There is a part of me that wanted to title this week’s post, “Everything I Need to Know About Audio I Learned from Robert Capa, Depth of Field Scales and the Inverse Square Law.”

I didn’t because, well … who would read it?

We’re taking a look at two very inexpensive (around $20) lavalier mics this week – the Olympus ME-15 and the Audio Technica ATR-3550. Check the video out for some tips on these.

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Are you wondering what my unused title meant? Here are the three parts …

Capa’s most famous line was, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Audio works the same way – you need to get your mic as close to your subject as you possibly can. The mics built into cameras are going to be too far away which is why you should never shoot video, especially interviews, with the built in mics.

If you have an old enough lens around, haul it out and look at the depth of field scale. Pick an aperture, focus the lens at, say 20 feet and look at how much of your image would be sharp. Now adjust your focus to something closer, say, 5 feet. What happened to your depth of field? It plummeted – as you get physically closer to your subject, backgrounds (visible or audible) become less apparent.

The inverse square law probably has you nervous, but it’s the law that dictates the rate that light falls off as it travels. Important to know when calculating flash exposures.

And with that, whatever readers I had just left … oh, well.

If you’ve got a tip, if you’ve got a trick, if you’ve got a widget, if you’ve got a gadget that you think everybody else in the industry should know about, send me some information on it and I’ll get it out there.

2 Responses to “Learning Audio: Cheap Lavalier Mics”

  1. Mark,

    I am really enjoying your series on the Zi8. Thanks for the recommendations. I use an Audio Technica lav and have had good experiences with it.

    One challenge that I still have is how to do a 2 person interview with the Zi8 and capture good sound from both the interviewer and interviewee? Is there an inexpensive handheld microphone that you could recommend for use with the Zi8?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2.   Mark E. Johnson

    Sorry, didn’t catch this question last month … inexpensive: Nady SP-4C. Treat it carefully and it’ll work well for you. The SP-5 is a little better at a slightly smaller price but doesn’t come with the cable like the 4C. You’ll need an adapter from Radio Shack or some such place to make it work.

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