Lavalier Mics & Audio for Video

It has been a busy week with sickness, writing deadlines and applications so, this is a short note on a recent question about lavalier (or lapel) mics.

Lavalier microphones are small wearable microphones, oftern referred to as lapel mics (as they clip onto your lapel). I was asked by a friend, Ellie Mackin, who regularly vlogs here (check out her YouTube channel in the links), about lavalier mics that record from your phone and my recommendations, if I had any. I discussed basic mic types in the last blog, but did not talk about lavalier types. So, here are some thoughts on lavs, recording for video and a couple of recs at the end.

First, pros and cons for lavaliers. I think lavalier mics are a good option for vlogging and video audio. If you are podcasting and do not have video, get a traditional wired mic and stand. The price point to quality is in favour of hard wired, handheld mics. Lavs are quite versitile, but once the are set do not move them. That is, do not transfer one mic from person to person as you record (one mic per person is a rule to live by). Why lavlaier’s for video? It is best to separate different signal lines. If you record video on a camera, do not rely on the camera audio. By separateing the signal lines you have more options for editing (like cutting between still shots and video segments without having to separate the audio and video signals, saving you a step in the editing process). I assume that most recordings will be a single take (you are not recording 5 different takes and editing them into a coherent track) and this means limiting the number of potential ‘issues’. Background noise is always the top ‘issue’ when recording outside of a studio. As I have said before, having every person and/or mic on its own line makes editing easier.

My assumption is that many will record the video by camera and the audio by mic at the same time. This is why Ellie asked about phone recording options. In this way, you can jump between still shots and video without worrying about time alignment problems. So, separating video and audio signals is good. You will have to edit the audio and video back together, but this is fairly easy to do.

Now, other reasons for lavaliers. Camera microphones are usually suck. They do the basic job of recording noise, but are limited in range and pick-up everything around the camera. By using a lavalier, you can edit out external noise, or even better, cut it out before it gets recorded. In a future post, I will go through some of the ways you can get rid of background noise. It should be no surprise, but not all lavaliers connect to your phone and not all will work with certain phone types. If you are going to record with your phone, you need a lavalier with a TRRS connector (1/8” or 3.5mm). All phone jacks use TRRS (at least for now…) but you need to make sure the mic works with your OS system (some only run iOS).

OK, so here are some recommendations for lavaliers that connect to your phone. Shure MVL Omnidirectional Lavalier, $69. The MVL works with both iOS and Android, although Shure has their own mobile recording app MOTIV that only works with certain Android devices. RODE SmartLAV, £45. Again, RODE has their own recording app and the SmartLAV works with both iOS and Android.

Both mics are from longstanding sound production companies, which means warranties and such. I have not used either of their propitery recording programs and I usually stick to programs I know. There are other options out there (as with everything), but I would look at these brands before jumping into the deep end.

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