Friday, June 27th, 2008...3:46 am

Love+Hate=Lavalier Mics

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We use lavalier mics a lot. Pretty much any time we have a camera on a person, we try to have them mic’d with a lav.

If they’re sitting still, we use a wired one; if they’re moving around, we stick a wireless on em. We like people, and in the course of making films about them, we have arrived at the conclusion that often they say things we would like to know about. So it’s a natural:Mic ‘em.

Sennheiser makes a pretty industry standard line of wireless transmitter/receivers designed for just this kind of application–the Evolution G2 line. You get a pair for about $500, depending on the extra doo-dads in the box, and it’s probably the most reliable and versatile setup you can get for less than twice that amount.

The mic the Sennheiser kits come with is kind of so-so, but we have a pair of pretty decent (~$200 each) wired lavaliers from Audio Technica. I think they’re called AT899. I haven’t used a ton of different mics–and people who do can get pretty tweaky about them–but these are reckoned to sound pretty good, especially considering the price point.

So we wanted to be able to use the AT lav mic on the Sennheiser transmitters. Only trouble is, the connectors are different. Fortunately a little cottage industry exists just for solving this kind of problem.

And the web has made this a ton more practical to make use of. Some scouring netted me the respective wiring diagrams and connector specificatinos of the devices I wanted to mate, and a list of likely custom cablers. I sent emails out to several, and ended up getting two adapter cables made that would allow us to use our good lavs on our wireless kit when we need to.

Nifty.

Now we’d really like to figure out how to use these thing better. Up till now, we have generally figured that we don’t mind too much if viewers can see that there’s a microphone. Apart from being the easiest way to mount with the best chance of getting decent sound, a visible mic also lends a kind of we’re-not-trying-to-fool-anyone transparency to a documentary.

But, truth be told, we’re both kind of sick of looking at the things in our shots. And maybe the ‘transparency’ thing is just a cover for being too lazy to figure out how to use the gear right. In addition to being ugly, visible mics do lead to some unnecessary conversations, especially with kids. Distractions that burn time, and good light, and tape, and spontenaity.

So we’re hoping to find a lav guru who can help us figure out a good bag of tricks for mounting mics quickly, discreetly, quietly, and keep them quiet from clothes and jewelry rustling and stuff. Lots of things that can make noise on a mic.

 

We’ve hidden mics a few times, with uneven success. Clearly it’s something that’s doable, as just about everyone you see on TV has one on. If you happen to know any hints, or have any great resources on this, please let us know.

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