So using a shotgun mic is out of the question and you need an alternative. Well, we’ve got one. Lapel mics, also known as lavaliers or, more simply, “lavs”, clip onto your talent’s clothing providing a crisp feed of your dialog without a boom operator having to chase everyone around the scene.
This is a huge bonus for you because you don’t have to pay an audio guy to come collect sound for you. If the scene is simple enough for you to use lavs, it’s simple enough for you to mix the audio yourself while you run the camera. Sure it’s little extra work for you, but the process is a simple one.
Lavs come with two very similar looking pieces, a transmitter and a receiver. The end with the microphone on it clips onto your lapel between the chest and throat. You don’t want the mic to be too high or you’re going to get more of a muffled sound out of your talent, and you don’t want it pinned too low otherwise you’ll have to turn the levels up on your audio recorder causing you to pick up more room noise than you want. Start with the mic about eight inches below your talent’s chin and adjust it from there until it sounds natural in your headphones.
Next, you’re left with the receiver, which plugs into your audio recording device whether it be a Zoom H4N or your camera, depending on what you’re filming with. Once you’re all plugged in, now you get to the hard part…turn both pieces on.
Here’s a pro tip for you: When you place an order for a lav mic, also place an order for some batteries. Most will run on AAs or 9volts, but 99 percent of them don’t come with them in the box. So avoid the panicked run to the 7/11 for batteries 20 minutes before shoot time, and just buy some when you buy your mic. Easy peasy – you just saved yourself a headache.
Out of the box, the transmitter and receiver should have matching frequencies, meaning they can talk to each other wirelessly, but in case they don’t, keep your instruction manual handy and ignore the male predisposition that you know everything so that you can adjust the frequencies if need be. And finally, check your levels. Looking at your meters, the levels should be landing between -12 and -6 dB. Higher than that and you risk peaking or “clipping” your audio; lower than that and you may not hear squat! Take our word for it – -12 to -6 dB is the place to be.
Like we said before, if you can shoot with shotguns, do it, but if you can’t, lavaliers are a perfectly viable option to keep your production smaller, cheaper, and more mobile.
Stephen Schweickart is the co-founder of VScreen. For more information on this topic visit VScreen’s site at http://www.vscreen.com/.