If you have a production gig coming up, you’ve likely got your camera locked down and ready to go. But what about audio? Unfortunately many inexperienced film and video pros don’t put enough thought into their sound needs — even though great audio has the power to turn a subpar video production into something more.

The first step to getting great audio is picking the right microphone. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the two most common video mics used by pros: the boom microphone and the lavalier.

Boom Mics

Boom Microphone
License ‘Woman holding up a microphone boom’ from antb
  • Pros: Unidirectional pickup pattern, hidden from view, no shirt noise
  • Cons: Requires a second crew member or stand, limited in range

A boom microphone is made up of two components: a boom pole and a unidirectional shotgun mic that captures sound from the direction you point it.

Boom mics are perfect for narrative film, controlled environments, and distraction-free videos. You can effectively capture dialogue, ambient sound, and Foley for post-production mixing. Some of the most popular boom mics on the market are:

  1. RØDE NTG-2 (approximately $269)
  2. Sennheiser MKE 600 (approximately $329)
  3. Sennheiser MKH 416 (approximately $999)

When picking out a good boom setup, it’s best not to skimp on the pole. Good boom poles will have padding to help dampen sound and a bracket to hold the mic in place. Some boom mics are so sensitive that they can pick up the boom operators heart beat if they’re mounted on a bad pole. You can normally get a decent boom pole for under $100.

One of the things that distinguishes a boom mic from other production mics is its unidirectional pickup pattern. Instead of recording all of the sound in a room, a boom mic is specifically designed to pickup sound directly in front of the microphone.

This is why you will typically see a boom mic operator turning the microphone to face the subject. While no unidirectional mic is perfect, they do a really good job at isolating your subject from unwanted background noise.

Lavalier Mics

How to Pick the Right Mic for Your Video Production - Lavalier Microphone
License ‘A woman clipping tie-clip microphone’ by d8nn
  • Pros: Clips onto shirts, follows your subject, great for interviews
  • Cons: Shirt noise, potential for distracting background noise, can be seen on camera

lav microphone is a small, compact microphone that you will often see hanging on a shirt or tie. Lav mics have an omnidirection pickup pattern, meaning they are designed to record audio from all directions.

Lav mics are perfect for corporate videos, reality TV, and how-to videos. Lavs are going to be your best bet for capturing clean, clear dialogue audio. The great thing about lavs is that they are small and can easily go wireless. You can hide these mics fairly easy, such as underneath a tie or underneath of a shirt. They’re also lightweight enough that you can use gaffers tape to help hide them.

Some of the most popular lav mics currently on the market are:

  1. RØDE smartLav+ (approximately $79)
  2. Polsen ULW-16 (approximately $229)
  3. Sennheiser ew 112-p (approximately $629)

Just like the boom, the lav has its share of limitations. While it excels at capturing dialogue, trying to use this mic to capture room tone or the overall soundscape of the environment is a different story.

Conclusion

If you’re serious about getting the best audio possible you should own both a boom and lav mic. While there is no set-in-stone formula for when to use certain mics, your location, crew, and video will all determine which mic is right for your shoot. 

Top image: ‘close up with a professional sport microphone’ by roibu

If you liked this, click here for some more audio tips.

And if you’re looking to take your microphone skills to the next level? Check out these helpful articles from around the web:

  1. How to Pick the Best Video Production Mic
  2. 10 Audio Accessories Under $100
  3. How to Capture High Quality Audio for Low Budget Films