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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Robbie Carman: Now, Rich, one of the most tried and true ways to record interviews is by using a Lav, or a Lavalier microphone on your subject. Rich Harrington: Yeah, this is a classic microphone. Originally, this microphone was actually worn around the neck. If you look at early newscasts, they'd have a rope necklace and the microphone would be hanging and you actually see that, but this is actually named after a type of jewelry. So a Lavalier was a pendant that was worn around the neck, often a teardrop shape, and this is really where it comes from. These days, you won't really see people wearing microphone necklaces.
The Lavalier microphone has been adapted and it can be attached several different ways to your subject. Robbie: Yeah, the nice thing about Lavs is that they're nice and small, like this guy right here, and I'm actually wearing one on my shirt, and if I tap it right here or move it around, you can hear it. And the beauty about Lavs is that they're pretty inconspicuous. So if you want to make--you're recording an interview or a scene where you want to make it seem that it's kind of natural, that you don't have a lot of gear on set, they're a good choice. Now, Lavs come in a couple of different setups. The one that you see right here is actually a wired Lav and you can see it runs down a microphone cable, down to a little barrel here, and the end of the barrel there is an XLR adapter.
Now, the other thing about this particular Lav is that it has a compartment here in the middle to put in batteries. Most Lavs are going to need to have power, because they're condenser type microphones, and you can power them either if you have a battery. Or if you're using a mixer or an audio recorder that provides phantom power, you can also power it that way. Rich: Now, one of the things to think about with the Lavalier microphone is where that power is going to come from, either the battery that's inside, or the mixer. I don't recommend that you put both in at the same time. You don't want to overload that mic. Another thing though, too, is realize we're talking about this mic being inconspicuous, and some of you might be thinking that doesn't look that small.
Well, this particular mic you see here, we've already put on a windscreen to cut down on noise and wind blowing or plosives, pops with the mouth, that can come off. And it's a pretty small microphone inside of there. Let's just should slide that off, you see just a little tiny mic, and nothing says you have to use this. This is your sort of standard tie tack, works well on a lapel. We actually can use other types of clips. Like here I have a very small vampire clip, two little fanged teeth, and this is designed to be hooked on the inside of a shirt lapel or maybe on the inside of clothing.
People will sometimes tape this inside of a shirt with a band-aid on the inside of a T-shirt. This is a small inconspicuous mic, and the goal is to just make sure that it gets put close to the subject's mouth. Generally speaking, we say about that far away, and you see there for my mic, that's about the distance. You can go double that distance, but the farther it gets away from the subject, the hollower it's going to sound. Robbie: That's right, and you actually brought up one other really important point and that's sort of placement of the Lav itself, not just in distance, but actual placement on the person's body or clothes.
One of the big problems that you potentially get by using a Lav is clothing rub, on somebody's lapel or their jacket or something, their shirt and they move, you have to be very careful where you place that. Now, typically in an interview setup, I'll have the subject move around a little bit before we actually start rolling, so I can make sure that their natural body movement is not going to disturb the mic and get sort of that ruffling sound, because it's very difficult to sort of remove in postproduction, not impossible, but difficult. Rich: Now, you're not saying like jumping jacks or anything extreme, right? Just move your shoulders, talk with your hands a little bit, listen for that rub.
Another thing that's important about placement that you bring up, which is actually a good idea, see, we're both talking to each other as well as folks at home. I'm typically turning to this shoulder, so if I was wearing a sport coat and I was attaching this to the lapel, I wouldn't want to put it on my outside shoulder, I'd put it on the inside shoulder where I'm looking, since this is center. Even if I turn my head as I'm talking, there's a little variation in the levels, but it's picking up pretty well. But you need to think about where is that mic in relation to the subject's mouth. Getting it nice and center, good idea.
Robbie: Absolutely, now there is one more important thing when it comes to Lavs is that you're going to have sort of two choices in the Lav system that you use. Sort of the old dependable way of doing it is with a wired Lavalier system, which works great. However, new Lav systems can go wireless. Now, you might be thinking that wireless systems are just the way to go, less wires, less problems. You've got to be careful about this. Wireless Lav systems can be prone to interference. So if you have a lot of electronics on set, cell phones, iPads, whatever it may be, they can be interfered with, and that signal from the Lav can have noise in it and distortion and that kind of stuff.
So when you go on set, it's always a great idea if you're going to use Lav mics to have both options available to you, a wireless system, which might be your first choice, but as a backup having a wired system if that wireless version is not going to work out in the particular location that you're in. Rich: Yeah, tied to that location, you can have interference from things like cell phone towers, or radio broadcast towers, lots of wireless microphones. Another important thing is making sure you have plenty of batteries, because wireless mics will burn through them. Typically these are AA. There is one thing, though, that I want to point out, be very careful when buying a wireless mic system, particularly a used one.
If you're in the United States, the FCC, the governing body that oversees communications and electronics, actually switched standards a few years back, and there's a lot of microphones that are old that are not in compliance. So you might find systems available in the market, you need to go to the FCC website, look up wireless microphones and make sure that the frequencies they use are in compliance, otherwise--and believe it or not-- there are actually laws for these things. You could be breaking the law using that microphone system. So you want to make sure that it's a fully compliant system before you drop down some money.
Robbie: Absolutely, I mean, the last thing I'll mention about wireless Lavs is that you often get what you pay for. This is true about a lot of things in production, but it's particularly true if you decide to go with a wireless Lavalier system. Typically the higher end systems are going to give you more flexibility in your frequency choice, have additional features that will reduce the possibility of having interference and noise brought into the system. So just when you're going out there and looking at different Lav systems, be aware that the higher priced wireless systems often generally perform a little bit better than say the $99 special that you found online.
Rich: And to that end, when you're picking out a Lav system, I always recommend get the one that has the wireless Lav and the XLR adapter, this will give you the flexibility to patch into other systems and give you a wireless throw for things like concerts and events. When we come back, we're going to talk about the other type of microphone that's great for dialogue, and that is the Boom mic.
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