Lavalier Mounting: Best Practices
Lavalier or 'lapel' microphones are one of the best ways of close-miking your talent when recording dialogue. This proximity to the sound source (i.e. your talent's mouth) eliminates a lot of the guesswork necessary in achieving good signal-to-noise ratio via shotgun or on-camera mic placement.
However, this can become a more complicated task if you need to hide your recording equipment from view, in the case of filming for a television show or feature film.
So how exactly do you conceal your RØDE Lavalier microphone while still achieving optimum placement and that great signal-to-noise ratio? In this post, we will discuss some of the commonly used mounting options to ensure your dialogue recording is loud and clear, yet inconspicuous.
Your lavalier microphone will generally be supplied with a standard mic clip. This is the most popular option for securing a mic to your talent, but it does require a physical edge of clothing to attach to, such as a jacket lapel or button-up shirt. This particular clip will be visible to the camera or audience, so it's important to practise good cable management and ensure both the mic and cable look neat and tidy.
Many in the industry use two particular techniques when employing a standard clip for clean, visible mounting: The 'broadcast loop' or 'newsman's loop'.
To do this, insert your mic into its clip, then loop the cable back up into it as well. When you attach the lavalier to your talent's clothing, run the excess cable behind the fabric so all you see from the front is the microphone itself, the clip and a small cable loop.
Tip: To create some strain relief on the cable, and also reduce potential movement noise, create secondary loop below your mic clip and stick this together with a small piece of tape.
A vampire is another simple, frequently used lavalier clip, perfect for when you have no edge of clothing to attach to. The vampire (or viper) clip will have two small pins, or teeth, that will secure it to a T-shirt, dress or other fabric that a standard clip could not grip onto.
Concealing the lavalier
If you need to conceal your lav microphone beneath clothing, it is common practice to use a variety of tape techniques and other methods. Before testing these, ensure you are using camera or gaffer tape that will provide a strong hold and not move or come off during recording.
The RØDE MicDrop is a simple cable weight that makes mic’ing up talent with a lavalier microphone quick and easy. It helps to pull the microphone cable downwards through clothing, allowing you to easily plug it into a bodypack transmitter or recording device, saving time and minimising disruption while recording. MicDrop is compatible with all RØDE lavalier microphones - check it out here.
If you choose to use tape, first tear off a number of small portions with the adhesive surface on the outside and secure your lavalier capsule to the inside of the talent's shirt. Create a strain relief loop about an inch below this, and add more tape to hold it. Lastly, use another strip to hold a length of cable to the inside of the shirt, which will ensure there is no strain on the lav capsule or cable loop.
The RØDE invisiLav is a small, clear mount for lapel mics, designed to conceal the capsule on a variety of surfaces. Made of a soft rubber compound, it can absorb both noise and vibrations. It also has a wide, flat profile that gives you a large surface area to fix adhesive material. The invisiLav is supplied with a skin-safe adhesive, but camera or gaffer tape can also be used.
Once your microphone is in position, ensure you still use a strain relief loop below the mount, and stick sections of the capsule to your material to provide further strain relief to both the capsule and loop.
Once you have determined which mounting method is best for your recording, you need to figure out the ideal placement. Moving your lavalier microphone closer or further from the talent's mouth will have a dramatic impact on tonal quality and frequency response.
As a general rule, placing the mic capsule over the talent's sternum will give you a nice balance of close proximity and natural sound reproduction.
Tip: When placing the lavalier in this area, mount it upside down inside the mic clip. This will reduce plosives (the wind produced when saying hard T, P and B sounds), which can cause distortion, while still picking up all the clear audio you desire.
When suffering more heavy-duty wind when recording outdoors, always use a furry windshield over your lav mic. This may make it harder to conceal, but could possibly save your audio from being ruined by audible distortion.