Interviews: Lav or Shotgun? at

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Old August 17th, 2003, 09:27 PM   #1
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Interviews: Lav or Shotgun?

I am new to the dv world and bought a GL2 a few months back. So far I have been very pleased, but I need to really amp up my audio options! I am planning to do life history “documentaries” . . . mostly interviews, with some on-site footage (touring a childhood home, etc.) I need mics that are inconspicuous and sometimes mobile. Also, on occasion, I could be interviewing two or three people at once (seated side by side).

Right now, I am considering purchasing either 2 wireless lavs (most likely the Sennheiser Evolution 100) or 1 wireless lav and the ME66. I understand that I’d also need an XLR adapter for my GL2 (leaning towards the Beachtek) and 1/8" to XLR adapter for the Evolution. Does anyone have any other mic suggestions for this situation?

2 lavs would work, but by getting one lav and a ME66 right now (and hopefully buying another lav later), I’m thinking that I’d have greater flexibility. Any thoughts? Would the ME66 work for interviewing a few people sitting in close proximity? If not, does anyone have other suggestions in that same price range? And, in a single person interview situation, what would be best: a lav or the ME66? Any help is greatly appreciated!
Debra Pexa is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 17th, 2003, 10:23 PM   #2
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Welcome Debra

I am assuming that you will generally be working as a 1-person crew, as most life-history documentarians generally do. Therefore offhand, I'd recommend first investing in at least one good lav mic. It can be wired or wireless, but you'll probably find wireless more flexible.

Then, as your budget permits, either grab a 2nd wireless mic or a stereo mic such as an Audio-Technica AT822 (non-balanced, mini-plug) or AT825 (balanced XLR connection). Go for the former if you find yourself shooting more individuals than groups of three or more. Go for the latter if the inverse is true.

There may be those that differ with this opinion, but unless you work with a sound person who can boom a mic close to your subjects a shotgun mic might not be a good solution for your work. Think of shotgun mics as audio flashlights. Yes, they'll pick up what you point them at. But they'll also hit everything behind the subject and their pick-up pattern widens-out from the mic. Plus, their "brightness" on the subject depends on proximity, meaning that a camera-mounted shotgun is not always the ideal placement for a mic. In fact, it rarely is.

Just my 2 cents. Good luck with your projects.
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Old August 18th, 2003, 03:35 AM   #3
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I agree with Ken that a camera-mounted shotgun mike (vs. one on a boom, operated by a sound person) can be problematic in some situations, but overall, I think having a wireless lav and shotgun will allow you the most flexibility for documentary shooting situations, especially if you do any run-and-gun style work, or have to interview more than two people at once.

In the documentary I'm currently shooting (with one primary subject), much of my footage is run-and-gun, so I have my subject miked with a wireless Sennheiser, and use my ME66 shotgun mounted on-camera to get all the other sound, including any people my subject talks to, and general ambience. A decent shotgun mike is invaluable for doc shooting, IMHO.

Also, in sit-down interview situations, the shotgun is a nice back-up to the lav (when shooting just one person). I've used the ME66 for several interviews where I didn't have a lav available, and the sound was good, but bear in mind that, as Ken pointed out, unless you can control your environment, you could potentially pick up a lot of extraneous noise as well; from behind your subjects, behind camera, and so on. Not ideal for interviews, but certainly usable in a pinch, and very handy when filming more people than you can conveniently mike individually, and also for non-sit down interview situations.

I highly recommend investing in a good microphone shock mount/isolator if you use a camera-mounted shotgun. I've been using the stock mike mount on my DVX-100, and while it's fine for shots in which there's not much camera movement and/or I'm not shifting my grip on the camera or using the zoom, the mike does tend to pick most of the camera handling noise.

Thus, I'll soon be purchasing a shock mount, probably the Lightwave Universal mini-mount, in addition to either a Lightwave equalizer wind screen or a Rycote softie; the Sennheiser foam wind-screen is functional when there's no wind, but can't deal with even a slight breeze, which gets picked up by the mike.

Not sure if the many various permutations of the Evolution kit all come with this cord, but the Sennheiser Evolution 100ENG kit does include a mini-to-xlr adapter cable. The kit I purchased was a bundle, including a receiver, transmitter, and a plug-on transmitter (which fits onto handholdable mikes and the ME66, allowing you to use them as wireless mikes). Check it out here:

Another bit of advice based on my own shooting experience; I prefer wearing the wireless receiver on my belt, rather than mounting it on the camera. If you choose this route, make sure you have a long enough cable to allow for flexibility of operating the camera hand-held. The receiver-to-camera cable that came with my Ev. 100 kit is about 2', and I often find it stretched to its limit if I hold the camera by the top handle to get low angle shots or above my head for high angles. I suggest a cable of at between 3-6'.

Finally, when purchasing a wireless lav, make sure to buy a kit in the correct frequence range for your location. The Sennheiser Usa ( website has state-by-state and city-by-city pdf charts of tv station frequencies which will help you select the proper range. If you buy locally, your merchant will probably have kits with the correct freq., but if you buy via mail order, check out the charts.

Hope this rather lengthy post helped!
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Old August 18th, 2003, 03:25 PM   #4
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Thank to both of you. Your insight is very helpful!!
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Old October 27th, 2003, 12:03 PM   #5
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Hi Stas,
I found your post to be one of the most helpful all around. But, I have a question. If i bought the ME66 for all ambient work as you suggested, what specific lav mic would you suggest to compliment this?

Thank you.
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Old October 31st, 2003, 09:46 PM   #6
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i like the short shotgun & lav combination ... IMO get a power suppy so you can also hard wire the lav.. 1st choice is always hard wire over wireless ... a short shotgun on a boom pole over head is excellent - requires boom person or you can set it up on C-stand/light stand and get good results provided person doesn't move around alot ... IMO only use wireless when hard wire doesn't work in situation ...

the me66 will work on 2-3 person if you have a boom person.
PLUS you might then put the lav ( aimed down approx 1/8 inch from hard surface to act as boundary mic and record on separate channel or just use it as plant mic on table) on table in front of 2-3 persons .. so you have 2 mic's covering to separate channels -

for interviews i always use 2 mic's .... lav & boundary mic's or short shotgun and boundary mic or lav and boundary mic's ...
i get the best levels for each mic .. then will mix in post ...

use and selection of lav's

selection of shotgun mic's

boom pole
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Old November 8th, 2003, 01:54 PM   #7
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You will be happy with a lav system that offers the following:

(1) UHF frequencies
(2) Multiple Channels
(3) XLR input and out
(4) Unidirectional Lav Microphone

Check into an Azden UDR-400 or UDR-500 system. You will be happy with it

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