WHICH WIRED LAV IS RIGHT FOR YOU
Q We recently upgraded from the Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR to a Canon EOS C100 Mark II. It will be so incredibly convenient not to have to utilize a separate recorder for decent sound. We shoot a lot of in-studio interviews with two talent, so I want to buy two new lavalier microphones. We have a low-end lavalier that we used with the Zoom H4n, but now that we have a higher-end camera, I’m not sure which wired lavaliers would sound best in our situation, which is a fairly quiet soundstage. What do you recommend?
A Assuming you already own a decent set of headphones, you’ll want to budget in the neighborhood of $600 to $900 for a pair of quality wired lavalier microphones. Even though you may not want to hear this, I would also recommend you keep your Zoom H4n handy. Here’s why:
The Canon EOS C100 Mark II is an outstanding camera recording decent audio quality. My company owns and shoots with the original C100, and we often rent the C100 Mark II and the C300. While camcorders aren’t known for their high-end, brilliantly clear sound, the Canon EOS Cinema line of cameras has very usable sound quality, especially for dialogue.
Why keep the Zoom H4n? As you know, the C100 Mark II only records two channels of audio. You mentioned that you shoot a lot of two-person interviews. If you only use two lavalier microphones for your two-person interviews, what would be your backup plan if one of the talent accidentally brushes the mic with their hand or if the lavalier begins picking up some clothing rustle or noise mid-interview? You’ll have to stop the interview, fix the sound issue and re-take the question/answer where the sound problem occurred.
However, if you run a boom microphone into your Zoom H4n and record “wild,” you also would have a secondary alternative to go to if a lavalier has a problem. I often shoot two-person interviews with the C100 and always bring along either our Zoom H4n (zoom-na.com) or the Tascam DR-40 or DR-60 (tascam.com) to record a boom microphone on a third track in addition to the two tracks in the camera.
As far as which lavalier(s) to purchase, there are many high-quality choices available to you; it all depends on what your preferences are as far as frequency response, size, design and budget. While no means an exhaustive list, here are a few of the more popular lavaliers I’ve used, tested and written about over the past couple of years.
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The Tram TR-50B (trammicrophones.com, available as a kit for about $310 from various retailers, too) is an industry-standard microphone that has been popular for decades. If you need a very small lavalier that’s easier to hide on-screen or in wardrobe, you can’t beat the Countryman B6 (countryman.com, available as a kit for about $285); it’s the smallest microphone on the market and has very good, clear sound quality. The OST 801 and 802 (about $180, with an XLR power supply) are similar to the industry-standard Tram, but retail directly from the manufacturer’s website (oscarsoundtech.com); they’re a good choice if budget is tight. The Sanken COS-11 is regarded as a popular high-end lavalier (www.sanken-mic.com/en, about $470 from various retailers) that you should take a listen to, as well.
I recommend making a visit to a local location sound retailer to audition microphones whenever possible. It’s too inefficient to order multiple mics online, audition them and then go through the hassle of returning the ones you don’t like. Hook up with a retailer, if possible, or network with a local location sound mixer who might be willing to let you take a listen to what he or she uses. All of these lavaliers sound different and are better or worse for specific applications, so you can make the best choice for your needs by carefully considering your options before buying them. With proper care, a quality lavalier will last you many years. I’ve been shooting with the same pair of Tram TR-50Bs for over 15 years, and they still sound great.
CUSTOM CABLE HARNESSES
Q Cable bulk is driving me crazy. I own a Sound Devices 788T recorder/mixer and often record using all of the inputs while working out of a sound bag. By the time I add Comteks and multiple wireless receivers, I almost need another sound bag just to carry the bundled and attached cables. I know there are options for assembling my own cable harness, but can you advise me of any known quality sources for a custom cable harness that I could design with thinner wire to reduce the bulk and weight of the cables I’m carrying around? I don’t really need a full-thickness TA5F cable to XLR for a 12-inch run from wireless receiver to mixer input. Any ideas would be appreciated.
A There are several options for custom cable manufacturers that I’ve personally dealt with in the past. Trew Audio, Location Sound, Markertek or any of the larger regional location sound companies usually have a facility for building custom cables, but in case they don’t have what you’re looking for prebuilt, I would check out this website, locationsoundcables.com.
Although the owner, Stuart Torrance, is located in the UK, he does beautiful custom cable work. Mr. Torrance is a location sound mixer and truly knows exactly what you need, and there’s an image of a low-profile cable bundle he created for the Sound Devices 788T right on his web page.
The low-profile cables he builds are aesthetically pleasing, as well as much lighter than the normal cable bundled into most sound harnesses. I particularly like the right-angle connectors, paired with the low-mass woven-cover cables that can be custom color-coded so you can easily attach and re-route the connections under lower-light conditions. Custom cables aren’t inexpensive, but if you’re a sound professional, you need tools that make your job simpler and more time-efficient. A custom cable harness for your 788T will accomplish both goals.
16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: None of the manufacturers mentioned compensated me to write this article. The companies didn’t send me review units to try out the hardware. I own several of the microphones mentioned, all purchased at full retail price by either my production company or myself. No material connection exists between the manufacturers mentioned in the article and myself.
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