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Old July 15th, 2013, 02:38 PM   #1
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Compare Lav mics

I recently did sound for a 13-episode TV series now playing on a global satellite channel (3ABN).
We had four guys seated around a 4-ft ~ 1m square table, each with a lav hidden under his shirt collar.
The first episode is up on Vimeo here:

See if you can guess which mics I used on the different guys:
Ty Gibson, James Rafferty, David Asscherick, and Jeffrey Rosario
You can see the identification of who is who in the tags in the first shot after the opening sequence.

Here are the mics I used (NOT in the same order as the names above!
They were all wired, XLR mics, not wireless. Even though they are all runners, we managed to keep them seated long enough for each 18-minute segment(!)
One Rode Lav Rode Lav with MiCon5 XLR ($275)
Two Oscar Sound Tech OST-801 ($170 each)
One MXL FR-350 ($50) (as 1/2 of 2-pack)

For subsequent series, I intend to get two more OST-801 and a bunch of vampire clips(!)
At least to my ear, the Rode Lav did not sound "$100 better", and the MXL held its own.
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Old July 16th, 2013, 12:09 PM   #2
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Nice job Richard!

Since the panel were changing head directions at any given point, did that affect your audio or your decision on left-right lapel placement?

Were you going into a gigantic studio mixer, or portable. I'm guessing judging by the production quality it was a studio something or other.

How did you actually wire up the lava under the collars? Tape? Clip? They are well hidden.

And you chose to go with lavs instead of boomed because.......???? (I'm taking a guess here it was because of the wide shots.)

Any other insights you could provide would be great.

Thanks for sharing.

Jonathan
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Old July 16th, 2013, 02:06 PM   #3
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Levin View Post
Since the panel were changing head directions at any given point, did that affect your audio or your decision on left-right lapel placement?
As you say, since they were turning their heads both ways, it didn't really make much difference. The mics typically ended up over their right clavicles just because the people placing the mics (not always me) were right handed (!) But they were all omni-directional (intentionally) because of the bi-directional head-turning situation.

Quote:
Were you going into a gigantic studio mixer, or portable. I'm guessing judging by the production quality it was a studio something or other.
I used a quad mic splitter (EWI MST-412) and ran the direct feed from the mics to their corresponding Sony EX1 cameras. The cameras were providing the phantom power for the mics. Then I used the transformer iso splits to directly feed my (Oade Brothers upgraded) Edirol R-4 recorder. I set the record levels on the cameras on on the R4 during "rehearsal" (the 13 episodes were unscripted) and just "let 'er rip" during recording.

I took the SDI video feeds from the four fixed cameras and fed them into my Panasonic AW-HS50 video switcher which we only used as a quad-split multi-viewer. There was a fifth dolly camera on a circular track around the table. We used a Teredek wireless transmitter/receiver so the director could also see the moving dolly camera. (See photo)

I monitored the camera audio levels by viewing their "VU meter" indicators from their viewfinders. And I monitored the audio signal quality from the audio I was recording on the Edirol.

Quote:
How did you actually wire up the lava under the collars? Tape? Clip? They are well hidden.
They ended up using gaffer's tape to secure the mics inside their shirt collars up at the top, just out of sight-line. Except for the MXL microphone (which was around the size and shape of a bean) which they ended up gaff-taping to the talent's chest.

Quote:
And you chose to go with lavs instead of boomed because.......???? (I'm taking a guess here it was because of the wide shots.)
With a 360-degree view, there was no place for a boom operator(s) or a boom(s). Furthermore, there was a giant soft-light right above the camera frame, just where you would have put shotgun mic(s). And with the four of them so close, I'm not sure how I would have done it with shotguns, anyway. Maybe others can suggest alternative methods for this kind of scenario?

Quote:
Any other insights you could provide would be great.
The producer is editing the shows. He reported that even after syncing the video from the five cameras, there was still a misalignment of the audio tracks. (They did not use timecode or genlock). The symptom was "hollow sound" which I interpret to mean that there were still millisecond errors between the different camera sound tracks. So he ended up muting the camera tracks, and used the ("backup") 4-track recording from the Edirol which, by definition, was in perfect sync (between the channels).

We didn't have the time or budget to do a proper gated mix, so the track you hear is pretty much a static mix of the four iso channels, with minimal level tweaking.

Equipment mentioned:
EWI MST-412 Splitter: MST-412
Oade Brothers Edirol R4 Edirol R4 Hard Disc Recorder Upgrades
Panasonic AW-HS50 video switcher AW-HS50 | Switchers & Mixers | Broadcast and Professional AV
Teradek Bolt wireless SDI Teradek Bolt | Teradek, LLC | Wireless HD Video
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Compare Lav mics-ttmv.jpg  
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Old July 17th, 2013, 11:59 AM   #4
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Quite the info as usual Richard. Thanks for sharing.

Best to you.

Jonathan
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Old July 19th, 2013, 12:31 AM   #5
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Richard,

The audio sounds great. Some really good sweetening and it would be awesome. BUT......the show??? The first time the dolly operator showed up I thought it was a mistake that had to be there because some other operator missed his focus or something. But there he was again and again and again. Really? A production like that was so close to being good but a moving operator keeps showing up in the background? It seems you should have had enough tight shots to cut that out. You lost me after a couple of minutes. That operator should never have been seen. Just my opinion.

Steve
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Old July 19th, 2013, 12:36 AM   #6
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Yeah, that was the conscious choice of the producer (who was also running the dolly camera). At least on subsequent shows, we got him long-sleeve black shirts to wear. As you say, the camera is frequently visible, but I had to hide the lav mics(!) Whatever the producer wants....
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Old July 19th, 2013, 12:39 AM   #7
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Re: Compare Lav mics

One more thing. I could never have guessed your lavs. Your audio rocked.

Steve
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Old July 19th, 2013, 11:03 AM   #8
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Re: Compare Lav mics

"Whatever the producer wants...." I have been there done that. And I'm thinking there goes another portfolio clip I will never be able to use.

I have a stack of tapes in a cabinet I call Portfolio Clips BNR, the BNR stands for But Not Really. There is something wrong with each one of them that means I just can't use it. And yes, that one thing that is wrong with them sometimes has my name on it. We can't be perfect all the time. At least not me. Other times I saw the train wreck coming but was over ruled. Oh well, I do the best I can.
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Old July 19th, 2013, 11:27 AM   #9
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Re: Compare Lav mics

I thought you did a great job Richard,

The subject matter was like watching grass grow though. I've never seen people take so long to say nothing.


Anyway great job on your part.
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Old July 19th, 2013, 04:49 PM   #10
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Re: Compare Lav mics

I also think this was a great job on the audio. I also like the video except, as others pointed out, the cameraman in the shots has to go!!!! I can't believe a producer actually wanted that look.

Of course I am a guy who also hates cineam verite and apparently a lot of people love the look (I had to keep my eyes closed during a lot of Cloverfield).

Last edited by D.J. Ammons; July 19th, 2013 at 11:38 PM.
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Old July 20th, 2013, 09:50 PM   #11
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Boom mics are normally not possible on TV show table discussion programs, nor would I attempt to use them either.
I've been recommending the OST mics after trying them when they were released a few years ago. They sound great, are 'affordable'.. and made in NJ. (USA)
BTW. nice job Richard.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 08:48 AM   #12
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Re: Compare Lav mics

So which mic was which? I don't like the sound of them equally. I prefer a richer, fuller sound. I know this can differ by voice quality and EQ in post, but based on what is presented here, I like the sound of the guy in the black best, and the gray the least. The blue plaid is pretty good, but a bit thin for my taste, and the blue shirt is between the gray and the plaid. I've not been as impressed as some folks by the online tests of the Rode Lav, but if the black shirt is the Rode, I'll have to look into it further.

I do own (and really like) the OST, but since I like a sound that is less bright, and almost never have the lav under clothing, I got the 802 which has a bit less top end.

Thanks for posting this.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 12:03 PM   #13
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Re: Compare Lav mics

OK here is the revelation...

Ty Gibson (gray shirt) and James Rafferty (blue shirt) had the Oscar OST-801 mics.
David Asscherick (plaid shirt) had the Rode Lav, and
Jeffrey Rosario (charcoal sweater) had the MXL mic.
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Compare Lav mics-tt-mics.png  

Last edited by Richard Crowley; July 23rd, 2013 at 01:14 AM.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 02:11 PM   #14
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Re: Compare Lav mics

Very interesting! Based on this, I agree with your assessments.

1. The Rode has a unique sound which has some good aspects, but it's not to my taste and not worth the expense for me.
2. I made the right choice in choosing the OST-802, as the 801s are brighter than the sound I'm after.
3. The surprising performance of the MXL just shows how a good recorder with upgraded preamps in the hands of obviously a good operator can overcome inexpensive equipment. I'm not in the market for anything wired at the moment, but if I were and could live with the larger size, these would be a worthy option to pursue. I have an older Sony ECM 55, and the MXL sounds similar in many ways.

Thanks again for the comparison. It's really helpful.
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Old December 5th, 2013, 12:55 AM   #15
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Re: Compare Lav mics

clipping is hurting my ears, never mind subject matter
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