Lav-a-liers…Mount up.

October 31, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Hopefully my title has caused a chuckle for some of you. A call back to 1994 Hip Hop may date me, or you for that matter. I use this as a bit of a segue into the world of mounting, hiding, and protecting lavalier microphones. This was an overwhelming request in my suggest a topic mailbox. Mounting techniques have not really changed over the years, even since 1994. Microphones have shrunk in size, and accessories have been added, but the trouble with silk ties, low cleavage, and picky photography directors remains.

TV news folks may not worry a bit about hiding mics. Everyone understands the subjects are amplified, but wind noise is an issue for them. Film and television mixers need the mic to perform multiple tasks; pick up audio, remain as close as possible to the sound source, and stay out of sight. All mixers (ENG or behind a cart) want the perfect spot that is also easy to mount and remove. Of course at some point your talent will rip off the lav and break the head or the connector. Just like the delicate etiquette needed to place a wireless pack and/or lav in a person’s most private places, remember that no single technique will work in every situation. Lav mounting accessories fall into 3 basic categories; adhesives, tie clips, and pin clips.

Adhesives include hairpiece tape like Topstick, Rycote Undercovers, Overcovers, Stickies, and tape down mounts. These work in several ways. Topstick is designed to adhere to skin, and is great for mounting lavs in cleavage, where clothing structures (such as a bra) create a space over the lav. The Topstick is double-sided, one side is on the skin the other holds the mic. Clothing noise is avoided because the lav does not touch the clothing. You can also use it directly on clothing. Place the lav on the interior of a shirt and tape it in place. Rycote’s Stickies are also double-sided tape. Used in conjunction with Undercovers they prevent clothing rustle. The Undercover is a thin felt material that goes over the lav and attaches to the tape around the edges. The Overcover performs the same way, but is a faux fur intended to ward off high winds outside of the clothing. Tram, Sonotrim, and PSC lavs also use a tape down, and is a model specific mount on a faux leather strip. The idea is to use medical tape to hold the edges down. The lav is suspended above the surface. Hank Garfield has done very well with his HushLavs. These soft foam (make-up sponge material) cylinders slide over the head of a Sanken COS-11. The foam acts as a barrier between clothing and skin, and can be held to either with tape. Sanken also provides the RM-11 rubber mount with the mic. It functions in the same manner and the HushLav. Finally mic cages (Tram, Sonotrim, DPA) are small plastic discs with metal or plastic risers. The lav mounts on the disc and the risers keep clothing from rubbing the element. The DPA model comes complete with double-sided tape.

Lectrosonics CK150 Tie ClipTie clips are the most familiar lav accesories. When novices say “lapel clip” this is generally what they are looking for. They are used primarily in plain view. However, they hide very well around shirt collars, jackets, coat lapels, etc.

Pin clips are available from six lav manufactures; Countryman, Tram, Sonotrim, Sennheiser, Sony Tram/Sonotrim Cable Holder (ECM88 Only), and DPA. They are also called vampire and viper clips. Two sharp pins, grab hold of clothing and face back into the body. Tram also provides a clip model that uses pins in conjunction with a mic cage.

It would be a mistake to mention lav accessories and leave out windscreens. Most microphones have a manufacture’s foam windscreen, however two products are available to fight the Nor’easter. Remote Audio’s MicroCat is a small fur windscreen with an elastic band that stretches over the head of the mic. They can be used alone or in conjunction with the foam (depending on the size of the foam and the lav head). The previously described Rycote Overcover works in a similar way, but doesn’t require an additional mount.

Some lavs don’t require any mounting or hiding. The Countyman B6 is small enough to disappear in plain sight, in hair, through a button hole, or whatever a quick brainstorm produces. You can also consider the Pin Mic from Ricsonix. The mounting pins go through clothing and act as the contacts for the capsule. The cable MicroCatand pins remain inside the clothing, while the capsule hides in plain sight on the outside. Every shot is different, and some are more forgiving than others.

Like many other things in this industry, the hard and fast rule for mounting and hiding lavalier mics is…….there are no hard and fast rules. Necessity will dictate how you solve problems on set. It is my hope that having all of this information in one place will help you create a plan of attack.

Skylor Morgan