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Old March 21st, 2008, 03:00 PM   #1
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Help deciding on a Lav

I work at a university and I have been enlisted to function as the videographer for our public relations department. I'll mostly be shooting interviews, some events, our monthly news report and anything we need for the web. I may eventually even be asked to do short commercials to be aired locally. I have little formal training so there is a great deal I will need to learn. What they gave me to work with is a Canon GL2, which is certainly adequate for our needs.

However, even with the limited experience I have, I know that a good camera alone is grossly insufficient to create what I want to be at least a semi-professional product. After explaining this, I have been given a small budget of $2000 to get a video editing computer as well as any accessories and audio equipment I can. I spent about $1200 buying the components to build the computer, leaving me with $800 for accessories. After getting a decent fluid head tripod, a portable mixer (instead of the beachtek adapter), n.c. headphones, a halogen work light w/ a diffuser, some chinese lanterns and balanced cables I have about $350 left to spend on microphones.

Eventually, I intend to be shooting with both a lav and shotgun mic simultaneously, recording each source to a different audio channel for editing in post. Since I don't have enough money to get a decent boom pole, mount, zepplin, well as the shotgun itself, I've decided to go with the Lav mic first and get the shotgun and boom accessories in a few months. I have no first-hand experience choosing a microphone. I've certainly done my research, but I don't trust my speculative judgement, regardless of how informed I try to make myself. Since we don't have any pro audio shops in our area, I'm unable to go and consult a professional or test them in person (which I know is optimal). The best alternative I can think of is to take my question to the people who work with audio on a regular basis and understand not just the theory and technical specs but also how these mics perform when used in different real-world applications. I've learned alot and been quite impressed with your forums. I would very much like to get the opinions of the audio community here and tap your collective expertise so that I can make the best decision.

I know I want an omni lav, since cardioid patterns seem to be limited in function and are not very forgiving (which will be important for my skill level). With this in mind, I've managed to narrow my choices down to two lavs that seem like they fit both my budget and needs. The first is the Tram TR50. It is supposed to have excellent sound quality, good concealability, very low clothing noise, a full assortment of accessories and a flat frequency response that I've read cuts amazingly well with boom mics, which will be quite important to me. My other choice is the Countryman B6. The form factor is amazing and I've read nothing but rave reviews about it. I like that it comes with 3 different frequency response caps for added versatility and since it is cheaper than the Tram, I'll have a little extra money to make up for it's lack of included accessories. I have no doubt that both of these lavs are exceptionally good but I am unable to decide which one best suits my needs. Also, I have found little information about how well the B6 performs when used in conjunction with a boom. Please let me know what you think. I am also more than willing to consider other lavs if you think they would be more suitable for my situation.

I appreciate any help you can give me, thanks.
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Old March 21st, 2008, 04:53 PM   #2
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Whoa! - you've got a proper, stable and rugged, VIDEO tripod with fluid head AND a decent audio field mixer, plus those other goodies, for a total of $450???? I wanna know where you shop!

Either of those lavs would be good - the Countryman's are a bit more delicate so ruggedness in use, especially on inexperienced talent, might be a factor weighing in for the Tram. The Trams also come with a nice collection of clips, etc, in the kit. Take a look at the Sanken COS-11 as well. You are correct that an omni lav is better for most film and video purposes - with a cardioid head position becomes critical and very slight head movements can lead to the talent going on and off mic. The only time a cardioid offers any real advantage is in a live-sound situation where controlling feedback from a PA system becomes a priority.
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Old March 22nd, 2008, 06:49 PM   #3
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Thanks for the quick reply. As to my other equipment...I certainly had to cut a lot of corners to get what I needed but I think they will be just fine for my purposes. I'll post a list of it all tomorrow and you can tell me what you think.

About the Sanken COS-11, I've looked at that one as well and have read that it also cuts nicely with a shotgun. It was probably my 3rd choice, with the Countryman EMW as a 4th. The majority of my footage will be shot with inexperienced talent and often with very limited setup time, so that is definitely something that needs to be considered. With the tiny form factor and narrow cord, I was thinking that the B6 would probably be easier, faster, and give me more room for error when setting up, since it can often be hidden in plain view. Would you agree with that? Also, do you have any idea how well the B6 works in conjunction with a shotgun? Finally, would these lavs function well when used as a plant mic?

I realize that I'm looking for a potentially unrealistic degree of versatility in one mic and I'm aware that no mic works well in all situations. I don't however have the option of getting different mics for various situations. I'm just trying to do the best and most I can with what I have. Thanks again :)
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Old March 22nd, 2008, 06:58 PM   #4
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Does the lav need to be hidden?
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Old March 22nd, 2008, 09:19 PM   #5
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I was sold on the B6 awhile back, then got a number of sobering messages from various dvinfo users. The common thread was... the B6 is far more delicate than other lavs, more prone to abuse by the talent and more expensive/time intensive to repair.

Since I bought a sanken cos-11 instead of a b6, i cant really speak to the durability of the b6, but thats the warning given to me, and I suppose it makes sense.

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Old March 23rd, 2008, 06:40 PM   #6
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Thanks again for the replies. So far, it's seems like a pretty solid recommendation for the Sanken Cos-11. I would like to continue receiving any feedback & info people have to offer.

This is a list of some of the other equipment I got, Steve:

[Tripod]: $199.99 Davis & Sanford ProVista 7518.
-Has a few construction issues that can develop into problems over time, but the head is supposed to be quite smooth. I'd like to eventually upgrade to a Bogen 503 head, but this should be more than adequate until then.

[Mixer]: $69.99 Tapco By Mackie MIX60 Ultra-Compact 6-Channel Audio Mixer
-Not much compared to a professional mixer but I really should only need 2 channels of balanced audio and this supplies those with 48V phantom. Less portable than the beachtek XLR adapter but far cheaper and will offer much more control.

[Headphones]: $24.99 Sennheiser DJs HD202
-Not pro but a good corner to cut. Should be fine just to monitor sound levels through the mixer.

[Lighting]: ~$60 Bayco dimmable dual halogen 500 watt light stand + a few generic chinese lanterns.
-Not bad for bouncing off a wall or shining it through a diffuser. Along with the chinese lanterns. it provides more than adequate fill lighting.

The rest was spent on some high quality XLR balanced cables, adapters, gaffer's tape, and other similar essentials.

As soon as I decide on the Lav, I'll be good to go. :)
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Old March 23rd, 2008, 08:38 PM   #7
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I have some concern about the mixer. It's not a field mixer, so it problaby won't be useful for your location shoots. And while it has 6 channels, you'll only be using two. I'd really suggest trying to get the Beachtek. The MIX-60 just doesn't meet the needs you've outlined.

Also really consider how you'll be using the lav. If it will be wired only, then I'd go for the hardwired Sanken COS-11XBP-BK. I got mine from Location Sound (800) 228-4429 for $375. It's not listed on their website (because they mostly do walk-in business) but I know they have them in stock.

Realize that the hardwired COS-11 only comes in black, which might be difficult to hide under very light clothing. And it can't be used with a wireless transmitter unless a sound shop cuts the cable and changes the connector so it can be used with either phantom or wireless power.

This is the case with most lavs, you need to determine how you'll use it and make sure you buy the correct version.

Last edited by Peter Moretti; March 24th, 2008 at 01:47 AM.
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Old March 24th, 2008, 09:27 AM   #8
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I know the Tapco isn't a field mixer but I'll have power access 9 out of 10 times that I'm shooting. Also, I can go unbalanced right into the camera with an adapter cable if I absolutely have to. This is just my only option right now with the budget I was given. I have every intention of getting a proper field mixer or at least an XLR adapter when I can. I believe our department is going to be given additional money around July, but a decent shotgun & boom pole w/ accessories will be a higher priority for me then.

With the general consensus being for the Sanken, I'll see if I can manage that with my budget. I had wanted to get the COS11 initially, but the lack of availability as well and the higher price tag made the B6 & Tram50 more appealing. I really only have $350 left to spend but I'll see if there is anything I can do. Thanks again. :)
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Old March 24th, 2008, 12:41 PM   #9
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Ok, I'm going to get the Sanken COS11xBP-BK. I was able to find one and still stay within budget so that worked out wonderfully. Thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it. :)
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