Business Video – How to Hide a Lavalier Mic
“Video for Business”
“Business Video” (video for business) is often referred to as “corporate video” in the video production industry. Usually they can be the same thing; video that is done for a business to market, train, provide internal communication, etc. Out here our Las Vegas video production jobs are often done at trade shows and conventions for exhibitors or organizers which is another form of video for business.
I read a recent article that had quite a bit of good information on how to hide a lavalier mic unobtrusively and I felt it would be useful to share it with not only video professionals but people who get involved with speaking on camera.
Here in Las Vegas while doing video production we try to use a boom mic when possible but we often run into situations where we need to use a lavalier mic but don’t want it showing obtrusively. Here are some solutions to hiding the mic:
Polo shirts have that distinctive short row of two or three buttons. Where the opening stops is a great place to hide a lav mic.
This works especially well on a dark shirt. Start by snaking the mic and cable underneath the shirt to the opening and then,
with some gaffer’s tape, secure the mic element in the bottom of the seam. You may not have room for the windscreen, but
this location is a best-case scenario. The mic is positioned low enough for consistent levels and shouldn’t sound muffled. If
the shirt is dark, no one will ever see your handiwork.
In the Collar
While we’re still thinking about shirts, have you ever considered hiding a lav mic in the talent’s collar? Again, darker shirts
work best, and this technique works best if you’re shooting an interview or something where the talent’s back won’t show.
Run the wire up the back of the shirt and, using gaffer’s tape again, secure it at the back, under the collar. Next, run the mic
around the side of the collar, placing it just inside the opening. Tape it down and call it good. You can usually hide the
windscreen here too, so it will work outdoors in a breeze.
This method has some spy flair. Thick, dark glasses temples are currently in style, both in regular glasses and sunglasses.
Why not hide the mic inside the temple? It almost becomes a headset mic this way. This technique works best with a couple
of caveats. First, your talent needs hair to hide the cable. Second, if the talent is wearing regular glasses, you may want to
shy away from extreme closeups. Regardless, you run the lav cable up over the ear and then tape the mic element inside the
temple – make sure it is far enough forward to keep it from rubbing on the face.
In the Hair
Speaking of hair, did you know you can hide a mic in someone’s hair? It’s a tried and true theater technique and will work in
some video situations too. Obviously, this requires some big hair and a very small mic, but this is a very unique way to hide a
lav. Basically, you simply thread the mic through the hair, starting at the back and working your way up to the edge of the
forehead. You need just enough hairline to hide the mic, but that’s about it. Some bobby pins or barrettes will secure the
cable and mic element.
All right, I know this one is a little racy, but it works. You should explain this technique and let the talent work it out in the dressing room. In its simplest form, you use clear medical tape to secure the mic in the cleavage, just out of sight. Some
additional tape is used to route the cable to the beltpack. This works great on evening gowns and, if you watch closely, you
can see this method in use during various awards shows. The alternative is to tape the mic to the bra in the cleavage area
and then route the cable accordingly.
On the Chest
Let’s give the men equal time too. Taping a lav to the chest is fairly common in movie production. The mic is applied during
costuming and often installed with clear medical tape. Anywhere on the chest is fair game if clothing won’t rub on the mic
element, but man-cleavage is always preferred. Alternatively, if the talent is wearing an undershirt, gaff tape the mic inside
the shirt. This often minimizes clothing rubs and still maintains a clear sound. By the way, gaffer’s tape comes off clothing
fairly easily, but it is murder on chest hair.
If your talent is wearing a costume or other clothing dedicated to the shoot, consider installing a lav mic in the pocket. A
pocket T-shirt is soft and provides a natural windscreen for your mic. Cabling is similar to the chest or cleavage method, but
route the mic element through a tiny hole in the back, resting the mic in the bottom of the pocket. You will probably need
some tape to keep it in place but, if the shirt is loose and not too clingy, both mic and cable will be invisible.
This is another technique borrowed from the theater. If the talent is wearing a hat with a brim or bill, consider hiding the lav
mic there. Of course, it would have to be a solid hat, not loose straw or mesh. And, the darker the brim, the better to hide
both cable and mic. This technique could be combined with the hair technique to hide the cable and exit the mic on the side
of the head. This one is a bit of a stretch for video production, but if you need options, this one could save the day.
I once saw a theater production where the narrator carried a large walking stick. His costume would have been very
challenging for hiding a lav, and I wondered how they had done it. During intermission, I introduced myself to the sound guy,
and he explained that the wireless lav was actually built into the walking stick. Genius! While you won’t pull this trick out on
any random shoot, the idea is very clever. As you can guess, this technique requires quite a bit more preparation. But store
the idea away; it could come in handy some day.
Don’t Hide It
In video production, we often tell the viewer what to think through set design, lighting, costumes and camera angle. If your
production has a newsy flair, why not just plant the lav out there for all to see?
Watch the news, and emulate how they use a lav mic. It’s usually clipped to a lapel or collar, with windscreen installed, and
the cable is looped behind the mic and fastened with the clip. Route the cable through the clothing, out of sight, and don’t
forget to hide the belt pack. That may be all it takes for you to create an instant news anchor.
When possible we try to use a boom mic particularly when there will be lots of interviews in an area we set up. This limits having to put a lavaliere mic on everyone and allows the process to run quicker. If you use a boom mic, you need to be certain it is placed close to your subject so that it doesn’t pick up ambient sound. Because the mic will usually be a directional cardioid or shotgun pattern it needs to be aimed properly. Additionally you may need to adjust the placement so that it isn’t picking up reflection of ambient sound from walls and other reflecting surfaces.
It’s Up to You
While this list outlines many of the popular ways to hide a lav mic, it’s certainly not the whole story. Every shoot situation is
different, the talent is different and your creativity will determine how to best hide the mic. Don’t forget the clothing factor:
clothes make rubbing sounds on our little lav mics. Do everything possible to minimize that while still getting the clearest
Hiding a lav mic is a compromise for aesthetic purposes. The quality of sound will certainly be diminished, but with good
placement, the impact will be small. Get creative and make the most of it.
Sidebar: What About The Beltpack?
The majority of lav mics in use today are wireless. That means that in addition to hiding the mic, you also have to hide the
beltpack. Some favorites are jacket pockets and purses but often, you must be more creative. Try clipping the beltpack inside
the pants at the small of the back. With loose clothing, they can also be attached inside bra straps. I’ve taped them on backs,
inside legs and even hidden them in hats. My personal favorite is in the back pocket as a replacement for a wallet. Don’t
forget talent comfort. They will have to wear this for a while.