Audio Solutions Question of the Week: What Kind of Microphone Should I Use if I Don’t Want it to Be Seen?

Question: What kind of microphone should I use if I don’t want it to be seen?

Answer: This week we will be discussing microphones that can be hidden easily. Some applications, such as those for live theatrical events and film and video production, require the microphone to have little to no visibility from the audience.

Body Mics – Lavaliers

The small size of the lavalier (or clip-on) microphone makes it easy to hide on the user. Some models, such as the AT899 Subminiature Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone, are a mere 5 mm in diameter, insuring minimum visibility. Lavalier microphones are typically available in black or beige colors, allowing them to blend in easily with the user’s clothing, hair or skin. Most come with a variety of mounts for attaching the microphone, and for those that may not, one can often make their own. See our Basic Audio Techniques for Video Series: Hiding the Lavalier Mic, (Parts 1 and 2) for details.

AT899 Lavalier Microphone (shown with AT899 Accessory Kit)AT899 Lavalier Microphone (shown with AT899 Accessory Kit)

AT899 Lavalier Microphone (shown with AT899 Accessory Kit)

Lavalier microphones are typically available in wired and wireless versions. When used with a wireless body-pack transmitter, wireless versions not only provide the user with complete freedom of movement but, with a wireless link between the transmitter and the receiver, eliminate the need for a wire to be run between the user and the camera, audio recorder or live soundboard.

Body Mics – Headworn

Ultra-lightweight, low-profile subminiature condenser microphones, such as the BP892cW-TH Omnidirectional Headworn Microphone, worn hooked over the wearer’s ear, are increasingly popular. With a capsule measuring only 2.6 mm in diameter, the BP892 is ideal for applications requiring minimum visibility. The microphone can be worn on the left or right side of the user’s head. Comfortable and almost invisible from a distance, these subminiature headworn microphones are a natural choice for public speakers, educators, broadcasters and performers.

BP892cW-TH Omnidirectional Headworn MicrophoneBP892cW-TH Omnidirectional Headworn Microphone

BP892cW-TH Omnidirectional Headworn Microphone

Plant Mics – Lavaliers

In some situations, it is better to keep the microphone off the body entirely. The small size and light weight of a lavalier microphone allows it to be hidden in handheld props, the various pieces of a set or even the interior of a car. A lavalier mic clipped or taped to a car’s sun visor places it in the optimum position for picking up dialog while keeping it out of the camera frame, for example. Use sticky tape, moleskin and/or a safety pin to create a unique mounting option and to secure cables.

Plant Mics – Boundary

A low-profile boundary (or plate) microphone, such as the U851R Cardioid Condenser Boundary Microphone, provides an inconspicuous miking solution for surface-mount applications such as high-quality sound reinforcement, professional recording, television, conferencing and other demanding sound pickup situations. A unidirectional (cardioid) model picks up sound clearly over a horizontal angle of about 120° and a vertical angle of about 60° above the mounting surface. The microphone should be centered on the mounting surface and positioned with the front of the microphone facing the sound source. The sound source should not be below the surface of the mounting plane. An omnidirectional model picks up sound equally well from all directions above the surface.

U851R Cardioid Condenser Boundary MicrophoneU851R Cardioid Condenser Boundary Microphone

U851R Cardioid Condenser Boundary Microphone

If you have any additional questions about using microphones, please contact the Audio Solutions Department.

Audio-Technica

One Comment

  1. The original question did not address whether the hidden mic was for live theatre or film/video applications. For example, the micro sized AT896 lav is scarcely larger than its wire, and is configured for a tight one-on-one isolated pickup. It does need to be close to the sound source, but results in a “big head CU sound” devoid of most background. Excellent for live theatre, since we rarely want the actors to bleed into each others mics. The micro size of the 896 makes it ideal for hiding in plain sight (taped to the side of the head or forehead). The AT899 has a wider pickup, and is more natural sounding. Fantastic mic for film/video, since it intercuts smoothly with a boom. It is also an excellent plant mic, with plenty of reach. There are a few more mics in the AT line-up, each with pro’s and cons depending on how you plan to use it. See me at NAB in the AT booth and I can cover the details with you.

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