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I'm about to do an interview for my company. We are a small company and we didn't want to hire someone so I thought I could just help out since I already have a lot of the DSLR equipment.

As a beginner, should I be buying a lavalier mic or shotgun? Which is easier to use as a beginner? Would the wire from the lavalier be a headache to attach? I will be interviewing the CEO so his time is precious.

Also, I don't plan to bring a lot of gear to site so even if I used a shotgun boom I won't have the stand to put it above him. It might have to be in front of him to the side etc.

What is your recommendation?

3 Answers 3

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There are a few things to consider:

Lavalier Mic

  • The attachment of lavalier mics is pretty straight forward.
  • A lot depends on what the mic is connected to. Different recorders will work better or worse with different mics. So getting a good sound is often a matter of trial and error. This will be particularly the case if you plan to connect the microphone directly to your DSLR. DSLR manufacturers share little of their microphone input specs; so it's really hard to tell what the quality will be like until you try your setup. To my knowledge, most people seeking high-quality recording with lavalier mics and a DSLR go for a separate recorder (like the Zoom).
  • You should also consider the extension lead if you are to use one - it can reduce the overall quality, and if connected directly to the DSLR can put constraints on its position and movement.
  • Overall, the lavalier mic option could be cheaper than a shotgun. But it does require more research and experiment until you find the right setup. When I connected the cheapest lapel mic on Amazon to my 600D, the quality was fair - there was noise and the timbre of the voice was slightly distorted, but it was usable.

Shotgun

  • The nice thing about these is that their connection is standard - XLR that requires phantom power. So you either have it on your video camera, you buy a box to facilitate that, or you use a recorder that has that. But the quality is far more consistent compared to lavalier mics.
  • A shotgun without operator can be an issue though. The microphone is long and can be hard to conceal in the shot. Also, positioning the mic without appropriate stands can be hard. I've once did an interview, and the only place I could conceal it was below the table; with the arm attached it was a nightmare - I would have much preferred just having the mic on a normal mic stand if I could.
  • In terms of audio quality, you should expect a shotgun to pick more room than a lavalier. That is, a lavalier will provide a more intimate, professional sounding recording (unless the shotgun is in close proximity to the speaker).
  • The design of shotgun + boom was meant to allow the recording of a moving source. Your source will be stationary, so you're not using the mic for its prime intended usage.

All in all, I think you should favour the lavalier option, despite involving a bit more research time.

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  • I'd add that the problems with quality for Lavs are just as present with Shotguns. You should pretty much always go to XLR for either anyway if you need to run any distance and an external recorder will always improve the quality over the built in line input on pretty much any DSLR. As long as you are willing to buy decent quality (using standard XLR cables), getting a decent LAV is easy.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 13, 2013 at 13:32
  • That's really helpful. Assuming I'm going with the lavalier option. What do I need to buy exactly? I have a A99 DSLR that I will be using. Should I buy the Sony XLR-K1? And then in addition buy a Zoom recorder and also a lavalier? Just wanted to confirm what all the pieces are needed?
    – erotsppa
    Sep 13, 2013 at 14:59
  • The A99 has a stereo mic input. The XLR-K1 seems like a bit of an over kill - it's a rather expensive and heavily featured piece of gear. I you google it, you'll find some people got great results connecting a lapel straight to the camera.
    – Izhaki
    Sep 13, 2013 at 16:32
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For your situation I would go with the LAV. It will likely appear in the shot, which is a little (very little) less professional looking and you have to position it carefully to ensure that it doesn't get bumped or brushed. It is, however, FAR easier to setup properly, more tolerant of background noise and doesn't require as close of monitoring.

A shotgun mic can produce better overall quality, but either has to be used in a fairly quiet environment or operated by a technician who can keep it properly angled with a proper suspension mount to avoid movement noise. If you don't have a mic boom and operator, LAV is the way to go if it is an option.

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I was still undecided after reading the existing answers, so I did own research and my thoughts are below. Indeed, considering the specifics in this question, the best choice is likely a lavalier/lapel mic.

Why shotgun?

Yes, cardioid shotgun mics are good at rejection and in a studio often sound subjectively more natural and clear compared to lavs.

Also, if you are tight on money and want to use one mic to capture both voice and something else, shotgun may be a suitable tradeoff because using a lav to record various ambient sound bites around the location for B-rolls sounds finicky.

Why not shotgun?

Don’t miss that:

  • Tighter directionality means higher cost and longer length (just physics). If you need portability and are on a budget, this may be important. A cheaper and shorter shotgun is less directional (i.e., just less of a shotgun), and might need to be closer to the subject. Your lens would have to be longer if you don’t want the mic in the frame, and a longer lens is also more tricky to shoot with.

  • Shotguns reject from sides and rear. This means if you point a shotgun horizontally at the subject (say putting it onto the camera or just holding it off frame without a boom) in a noisy place or outdoors, much of rejection capabilities would be wasted on ground and sky while the mic could still pick up noise from behind your subject. This is why it usually points to the subject’s mouth more or less from above, and if you can’t do that then noise from behind the subject (including possible reflections from a wall) would have to be on your mind, as well as lower frequency reverberations from floor and ceiling indoors (rooms are often smaller vertically than horizontally).

So if you can’t be sure whether your subject will be stationary and always facing the mic, which lens you can get away with, you don’t have someone to follow your subject and don’t want to bring a lot of gear, etc.,—or even if you yourself are the subject and can do everything right, but you still aren’t sure whether the location will always let you sit or stand such that there’s no noise behind you—a shotgun sounds just more error-prone, even if generally sounds better in an ideal setting.

Meanwhile, a lav can reject a lot simply by being close to the mouth and physically shielded from surroundings by subject‘s body—just be mindful of clothing. (If you get cheap lavs, you could mic a person with two of them just in case!) If properly set up, it’ll be easier to get consistent levels, too.

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