Simple Lavalier for Video

One of the strongest ways to gather audio for video is with a lavalier microphone.

There are a couple of different ways to approach this. The first way that most people see is by using a wireless system. This consists of the lav mic itself, plugged into a wireless beltpack transmitter. From there the signal is received by a receiver, beltpack-sized or not. The signal flow does not end there however. All this $600 system has done so far is push that microphone's signal over the air to the other side of the room. From there you would then plug that receiver's output into some form of recorder.

LAV -- Transmitter -- Receiver -- Recorder

We use two wireless lav systems, that then feed into our beloved Zoom H4n, which runs about $300. We then have a second H4n for hiding in places, as well as being our third recording channel, which is usually used by the shotgun (boom) mic.

This is how we do it, and this is typically the perceived standard of just how it has to be done. However, I would like to share a less-expensive, more simple alternative.

Think about the necessity to push the lavalier's signal across the room. It's not necessarily necessary. My alternative looks like this:

LAV -- Recorder

Look at the first equation and simply remove the middle two components. Those are $600 of your expense. You need to get your hands on just a lavalier mic, (not in the wireless system packaged together, but just the mic) and a recorder.

As I have said before, we love our H4n, don't get me wrong. We love it for a lot of things but this is not an agape love we're in it for it's 2 XLR inputs. In this second setup you don't NEED 2 XLR inputs, you just need to get that 1/8" connector from your standalone LAV that we haven't found yet. Because you don't need XLR inputs, lets look at the H4n's little brother, the Zoom H1.

I love sharing information like this for free on the internet, and another group has done the same before me on the search for inexpensive LAVs. StillMotion mentioned in a blog post way way back that they have had great luck with their microphones from GIANT SQUID. I would take their word for it and look at the omni model they have, or depending on your application, the cardiod.

$100 - Zoom H1
$040 - Giant Squid Omni LAV
$015 - Rycote Undercovers

We like to hide ours, to keep things from looking like too much of a production. Last but not least on our short inexpensive list of a totally different way of approaching lavalier audio is the under-appreciated Rycote Undercovers. A package of these little wonders will run you $15 and should RUN you for quite a lot of shoots. These small sticky pads allow you to hide the lav slightly out of site for the concealed look that we strive for.

That's a $155 lav alternative.

When you're ready to go, hide the mic on your talent, run the cable down their clothing and into the H1. Fire it up, press record, lock it's buttons, and have them put it in the same pocket they were going to put that Sennheiser RF transmitter in. It's a beautiful thing.

The Zoom H1 runs on a single AA battery. It also comes with a 2GB memory card which will get you pretty far right out of the box. Don't' skip the Rycote Undercovers. Other than that, I can't think of any holes I'm missing! Feel free to let me know if you spot any and we'll re-visit this. :)

thanks for stopping by!