Lavalier microphones are smaller electret or dynamic mics used for public speaking, television, theater and film applications.
Fred Ginsburg is a veteran sound mixer and educator known for his work on television and film. From the Audio-Technica booth at NAB 2014, Ginsburg delivered an informative lecture on the best practices for using lavalier mics. Here is a summary of what we learned.
Transparent vs. Proximity Lavs
Proximity lavs deliver the stereotypical lav sound. Think up close and personal, with an authoritative voice (e.g., radio announcer, interviewer, newscaster, etc.). These lavs are typically used for public speaking applications.
Transparent lavs have a very natural sound. These microphones sound the same as if there were a boom mic over the sound source. They capture more background noise. They also provide more reach and therefore work better in conjunction with booms or as standalone mics that are a few feet away from the sound source. This makes them more versatile and better for miking real-life situations or for picking up two speakers with a single mic.
1. The Newsman’s Loop
The newsman’s loop hides the cable and keeps it stationary. A vibrating cable will interfere with the sound the microphone is receiving. In the newsman’s loop, the mic is secure in the clip, the cable is looped up and around into the clip, the mic is clipped to the clothing, the cable is secured to the back of the mic between the clip and the clothing using the tie-bar, and the remainder of the cable is inside the talent’s clothing. Securing the cable in the teeth of the tie-bar will prevent those unwanted vibrations. Also, securing the cable there will relieve stress on the microphone from tugging.
Keep in mind the following tips when mounting the lavalier microphone:
-Wipe down your cables frequently to reduce sound interference from friction against the cable.
-Make sure mic is rigged so tie-bar opens in the appropriate direction to attach to talent’s clothing.
-If your talent exhales through the nose frequently, invert the mic to avoid wind noise.
2. Hiding the Mic
To do this, form a loop in the cable directly below the microphone and secure it using cloth tape. It’s essential that the tape be made of cloth because all other tape will interfere with the sound. Secure the loop with the tape sticky side out. Never let the sticky side touch the mic cable. Give the loop room to breathe. Don’t secure it too tightly. You’ll want to prevent the microphone from rubbing on clothing, too. This can be achieved in the following ways:
A. Sticky Triangle Technique
Form a triangle with a piece of tape, as if you are folding a flag, corner over corner, over and over, sticky side up. The resultant sticky wedge will isolate the mic from the clothing. Make two triangles and apply one to either side of the microphone. Unbutton the top two buttons of the talent’s shirt, apply the triangle in the space between buttons where the top layer of the shirt buttons onto the bottom layer, and apply an additional strip of tape to the cable to anchor it, serving the same purpose the clipped loop serves in the newsman’s loop.
NOTE: This is not a permanent rig. Safety pin the triangle to the shirt if your talent needs to move a lot.
B. Moleskin Technique
Cut a strip the width of your mic from moleskin, which you can pick up in the foot department of any drugstore. With the sticky side out, wrap the moleskin around the mic a couple times. Insert an open safety pin and wrap the moleskin a final time. Use the safety pin to clip the mic inside clothing.
These tips will set you up for whatever lav miking you need to do. Audio-Technica has the quality lavalier microphones to suit the insider techniques outlined by Fred Ginsburg. We’re thankful he was able to deliver one of his professional lectures for us and share his insights from years in the field. Stay tuned for more pro audio tips from Audio-Technica.