5 Easy Lavalier Mic Tips & Tricks for Better Sound | Saramonic Tips & Tricks
Lavalier microphones are extraordinarily versatile and can elevate any vocal recording. Unfortunately, users often don't know the simple tricks to get the best sound out of their lavaliers, and even sabotage their sounds without knowing it. That is why we are going to give you 5 easy lavalier tips and tricks to ensure you get the best sound from your lavalier microphones.
In this article we will be discussing:
Lavalier Positioning Reducing Cable Noise Setting Your Levels Storage and Care Lavalier Essentials You Will Need
1- Lavalier Positioning The trick to positioning your lavalier mic is finding the optimum position, or sweet spot, on your subject. This is usually centered on the chest, somewhere between 6"- 8" from the subject's mouth. Be careful, too far up will make the voice sound muffled because the mic will be shadowed by the chin. Too far down will make the voice sound thinner and less dynamic.
Every subject's voice, physique and clothing are different, so start with the positioning 6"- 8" away from the mouth and then experiment with placement as the subject speaks. Have your subject speak naturally as you position the mic. Don't just ask them to say "check, check". Ask them something that will get them to talk naturally like, "tell me about your first car". This is a subject most people have a lot to say about and it's not forced or awkward.
Remember, lavalieres are sensitive so a difference of a few inches will drastically change the sound of the mic. A few seconds spent positioning the mic to find that sweet spot will give you a much clearer and more natural vocal sound that you are looking for.
Once you find that sweet spot, go ahead and mount your microphone. If you're having trouble with vocal plosives, pops, or breathing you can even mount your microphone upside-down to further guard against these unwanted sounds.
2- Cable Noise Now that we have talked about the importance of positioning, let's discuss cable noise. Cable noise can be a real issue for lavalieres. Simple body movements can cause big noise issues if the cable is not properly secured, and major jerks on the cable can outright ruin a recording or pull off the mic entirely.
While there are many different products that reduce or eliminate these issues, a few simple tricks can solve these issues before they come up.
Create a Broadcast Loop To make a broadcast loop, wrap the cable into the clip to provide much-needed strain relief on the cable. When there is a slight tug or movement of the cable the strain is absorbed by the clip. Some lav clips even have a cable strain relief mount, but you can just as easily mount the cable in any clips clamp.
Create a Strain Relief Loop To make a strain relief loop, loosely make a hoop in the cable about 2"- 4" below the mic itself. Then with a small strip of cloth gaffer tape, sticky side out, loosely fasten the hoop so the cable moves freely within the loop. Using a small piece of string would work just as well.
Cable Management Tools Lavalier cable management tools, such as cable holders, are designed to help reduce cable noise. They securely mount the cable to the clothing or rubber cable springs to absorb those tugs and pulls and reduce unwanted noise.
Secure With Tape Tape is always handy to have on hand while recording, especially to help reduce noise. Simply use tape to secure the cable down the interior of the clothing, or on the skin to minimize movement. A couple of short 3"- 4" strips, one at the top and one at the bottom, will secure the cable and prevent unnecessary cable noise.
3- Setting Levels Knowing how to set the levels on your lavalier microphone is crucial to achieving broadcast-quality sound. You could have the best microphones and the best camera or recorder in the world, but if you overload the inputs your audio will sound terrible.
Below we are going to walk you through how to avoid this in order to get the best sound from your lavalier microphone, every time.
Understanding Peaking and Distortion When you look at the audio meters on a camera or recorder you will see the audio levels in decibels (or dB), usually ranging from -40dB or lower to 0dB. 0dB is what we call reference level. We could go on and on about the technical side of this, but it is not vital to achieving great sound. What is vital is to know that 0dB is the absolute top input level these devices can handle before they distort.
So how do you set up your lavaliers so they don't distort? It's easy using these 3 simple steps!
1) Have your subject speak normally and naturally, as mentioned before. 2) As they speak, raise the input level of the camera, recorder, or mixer until you are seeing the meter consistently peak at about -10dB to -8dB. 3) Have your subject speak very loudly. If the meter is consistently peaking above -3dB, turn the level down slightly until -3dB is the peak.
To ensure their mics never distort most professionals have their absolute peak set at -3dB, which is what we'd suggest as well. Remember that the meters are helpful, but they are just one tool. You should always trust your ears to make sure it sounds good as well.
4- Storage and Care Lavaliers are small, delicate, and can be very expensive. This is why they often fail if not properly maintained and taken care of. Below are a few tips to make sure your lavs have a long and great-sounding life!
Wrapping Cables Wrapping cables too tightly is the number one biggest mistake users make. Wrapping the cable too tight creates unnecessary strain on the connectors and the delicate cable itself. Wrap the cable loosely while being mindful to not add extra strain. If you need to get the lavalier in a smaller space make the loops smaller, but keep the cable loose.
Have a Dedicated Case Keeping your lavalier wrapped properly and in a case can prevent damage or malfunctions on your next shoot. There is also nothing worse than not having the essentials you need for a shoot. It slows you down, wastes your time, and can even wreck your sound. Make sure that you keep anything and everything that you will (or may) need on a shoot in your bag!
5- Packing the Essentials When you are recording on the go it is important to pack everything you need to be prepared for any situation that may come up. Below are our suggestions for accessories and equipment you may want to pack for your next recording.
Windscreens When recording with lavaliers the absolute minimum that we would suggest having with you at all times is extra windscreens. These can get lost so easily and without them your sound can really suffer. We suggest keeping one to two extra on hand at all times.
Extra Mic Clips You will never regret packing extra mic clips in your bag. These handy accessories get lost and broken all the time. Again, we recommend one to two extra on-hand with you at all times.
Batteries Bring extra batteries in case you run out of power. This one is a no-brainer, no power means no recording. No further explanation is required.
Tape Last but certainly not least, tape is always useful to have in your bag. Adhesive moleskin and medical tape can be used for securing to skin, and gaffers tape can be used for clothing and props.
Keep all of these essentials on hand and your lavalieres will be prepared for most everything a shooter production will throw at you.