A ‘Lavalier’ (or lav, for short), is a small, wearable microphone. It is typically used in film/television to hide on the body of an actor/actress, but they can provide other uses as well, like recording sound effects in hard-to-reach places. 

Lavaliers Used in On-Set Film/TV Production

Lavs are used in situations where it is difficult to boom, such as in action sequences, wide-shots, or scenes with a lot of different characters speaking.

Lavs can generally sound more boomy, close, and dry than boom mics, as they are usually omnidirectional and are placed much closer to the body. The choice for an omnidirectional microphone in this instance is important as it maintains the ability to pick up the actor’s voice even when they turn their head. Cardioid lavalier microphones suffer more from this and are also more sensitive to clothing rustle due to the physical properties of the cardioid pickup pattern. 

It’s very common for lavalier microphones to be attached to wireless transmitters, which allow the actor/actress to move about freely in the scene or shot. This is not always the case when recording interviews or times when the talent may be stationary, as it is always preferred in terms of sound quality to used a hard-lined connection from the mic to the recorder.

When putting lavalier mics on talent, many different accessories are often used to attach the mic and de-couple it from the clothing that the person is wearing. Because all microphones are sensitive to rubbing and tapping, there is a skill to properly miking up talent. Having an assortment of tapes, moleskin, rubber isolators, and more are often found in a location sound recordist’s bag.

Lav Mics Used in Sound Effects Recording

Lavaliers are also often used when recording sound effects. A sound designer by the name of Diego Stacco has notably used them by taping the mics to his fingers and sticking them in normally un-recordable places, like inside of a lightbulb.

DPA lav microphones are a sound designer favorite and are commonly used to record stereo sound effects because of their sound quality and low noise-floor (low self-noise).

Binaural recordings often utilize 2 lavalier microphones placed in a configuration between a baffle to simulate the heading of human ears on a human head.

Working With Lavaliers in Post-Production

In post-production sound, the dialogue editor has to match the dialogue from the lav mics to the dialogue recorded from the boom mics as best as possible such as to not jar the audience. When performing ADR, it is often good practice to use the same or similar microphones as the ones that were used on-set so that the sound quality can match. 

Typically, lavalier microphones are not phantom powered and are of the electret microphone classification.

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