I recently had a conversation with a colleague of mine who was saying that lapel micing is the preferred choice of recording dialogue on set over boom micing. His argument was based on an article he had read from Skywalker Sound where the industry pros there prefer the sound of a lapel over the sound of a boom mic.

In my experience, I have always worked with industry pros who will use lapels, but only as a last resort and prefer the sound of a boom mic. I agree with this because of the natural quality of the boom mic (shotgun, supercardiod etc) and the fact that you can control it in concert with the level of dialogue delivery verses the acoustics of the location. In some instances, I have gone with a lapel and a boom but this decision is based entirely on the blocking of the scene and the size of the shot (generally medium wide with 2 to 3 actors moving in the scene.) The lapel mic, for me, no matter where it is placed, still sounds a little boxy and you cannot follow like you can with a boom. The natural harmony of warm dialogue with the space around the actors is much more present with a boom than it is with a lapel.

I would be interested in hearing your ideas on the matter.


7 Answers 7


I had it explained to me this way once by someone with way more experience mixing and editing dialog than me:

"When having a conversation with someone, are you normally standing 3-5 feet away from them? Or are you right next to them pressing your ear against their ribcage when they talk to you? Because that is the sound that a lav usually captures."

A properly boomed actor is almost always going to sound better and more natural to the ear than a lav imho. Plus lavs are much more likely to pick up clothing noise and other junk as the actor moves around.

That being said, lavs can be tremendously useful in noisy environments/wide shots/extremely reverberant spaces/shoots at the beach/as a plant mic on a car window visor/films in which the actors are wearing helmets etc..

Use every tool you have to your advantage, and at the end of the day, dialog editors just pick which mic sounds the best and roll with it. If you have a good production sound crew, my guess is it will be the boom most of the time.


Both mics are important. A boom microphone sounds more natural than a lavalier microphone which is (should be!) very close to the body. The thing is, the louder the background is, the more background-noise level you'll have on the boom. So it's a compromise every time: Do you take the more natural signal but you have all the background on it, or do you take the lavalier which is more direct but needs some EQ-mixing. For location sound, I only can recommend to use a both: If there is a transmission problem with the wireless or something has scratched the mik, you have a back-up channel: the boom. For boom: if you're not fast enough and cannot catch a second actor who starts taking, you have also the backup if you gave them lavalier.

Also it is nice to use the boom channel as a room tone channel, if you record them stereo like an MS. You can use the close lavalier for the voices and mix something from the boom to make it more natural and give back something from the environment - if you want it. For documentary things it's probably nice, for feature film probably not and you can use the boom for backup only.

I think it's best to use both of them and with today's recorders, a location sound recordist should be able to record 4 channels. Also a very important thing is to write down very clear in the metadatas which channel is what, but this is another issue. It is very frustrating to receive a lot of channels and tracks and no one knows what it is, what's on it and you have to go through each track and find it out. And: No one will use carefully recorded ambience or sfx if no one knows or finds it. - unfortunately.




The lapel mics, provided they have been mounted properly do give a drier sound, and if you are working on a noisy set then they are definitely easier to work with in post. If you have a quieter set then the boom mic will sound a lot more natural. If a film has a bigger sound effects/design budget then lapel mics can be more popular, as it means less original room acoustics to contend with, and matching takes can be easier. Lapel mics can also be more popular on green screen shoots, as the set has absolutely no relationship to the final shots and any original room tone or room acoustics are not desired.


Rifle or shot gun microphones are a must in all applications but the advent of lepal or lav microphones have really helped in situations ,for example an extreme wide or wide shot and at the end of the day you just can not get that boom in there that Lapel is helping to pick up that dialogue even if its a guide track its a pretty good decent guide track which will help the person who is doing ADR in post

Where Lepal and Lavlier mics come into there own is for live television application especially for Multi cam shoots and sports television

Boom for film as much as possiable lepal is secondary

  • Absolutely true, at my job we lav the actors when the director wants to do wide and close shots in the same take (facepalm here) or sometimes around noon when the sun is high there's no way we won't throw shadows with the boom, lavs are the only way to go. Although we try our best to go with only boom, we end up laving someone pretty much every day. Also lavs are veeeeeery useful for micing cars and phone booths, elevators and such. Aug 20, 2012 at 23:13

Boom or lav, that is the question? Justin and Guido have covered this topic well - so it really comes down to the framed shot, location, and post budget to dictate what you use. I am a documentary sound op and my lavs rarely leave my kit.

When I’m recording in locations that are ambient specific, the soundscape is as important as the dialogue. Shotguns are the only option to deliver the “real life” sound that can’t be reproduced in post. Knowing your shotguns and working closely with the camera op to create continuity between picture and sound are musts for this type of shooting.


Here's how I like to put it. $2000 mic vs $500 mic.

Of course lavs have their place in certain situations.


On this episode of Weapons of Mass Production (Bammo), host Kevin Good tests boom vs lav head to head. See for yourself! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4Ed0uqkdTs

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