the mic to the talent’s piece of clothing. A user can clip the lapel mic in button-up shirts, a t-shirt, a shirt collar, or a jacket lapel using the provided mic clip. To reduce the possible rustling sound that can be produced by the lavalier microphone whenever it brushes against a t-shirt or other pieces of clothing, one can make use of gaffer tape or vampire clips.
A lavalier microphone is widely used in film production and live stage scenarios because of its ability to reproduce natural and good sound quality while omitting background noise even without the use of a boom mic. Since a lavalier microphone is placed near the talent’s mouth, it can easily pick up and isolate the voice as it cuts out any ambient noise.
Since a lavalier microphone is also small and discreet by design, it can also remain hidden and unseen by the camera or by the audience. After all, spotting the microphone when watching a show or movie can shatter the immersive experience you are after. About this, the transmitter pack, recording device, and cable of a lavalier microphone can also be hidden strategically under a piece of clothing or inside props.
One can either clip the microphone cable using tape or a vampire clip that can remain unseen by the camera.
Use a lavalier when you want to keep your hands free from holding a microphone. One of the many pros of this recording device is that it allows a user to make various movements and interact freely with the audience or the set free from the restrictions of a mic cable or a handheld mic.
In these types of situations wherein a user may be making a lot of movements, attaching a lav mic must be done securely. Aside from using the mic clip and vampire clip, you may clip a lav mic and its cable using tape. The most commonly used tape in the industry is gaffer tape/ However, some prefer athletic tape, URSA tape, or even adhesive tape for added grip.
Given the physical requirement, a cable of the lapel microphone can get tangled up so an industry secret being done to prevent a tangled-up cable is to create a broadcast loop. When doing a broadcast loop, one simply needs to make a “U” shape using the cabled mic, pass the end of the mic cable through the bend, and create an inverted U to pass the cable down.
That way, the user won’t have to worry about the lav mic and its cable possibly getting pulled or dragged down.
Along with knowing the best polar pattern for a lav mic, determining the best position and mic placement of a lavalier microphone is important to achieve a nice balance of superb audio quality and remaining visually discreet in front of the camera or in-person.
Should you want to place the lav mic near the subject’s mouth with the least visibility possible for an isolated voice pickup, then attaching the cable and mic itself to the user’s piece of clothing is the best placement.
As the lavalier mic capsule is at a close distance within the talent’s mouth, wind noise can be prevented if you make use of an omnidirectional proximity lav mic. While on the topic of noise, the rustling sound of the lav microphone brushing against clothes can be prevented by using tape that can secure the cable and mic capsule to stay in its intended place.
Placing lav microphones in-body is a common practice done by actors in live broadway shows or musicals, especially when there are a lot of wardrobe changes being done. One may tape a lavalier microphone on the collarbone, on-ear, or in-hair.
For stage productions, a lav mic can be hidden inside stage props or taped in key areas. Film productions also make use of this technique when more microphones are needed to pick up sound from varying sources while remaining to be unseen by the camera.
Lav mics can be extremely sensitive, especially when they are not placed correctly. A mic capsule can rub against clothes, a user’s jewelry, or a cable, which can immediately pick up a rustling or unwanted sound.
However, when used right, lavalier microphones can perform at about the same level as a studio microphone or handheld microphone when picking up great audio.
The Rode SmartLav+ is currently hailed as the best lavalier mic and a favorite by many thanks to its premium broadcast-quality sound and versatility in terms of compatibility and frequency range. If you are in the market for lav microphones, you can check out this guide on the best lavalier mic to find out which one is ideal for you.