Wire your subject like a pro with these top lav mic tips

May 16, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Wire your subject like a pro with these top lav mic tips

May 16, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Regardless of whether you call them lav, lavalier or lapel mics, they are wonderful things. Often used for interviews, spoken pieces to camera, and for when you can’t get a shotgun boomed overhead. What makes them great is that they can be so easily hidden from the camera’s view. You can hide them in clothes, under hair, on set pieces, and all kinds of places to keep them off camera but pick up quality audio.

This video from Creative North shares a handful of great tips on how to do exactly that. Mount and hide them to create great quality audio. It also covers some of the things you can do to cut down noise as your subject moves around – which can be a big problem for beginners to lav mics.

YouTube video

Wiring up a lav sounds easy, in principle. In practice, it can often be a little more tricky. For example, you’re shooting a beach scene. Where do you put the mic if your talent isn’t wearing a shirt? And if your subject has clothes in which you can hide it, how do you prevent the rustling noise every time they move?

  • Placement
    This is the first part to micing up your talent. Figuring out where it can even go. It could go under the collar of a shirt, behind a tie, under the lapel of a jacket. One YouTuber I watch who regularly uses a lav mic tapes it to the inside arm of his glasses (you don’t notice it at all). I’ve seen them hidden in wigs and all kinds of places.
  • Mounting
    Once you know where it’s going, how do you attach it? If it’s going on a shirt, especially if it’s in public view (which isn’t a problem for something like an interview) then it’s quite simple. Most lav mics come with a lav mic mount. These simply clip onto the item of clothing. You can use these clips to hide the mic between the buttons of a shirt, too, although the tape triangle method shown in the video is my personal go-to.
  • Reducing Noise
    The tape triangle method of mounting is perfect inside clothes to help reduce the movement of cloths from being picked up. The tape holds the microphone to the clothes so it moves with them instead of rubbing against them. And the tape helps to act as a slight buffer around the main end of the microphone preventing it from physically touching the clothes.

For the tape, the video shows what looks to be gaffer tape. Personally, I use 3M Transpore medical tape. I find that if you have to stick a microphone down in between a t-shirt and bare skin, then this sticks very well, but without tearing out hair when you remove it.

Sometimes you’ll need to get creative with your placement, especially with certain outfits or if your subject’s going to be a bit more active. But however you do it, you’ll want it as close to the talent’s mouth as possible, and you’ll get better quality sound if it’s not hidden underneath something. If a voice has to pass through one or two layers of clothes, it’s not going to sound as perfect as travelling direct.

For more tips on lav mics, and to find out when a different mic might be a better option, check out this post.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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