Whether on a theatre stage or on the set of a film shoot, actors bring stories to life and bring us into their world (if they're good, believable actors, that is). As audio techs, we aren't in these venues to teach acting lessons, but we can add to the credibility of the actors and the world they inhabit by miking them correctly.
Lavalier microphones are simply the most consistent when it comes to miking actors. Boom mics are used heavily in film but never in theatre (that would be awkward). Booms are great but are not as consistent or practical as lavs. Spot mics work wonders if the actors do not move during a scene, but again, that's not very practical. Lavaliers, though perhaps not the highest quality or most versatile mics, are the go-to for miking actors of all sorts.
So lavaliers are the best type of microphone for actors, but what are the best lavaliers for actors? When it comes to miking actors, I have only one lavalier recommendations:
- Point Source Audio CO-8WL: The Point Source Audio CO-8WL (link to check the price on Amazon) is a dream microphone for actors. It's incredibly small, waterproof, and provides
an amazinglyaccurate reporduction of the actor's voice. The CO-8WL is compatible with most wireless transmitters including Shure, Audio-Technica and Sennheiser systems. When lavalier mics are needed on actors, look no further than the CO-8WL.
“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist's price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.
Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:
- Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
- Microphone technique/placement
- Number of microphones used
- Natural sound of the room
- Content (whether that's the song, discussion, or otherwise)
- Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)
With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”
What Factors Make A Lavalier Microphone Ideal For Actors?
When looking for an optimal lav microphone for an actor, there are a few things worth considering:
- Omnidirectional Polar Pattern: Selecting an omnidirectional lavalier will yield consistent results throughout a performance. Actors are often required to move around and we need as consistent a pick up as possible from our lavalier mics.
- High-Frequency Roll-Off: A roll-off of high frequencies help reduce the potential for feedback and harshness in the microphone signal.
- Low-Frequency Roll-Off: A roll-off of low frequencies reduces handling noise, vocal plosives, and low-end rumble in the microphone signal.
- Presence Boost: A boost in sensitivity between 3-6 kHz helps improve speech intelligibility.
- Durability: Pick a lav mic and mic clip that are durable, there will be a lot of clipping and unclipping during the mic’s life and it’s important to have a strong clip.
- Size: Choosing a slender, small microphone is critical. Oftentimes we'll be hiding these microphones in the hair, clothing, or against the skin of the actor. It's paramount that these microphones are not seen by the audience, and so small is better!
- Price: Whether you’re making money from live speaking engagements or not, budgeting should be considered when purchasing a lavalier microphone.
Let’s now discuss the CO-8WL with the above criteria in mind.
The Point Source Audio CO-8WL
The Point Source Audio CO-8WL is an absolutely amazing lavalier microphone for actors. This mic is a miniature back electret condenser measuring only 4mm in diameter, making it easy to hide nearly anywhere on an actor.
The CO-8WL is waterproof, making it resistant to sweat, makeup, and, of course, water! The lavalier attaches to most commercial and professional wireless transmitters, notably those from Shure, Sennheiser, and Audio-Technica. It also has different colour options, including beige, black, and brown, to better blend in with an actor's appearance.
Let's talk about some of the specifics of the CO-8WL.
Polar Pattern Of The Point Source Audio CO-8WL
The Point Source Audio CO-8WL is an omnidirectional lavalier and its polar pattern is very consistent.
Why would we want an omnidirectional lav for our actors? It all comes down to consistency.
When miking an actor, we won't always have the privilege of unchanging microphone placement. Sometimes the lav will be in their hair, other times in clothing or directly on the skin. Sometimes the lav is even used as a spot mic.
Think, for example, miking near an actor's chest and having the lav pointed at his or her mouth. A cardioid pattern would work perfectly in theory… until they moved their head. An omnidirectional microphone may very well drop slightly in signal level, but the quality and tone would remain largely the same.
Omnidirectional microphones will reproduce an actor's voice with relative consistency so long as the distance between the mic and the actor's mouth is practical.
Here is a quick list of reasons to choose an omnidirectional lavalier when miking an actor:
- More natural sounding
- Consistent sound in varying positions
- Resistant to plosives
- No proximity effect
- The loss in gain before feedback is not a huge issue, even in
- Increased sensitivity to extraneous noise is practically negligible when positioned correctly
A consistent omnidirectional microphones like the CO-8WL makes for an excellent lavalier on actors.
Frequency Response Of The Point Source Audio CO-8WL
The frequency response range of the Point Source CO-8WL is given as 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz, which is the entire range of human hearing. Here is the microphone's frequency response graph:
The beautifully flat response of the CO-8WL gives it its accurate and transparent sound when miking actors. Because of omnidirectional nature of the mic, there is no proximity effect and therefore no unnaturally accentuated bass response to fear if the mic gets closer to the actor's mouth.
Below 50 Hz, the response of the CO-8WL tapers off. This is beneficial since there's really no crucial vocal information in this sub-bass range. The roll-off helps filter out low-end noise without thinning the sound of the actor's voice.
There's barely a boost in the presence range, which is followed by a high-frequency roll-off. This roll-off helps reduce the potential harshness of the lavalier signal, yielding a smoother capture of the actor's lines.
Durability Of The Point Source Audio CO-8WL
The CO-8WL is a relatively durable lavalier clip-on microphone.
As I've previously mentioned, the CO-8WL is waterproof (IP 57 waterproof rating). Moisture is typically one of the worst enemies of a condenser microphone, but that's no so for the CO-8WL. Instead, the CO-8WL withstands sweat and makeup and can even be submerged under water. This greatly increased the longevity of the microphone.
Durable as it is, I would never recommend purposefully attempting to damage the CO-8WL. Remember it's a very tiny lavalier microphone and is not built to withstand great amounts of physical abuse (like the Shure SM57, for example).
Size Of The Point Source Audio CO-8WL
With a microphone head with a 4mm diameter, a cable length of approximately 4 ft. and an overall weight of 0.6 oz, the CO-8WL is an extremely small microphone.
A microphone as small as the CO-8WL is ideal for miking actors. The mic can fit practically anywhere and remain hidden from the audience – an essential part of miking actors.
Price Of The Point Source Audio CO-8WL
At under $300, the CO-8WL is a steal. Remember though, this is the price of the microphone only. The wireless system will be sold separately, so if you were to buy a few CO-8WLs, ensure you budget for adequate transmitters and receivers.
Recommended Wireless Systems
Speaking of wireless systems, what wireless systems should you send the CO-8WL's signal through?
The CO-8WL description mentions the use of the microphone along with transmitters from Shure, Audio-Technica, and Sennheiser. Really, any wireless system will work fine (assuming the transmission frequency/frequencies are legal in your country).
Is there a best wireless microphone system for actors, though? The answer is, of course, no, because “best” is subjective. However, in my research, I've come across Q5X wireless transmitters. These top-of-the-line wireless microphone transmitters having matching price tags, but seem to be awesome choices for wirelessly miking actors.
The Q5X Incognito and BeltMic, in particular, look like stellar choices for miking actors.
- Sennheiser ME2 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
- Movo WMIC50 (link to check the price at Movo Photo)
- Shure MVL (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.