What's the best simple lavalier microphone setup to use with DSLRs?
May 3, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I've been tasked with filming a series of seated "talking head" interviews using my DSLRs. What's the best way to create a minimal audio setup that will have acceptable quality, be reasonably easy to set up on location and to edit the final results, and also be reasonably cost-effective?

  • Because of differing room sizes and levels of background noise, a lavalier (lapel) mic would make more sense than a shotgun/boom mic. Is this assumption correct?
  • I've found conflicting information about whether one needs to use an external sound recorder with wired lavaliers and DSLRs. For ease of editing, I'd prefer not needing to learn how to mix external audio unless it's actually necessary. What are some of the drawbacks to plugging a wired lavalier mic directly into the camera? Is this a feasible method, and will it be enough to record clean and usable (not necessarily professional) quality speech?
  • Is it worth splurging for a wireless+external recorder setup? How much more difficult will that make post-production?
  • Which specific lavalier mics (wired/wireless) would you recommend for this task? (Links/models appreciated!) I've read that different brands/models work better/worse with some DSLRs, so if you have any combinations that have worked well for you and that you swear by, I'd especially love to hear about it. The DSLRs that I'll be using are a Canon 5D Mark II and, optionally, a Canon T3i (600D).
Thanks for your help!
posted by DaShiv to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you just recording the one person and not an interviewer as well?
posted by exogenous at 10:38 AM on May 3, 2013

Best answer: I've found that when doing sit down interviews, a wired lav is usually your best bet. Unless if you plan on shooting in a lot of noisy locations go with the lav. The thing with dslrs is that most only have a 3.5" connection for a mic and an xlr cable will always give you better sound. I would also only stick with the cameras input if it has a headphone jack and the ability to turn off automatic gain control. So really I think it depends on your budget.
posted by catwash at 10:40 AM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: Only the subjects and their answers need to be recorded -- they'll be looking off-camera to the side to address the interviewer, but the interviewer's questions are only to get the subjects talking in a natural way and aren't a part of the interview itself.

I'd like to stay under $200-300 if possible. Having been strictly on the photography side of things, I'm not very familiar with the audio capabilities of the DSLRs in question and what (if any) additional hardware will be required.
posted by DaShiv at 10:47 AM on May 3, 2013

Best answer: The main drawback to on-camera sound on DSLRs is the lack of meters or any kind of feedback to know how it's doing. (This was the case a few years ago and I'm pretty sure it still is.) There is some sort of gimmick box that attaches that gives you some more tools:


is an article that goes over some options. They mention attaching a Zoom recorder, I own one of those and it's really good, though I've never attached it to the camera like they show.

If you did decide to go totally off-camera, you will have to use a slate and sync it later. Allegedly Final Cut X can do it automatically if you have scratch audio on your camera, but I wouldn't count on that working right- I'd be prepared to manually sync each and every clip. I have done it for movies and it's time-consuming and annoying, but not impossible.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:56 AM on May 3, 2013

Sorry, I guess in that article when he shows the Zoom he is using it as an external recording device, even though it's physically attached to the camera. That wasn't clear to me at first.

I think the part about "XLR boxes" is more what you're after.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:00 AM on May 3, 2013

Best answer: And btw you're absolutely right to want a lav mic at the end of this. The sound you get from cheap boom mics tends to be so awful you might as well be using the camera's built-in mic.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:00 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lav mic plugged into a decent digital recorder. Zoom brand is fine and what I use. Set DSLR and digirecorder recording, have the interviewee clap once at the beginning of the interview, line up the clap on the video with the clap spike on the audio in your video software.

As a bonus, having the interviewee clap breaks the ice and loosens them up.
posted by merocet at 11:07 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've found conflicting information about whether one needs to use an external sound recorder with wired lavaliers and DSLRs.

The issue is that DSLRs (or at least the ones you have, I can't speak to all) have poor-quality pre-amps and will record noisy audio. So there's two solutions: you can go "dual system," record to an external device and sync the files later. Or you can use an external pre-amp to provide a signal that won't need to be amplified in-camera. Just based on a quick google, see this for a discussion of the pre-amp approach.

(Maybe there are some powered mics that are loud enough to avoid this problem? Not sure.)

The two people I know who record a lot of DSLR video with sound, both started dual system and then switched to a pre-amp when it turned out to work. (They've now both switched to the Canon C100 to avoid this kind of thing.)

That said, if you can afford PluralEyes or work within the 30-day demo, dual system is pretty straightforward. Basically:

- Make sure you always start and stop the camera and the Zoom at the same time(ish), so there's one audio file for each video file. I.e. don't record three video takes with one audio take. Also make sure the camera is recording audio loud enough for sync.

- Drag and drop all your audio and video files into PluralEyes and click 'sync.' This should run in a few seconds and (since your files are all in order) the match should be no problem.

- Tell PluralEyes to export video files with the clean audio. High fives all around.
posted by jhc at 1:11 PM on May 3, 2013

Best answer: Friends have had luck with Audio Technica's mic or with Sennheiser's Wireless Mic eW100 G2 Camera kit which comes with a clip on mic and a camera.
posted by rmless at 2:29 PM on May 3, 2013

« Older best starting kit for a dual-lan linux gateway...   |   Ideas for dog tags and other safety measures for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.