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Information Today, Inc.

Gear & Now: All Ears: Lavaliere and Shotgun Mics
Posted Dec 1, 2004 - May 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 6] Issue Print Version     Page 1of 3 next »

When's the last time you watched a silent video? Unless it was produced for a very specific reason, chances are, never. Audio is crucial to video production, but it's often treated as an afterthought.

Professional event videographers, whether in close proximity or shooting from a distance, need sound solutions to get the best audio possible.

Let's start up close.

The term "lavaliere" refers to small mics worn around a person's neck (or clipped to a lapel). As such, they are used to emphasize voices and reduce background sounds. Available in different colors, lavs are available to blend in with almost any shooting scenario or wardrobe.

In situations where mounting a mic close to or right on a subject isn't feasible, audio recording from a longer distance is still supported by the so-called shotgun mic, providing good pickup at distances of 10 or 20 feet from the source. At the same time, shotguns tend to reject sound from other directions. They are often mounted on the camera itself, or supported on a boom pole or other such device.

It's also worth noting that mics are either dynamic or condenser, referring to the audio pickup used. Dynamic mics are generally less expensive, more rugged, but may not be best for audio fidelity. Condensers are usually smaller and more sensitive, but can be affected by weather conditions and RF interference. A mic's pick-up pattern also should be considered. Many lavs are omnidirectional, meaning they will pick up sounds from all directions. Unidirectionals reject unwanted sounds from all but one direction; shotgun cardioids or supercardioids are very unidirectional, picking up sounds at a greater distance in front of the mic, while rejecting those sounds from behind.

Lavs can be matched to almost any sound recording system, whether wired or wireless, bringing different audio qualities, response characteristics, and price considerations into play.

For example, the miniature Countryman lavalieres can be used as system or standalone mics. Designed for a bright, crisp, natural response to dialogue, they are easily hidden due to their small size and range of color options, including flesh tones.

Countryman EMW mics, priced around $195, include clip, tie tac, tie bar, and foam windscreen, but not power supply. With a broad 20-20,000Hz response range and full omni pickup pattern, they also feature response presets for flat, normal, or peak recording environments. Interestingly, a protective cap for the B6 series not only protects the mic from damage, but also caps the frequency response to provide brighter highs or fuller lows.

The KAT66 is a mini-electret lav from Katamount, similar in style and performance to the popular Tram. It comes with windshield, clips, and optional audio connectors for easy mounting. Its frequency response is a little flatter at the high end, rated from 20-15,000Hz. The Katamount KAT66 has a list price of $247, with lower street and package pricing available.

Speaking of easy concealment, the new Pin-Mic from Ricsonix looks like jewelry. Using a patented system, the mic is pinned to a backplate to which the audio cable is attached and easily concealed, the company describes. The Pin-Mic is an omnidirectional unit that has a flat frequency response to 16,000Hz.

The Tram TR-50 is one of the most popular omnidirectional lavs around. Its small size and design allow a variety of fastening options, making it ideal for unobtrusive appearance and hidden mic use. Depending on configuration and specifications, it is priced around $300. Sony's ECM lavs (the general purpose 44, with its moderate background noise rejection characteristics, or the broader-frequency 55b) are also well-known and very popular; they are priced from $200 to around $350.

Learn more about the companies mentioned in this article in the EventDV Videographer's Guide:
Audio-Technica U.S., Inc.

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