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Old May 22nd, 2011, 08:06 PM   #1
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Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

I have a shotgun mic and a hypercardioid, I think Im covered pretty well when it comes to mics, I plan on doing some shorts and a feature this year so I was wondering if it's worth investing in a lavalier microphone at this point or will I manage well without one? I have spent a lot of money on this project and I am running myself broke buying everything so are the benefits of a lavalier microphone worth my $150 investment?
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 09:47 PM   #2
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

Suggestion: you need to post more specifics about what types of projects you'll be doing in order to get useful feedback.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 09:55 PM   #3
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

Well I plan on doing narrative shorts and a feature at some point so they'll have a decent amount of dialogue in them that I want to pick up as clearly as possible, I don't know how much more specific I can get without getting into story stuff, genre wise they're mostly dramatic if that helps
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 10:06 PM   #4
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eduardo Romero View Post
Well I plan on doing narrative shorts and a feature at some point so they'll have a decent amount of dialogue in them that I want to pick up as clearly as possible, I don't know how much more specific I can get without getting into story stuff, genre wise they're mostly dramatic if that helps

well if you have a wide shot with someone talking it's gonna be hard to boom the mics
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 10:46 PM   #5
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

Maybe this will help.

If you wanted to go out and sell yourself as a qualified landscaper - and showed up with a lawnmower - and a lawn sweeper - and some hand clippers - but you DIDN'T bring along an EDGER - yeah you could still do your work - but most customers would wonder why you don't have ALL the tools that are generally considered important to do a proper job in that particular field.

And you could explain all day long why you prefer doing your edging with your hand clippers - but anyone who understands yard work would wonder why you aren't using the tools that are considered basic in the industry.

It's kinda like that. OK?
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 11:05 PM   #6
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

If you asked the same question but reversed the mic types, you'd get the same answer.
Yes it's possible to do without one or the other but to cover any and all situations, you really should have both. AND...the redundancy alone makes it worthwhile.

I shoot a regularly airing TV show and it would suck if my wireless went out and I didn't have a boom OR if the boom got hammered by a wind blast and I didn't have a lav.

How much would it cost to reshoot one of your segments? Would you get the same performance from the talent? I can't afford to take that chance.

Just saw Bill's quote and reminded me of an interview I did last year with Justice O'Conner...wanna talk about redundancy in my gear for that shoot? HaHa! Great lady but we only got a 10 min window...no pressure!
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 11:56 AM   #7
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

You are obviously working on a shoestring budget. If you have really serious constraints, even a $25 AudioTechnica would likely save the day in a situation where neither of your two mics could give good results, for whatever logistical reasons.

Professionals will always tell you that you can clearly hear the difference between a $25 mic and a $250 mic. And they will be right.

There is a "however" here, though. To optimally capture audio on various types of locations, you will need various types of mics. If you only have $150 to spend, you could either get a single decent shotgun mic, or a single decent supercardioid, or a single decent lav, or a single decent omni mic. With either one of these, you'll be able to capture best sound in some situations, but likely NOT the best sound in many others.

If you, on the other hand, spent those $150 on a $25 lav, $25 shotgun, $25 dynamic omni, $25 super cardioid, you'd still have $50 left for a cheap boom pole. Obviously, you'd be scraping the bottom of the barrel, and these mics would be ultra-cheap Chinese-made no-name, or cheap name brands (AudioTechnica, Nady), but with some luck, you'd still get better audio in many shots that require one or the other mic that you otherwise wouldn't have, since you spent your budget on one single mic.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 12:53 PM   #8
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

On an equipment shoestring where you control the content, a lav isn't necessary. Use the shotgun. Record ADR when needed. When money is tight, the cost is more time if not quality.

Besides, you can only shoot so wide before you will see a lav cable coming out of the pants leg and the cable wrangler. And I'd rather use ADR than a bad wireless system. You could use a cheap recorder in the pocket, but you can't monitor like that. No way to hear clothes rustling, etc.

Also, most scenes with one person have no or little dialog, unless it's an interview and those aren't usually shot wide. For dialog heavy scenes, there are two or more people in the scene, which means you need two or more lavs, recorders and/or wireless systems. One lav isn't enough for narrative.

All in all, I'd go with the shotgun and ADR when needed. Design your dialog scenes to have no overly wide shots. If anything, spend your $150 on wind protection and borrow some blankets and stands to help tame audio reflections and unwanted light.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 03:00 PM   #9
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

I'm a little confused here. Some of you folks are telling him that if he has only $150, he should buy only a shotgun, or a whole collection of cheap mics.

If I understood the original post, he already has a shotgun and a hyper. Eduardo has $150 available to buy a lav. He is asking whether that would be a worthwhile investment.

My answer to that would be yes, sooner or later you will want to use a lav. You might not plan to use one, but some last minute change (or revelation) might dictate that you need one. If you have one in your kit, it will save the day. If you don't have one, you'll be sad.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 04:03 PM   #10
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

I'll add my 2p - but only because I could be called a cloth-eared cameraman...

When the time is right (and that could be now, could even have been a year or two ago) get a Lav because of the inverse square law of sound.

Just like light, sound obeys the inverse square law - look it up on Google for in depth info, but basically, relative distance from source (relative to surrounding noise) is very important.

A lav gets you very close to your noise-maker. Double the distance between mic and noise source, and you're going to get four times worse ratio of noise to source. A lav gets 12"-6" from noise source in a way that a hyper or shotgun won't, whilst being unobtrusive if not invisible in shot.

In a perfect world, we'd all drop a nice small diaphragm condenser just out of your intimate closeup for really rich and easy to listen to voices, but it's not a perfect world.

BTW, I've hidden a lav in table props, colleagues have put them in hairdos, in clothing (or taped them to the lack thereof), and as mentioned before, you can do silly things like filming an ultra wide shot, with Big Closeup Sound from a lav on a radio - great for those long walkie shots to camera.

Get a lav and have fun with another lens for noise. :)

Oh, BTW - was taught this a long time ago: the best mic used wrongly sounds worse than a so-so mic used well. So play with your mics, test and break the rules to see what happens. At some point, you'll want to upgrade, but by just using a different type of mic, you may up your game hugely.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 04:48 PM   #11
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

But how does one lav help in a narrative dialog situation? When there is dialog, aren't there normally two people talking?

Yeah, you would only need one lav when swapping over the shoulder shots. But those are framed tight enough to use the shotgun or hyper.

The OP could go through the script and storyboards to see if a lav is needed. If not, get wind protection for the other mics. Or buy the crew pizza. That might have the most positive effect on the production of anything you could buy. ;)

Not that I'm against lavs. I love 'em! I just wouldn't assume that a single lav would have a positive effect on this particular production.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 06:01 PM   #12
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

"But how does one lav help in a narrative dialog situation? When there is dialog, aren't there normally two people talking?"

I recently worked on a shoot where the setup was two guys having lunch in a restaurant. Due to the way the shot was framed, I was able to boom the whole thing no problem, both the two-shot and close-ups. However, just to cover my butt, I hid a wireless omni lav on the table, with the transmitter covered by a cloth napkin. Mostly, we'll use the boom mic track. However, there were a few takes where various restaurant equipment noises (coolers, things with fans that made noise intermittently) popped up. On those takes, the boom mic (an NTG-3) picked up the noise pretty heavily, but for whatever reason, the omni lav on the table didn't.

I've been in other situations where an omni lav can be used as a plant mic to good effect, such as car interiors, or one time, a fight scene taking place in a small room, where the camera was all handheld and moving with the action. Planted some lavs around the room, and got what I needed. Lavs aren't only for putting directly on people...
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 06:21 PM   #13
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

Eduardo, I honestly don't think anyone can tell you if you need a lav or not. If you're asking do you need a lav so that you could cover any conceivable situation where you need to pick up sound. Then yes you need at least one lav. But you also need a few other mics too. The problem is you are trying to ask for specific equipment advice to cover a general senario.

There are two ways to go about making a short or feature. I'm not sure what your level of experience is with making a movie so I'm going to speak in basic terms (I'm not an expert but I do have a little experience). You could take your script, work out all the scenes and figure out what equipment you need, then go out and figure out how to get funds to purchase or rent what you don't have. The other way is to take your script, workout your scenes, figure out what equipment you don't have that you would need, and rethink how you are going to tell the same story with the equipment and resources you do have.

In either case your question cannot be answered until you have done a few things first. One, lock your script; two, create your shot list; three, block your scenes; four, breakdown your script. Without doing those basic tasks, you can't know what equipment you need. You may be able to do your movies without a lav or it may be essential. In most cases, for shooting a movie, as Jon said, one lav will not be that useful. For long shots where the mic would be in frame, you usually are shooting those MOS or could easily ADR in any dialogue after as you generally don't see enough detail where the dialogue has to match exactly.

I personally have not found a lot of need for lavs when shooting a movie. High action scenes never work with a lav (I also do fight scene coordination and was recently asked by a new AD if we could pick up sound with wireless lavs, I responded sure if you want to kill a couple of lavs and come out with a lot of unusable bangs and rustling noses), and on intimate shots you are usually framed close enough so that a mic on a boom is framed out of the shot. I do have to admit, I am not a fan of how lavs generally sound when compared to a good hyper or shotgun but would admit a poorly placed great shotgun or hyper will sound much worse than a really cheap lav placed correctly. For me too, I have never been able to hide a lav on talent without having to constantly adjust it as we go through a scene. Keep in mind that I'm not usually doing production sound. There's usually someone else doing that so I can give them hell when I see the wire or mic.

But, I would advise on not buying a lav now until you know that you'll need it. If you do find that you need a lav you may find it more economical to rent one. Your question at this point is a lot like with lighting questions. When someone says, "I've got a couple of 600w and 300w Fresnels and am planning on shooting a movie, do I need a 1K and a couple of softboxes?" The only answer is, "I couldn't tell you, what's your scene suppose to look like?"

Also understand that you will never have all of the equipment necessary to shoot any imaginable scene. One of the most important aspects of making movies on a shoestring budget is crafting a story that you can shoot within your means.

Just my opinions,
Garrett
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 08:26 PM   #14
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

"One of the most important aspects of making movies on a shoestring budget is crafting a story that you can shoot within your means."

That quote could probably go on a few tombstones.

Andy makes a good point about creative uses of omni lavs. But is it the next most important thing for the project? The OP didn't mention anything about wind protection. If there are exterior shots, that could be critical. If not, who knows?

(Answer: the storyboard knows...)
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 09:06 PM   #15
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Re: Is a lavalier mic really necessary?

I just assumed (perhaps wrongly) that the OP has wind protection for the two mics he already has. I've never bought a mic without it. I agree with Jon F...Don't shoot the movie to suit the gear. Buy, rent, beg, and borrow the gear to get your film shot the way you want it. Writing a film to work around gear limitations seems, well, not very artistic. If we're really talking about "film" here, and not a corporate shoot or wedding shoot, why compromise the vision? Go for broke on this kind of project. Chances are you'll have to make some compromises in production (unavoidable), but don't write the compromises into the script from the start!
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