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Old April 28th, 2020, 08:57 PM   #1
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Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

If I want to shoot a scene on a city street, I could use them, it's just that they seem terrible for outside because they are omnidirectional. So therefore, would the sound be usable at all?
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Old April 28th, 2020, 09:33 PM   #2
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

There are cardioid lavs, like the Sennheiser ME4. But considering how they're used, the omni pickup is more dependable, I think, as a directional mike is hard to manage when it's attached to clothing that may move around. My 2c. I've used the Sennheiser and Tram omnis outside with no problem.
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Old April 28th, 2020, 09:34 PM   #3
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

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If I want to shoot a scene on a city street, I could use them, it's just that they seem terrible for outside because they are omnidirectional.
Nope. That’s just wrong. There’s nothing inherently bad about lav sound outside. Instead of directionality, lavs depend on proximity to the source for direct sound. Proximity works fine if you know how to rig the mic, and can deal with wind if present. Same as for any other mic.
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So therefore, would the sound be usable at all?
Yep. If a lav works for your scene there’s little difference between interiors & exteriors.

And, most wireless sets do a little better outdoors. Most of the time.

Of course there are other factors in choosing to lav, boom, or both. But int/ext typically isn’t of issue.
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Old April 28th, 2020, 11:15 PM   #4
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

Oh okay. When you say most wireless lavs now do better, do you mean they do better than a shotgun mic?

I was read before that cardioids move around too much in terms of the pick up patter being reliable, if that's true? Or maybe not, if you tape it to the chest to stop it from moving?
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Old April 28th, 2020, 11:55 PM   #5
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

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Oh okay. When you say most wireless lavs now do better, do you mean they do better than a shotgun mic?
No, I meant that radio links may have better performance for ext than for int. Depending.
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...I was read before that cardioids move around too much in terms of the pick up patter being reliable, if that's true? Or maybe not, if you tape it to the chest to stop it from moving?
As Battle wrote, cardioid lavs are rarely used for film & video. When talent turn their heads they’re off-mic. When clothing moves or sags they’re off-mic. Omnis are standard.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 12:20 AM   #6
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

Okay thanks, that makes sense on being off mic.

I am surprised that omni may work better for outdoors, because I used them once before for a project, and the outdoor noise had more background noise in them, so I thought therefore, they were worse for outdoors likely.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 12:40 AM   #7
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

They are commonly used outside, you sometimes see a furry windshield on them. As mentioned earlier in the thread, mount them close and be careful of clothes rustle.

Although not indoors, I used one on an interview in room with a corrugated roof in the rain and you could just about hear a slight patter from the rain.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 12:51 AM   #8
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

We missed you Ryan, then you pop up with a really stupid post!

Omnis lav style miniature microphones are the standard go to microphone because they work best for some simple reasons. They're small and can go in close, and they do not need pointing. That's it! I have a cardioid. Just one. Had it for years and it's rarely of much use. Tiny changes in position impact badly on the sound, so it's a problem solver, not a thing to use regularly. There's a skill in fitting, disguising and wind protecting. Do it right and they sound 'real'. All the posts about handling noise, cable noise and wind are because they're used badly.

However the most useful phrase I often use is this.

The most expensive radio microphone system is nearly as good as a $10 cable!

However cables are a major snag for some setups so we're forced to use radio systems. Good ones sound transparent to all intents and purposes, but radio links WILL fail. You WILL get interference. Many times this is the operators fault but sometimes RF issue just happen.

Microphones are not intelligent. You choose the most appropriate one, but one rule always applies. Distance to the wanted sound source is vital, and needs minimising and distance from the unwanted sound source needs maximising. That is it!

A close in omni sounds better than a distant shotgun. Always.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 08:58 AM   #9
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

Cardioid lavs have many inherent issues, and most folks try to avoid then like COVID-19.
The only times I was forced to use cardioid lav was in feedback prone live sound situation.

Some omni lavs are more 'open' than others. My all time favorite omni lav for noisy on-the-street interviews was the ECM-55. Unfortunately it is huge by today's standards
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Old April 29th, 2020, 12:17 PM   #10
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
We missed you Ryan, then you pop up with a really stupid post!

Omnis lav style miniature microphones are the standard go to microphone because they work best for some simple reasons. They're small and can go in close, and they do not need pointing. That's it! I have a cardioid. Just one. Had it for years and it's rarely of much use. Tiny changes in position impact badly on the sound, so it's a problem solver, not a thing to use regularly. There's a skill in fitting, disguising and wind protecting. Do it right and they sound 'real'. All the posts about handling noise, cable noise and wind are because they're used badly.

However the most useful phrase I often use is this.

The most expensive radio microphone system is nearly as good as a $10 cable!

However cables are a major snag for some setups so we're forced to use radio systems. Good ones sound transparent to all intents and purposes, but radio links WILL fail. You WILL get interference. Many times this is the operators fault but sometimes RF issue just happen.

Microphones are not intelligent. You choose the most appropriate one, but one rule always applies. Distance to the wanted sound source is vital, and needs minimising and distance from the unwanted sound source needs maximising. That is it!

A close in omni sounds better than a distant shotgun. Always.
Oh okay thanks. Well I was the boom op on a production that was outdoors once. The sound mixer used both lavs and a boom and I was operating the boom only. He had a headphones to the lavs, and I did not.

The director kept asking him on every take, how was the sound. On the outdoor shoots, the sound mixer would always, say that the lavs are picking up noise from all around, and is not usable, but the shotgun was much better.

So since he kept saying that, that also made me think that perhaps a shotgun just cancels out a lot more background sound outside. Unless he was using the lavs incorrectly then?

Another thing, is on the outdoor shoot I did myself with both a boom and lav, even with the windcover on, wind was still getting into the lav, causing distortion. With the shotgun, I had the zeppelin typ windcover on, with a dead cat, and no wind got through at all. So does that mean that the wind protection for a shotgun is better then?
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Old April 29th, 2020, 12:56 PM   #11
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

NEVER operate a boom without headphones. How on earth can you aim it properly if you cannot hear what it's capturing? If the lavs had poor sound, blame the person who put them on.

The wind protection for the shotgun is a totally different beast. It has still air, open cell foam or material weave, and the long fine hairs. A lav has a problem with wind protection because the idea is to be small and unobtrusive. The popular hairy covers work really well, but look like a creature is hiding on the actor. Good sound people create all kinds of solutions. Maybe disguise - the mic covered by silk or other costume department accessory. Maybe hide the mic in some kind of 'device' - I've seen them built into badges, or slit into a jacket lapel, or in a hat - that kind of thing. If the location is blowing a gale - you're stuffed, so you reshoot or suffer the expense of ADR.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 01:03 PM   #12
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

You can get windshields for these mics, plus you can conceal them so that the wind doesn't catch them.

I don't know how close this sound recordist was locating these mics, but unless your boom mic was close in, you're unlikely to be as close as a lav mic Since you haven't given the circumstances, it's hard to comment, since your boom mic might be a foot away and the lav a foot from the mouth of the actor..

Again, you need to test these things for yourself. Check out the various ways of concealing a lav mic, the time always arises when you need to use them because they're only way to get the dialogue when the DP doesn't want to compromise the shot to get a boom in.

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; April 29th, 2020 at 01:46 PM.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 01:59 PM   #13
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

I use lavs exclusively for my job and like everyone said omni is the most useful. cardioids are too directional if subject turns head. Wind noise, clothing noise and concealment are going to be your main issues with lavs. Outside is not a controlled environment, if you can hear a noise with your ears chances are so can the mic. In hollywood they probably use ADR on location scenes.
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Old April 29th, 2020, 02:29 PM   #14
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

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Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
NEVER operate a boom without headphones. How on earth can you aim it properly if you cannot hear what it's capturing? If the lavs had poor sound, blame the person who put them on.

The wind protection for the shotgun is a totally different beast. It has still air, open cell foam or material weave, and the long fine hairs. A lav has a problem with wind protection because the idea is to be small and unobtrusive. The popular hairy covers work really well, but look like a creature is hiding on the actor. Good sound people create all kinds of solutions. Maybe disguise - the mic covered by silk or other costume department accessory. Maybe hide the mic in some kind of 'device' - I've seen them built into badges, or slit into a jacket lapel, or in a hat - that kind of thing. If the location is blowing a gale - you're stuffed, so you reshoot or suffer the expense of ADR.
Well I had headphones to the boom, since I was the boom operator, but I did not have headphones to the lavs. The sound mixer had headphones to both, but I only had them to the boom only. But that's good that I didn't have headphones to the lavs, otherwise I would hear that with the boom, therefore making it harder to boom, doesn't it?

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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
You can get windshields for these mics, plus you can conceal them so that the wind doesn't catch them.

I don't know how close this sound recordist was locating these mics, but unless your boom mic was close in, you're unlikely to be as close as a lav mic Since you haven't given the circumstances, it's hard to comment, since your boom mic might be a foot away and the lav a foot from the mouth of the actor..

Again, you need to test these things for yourself. Check out the various ways of concealing a lav mic, the time always arises when you need to use them because they're only way to get the dialogue when the DP doesn't want to compromise the shot to get a boom in.
Okay thanks. I used the wind protective covers for the lavs that the person gave me to borrow, but perhaps his wind protective covers were not good enough, and I need more heavy duty ones to be on part with the wind protection of a shotgun mic?
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Old April 29th, 2020, 02:48 PM   #15
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Re: Do lavs work at all outside in a city, or not really?

Sorry I thought you meant you didn't have the headphones for the boom.

Don't forget shotguns need the better protection because their design means even a light breeze sounds like a hurricane.
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