I'm working an indie short and we're in the process of deciding whether or not to splurge a little on renting out some lav mics. We've already got the Sennheiser G2s, but the local rental house offers:
They also offer the Lectrosonics SM Xmitter & Lectrosonics UCR411 Receiver.
I'm wondering whether it's worth it to rent any of these items out to increase sound quality. And what a good configuration of the above would be. We're shooting mostly outdoors in NYC so it'll probably be windy or noisy at times, and there will be a lot of RF activity, I expect.
The Lectro 400 series are what's called digital hybrid. What that means is they do not compand (compress and the expand) the signal when transmitting and recieving. This can give you a much more full & acurate sound. They also transmit with more power, I believe upto 100 mil-watts. Which will give you more transmit range and reliablity. The 411 receiver also has xlr balanced outputs and additional advanced wireless frequency filtering that can guard against sudden wireless interference from cell phones and the like.
Which mic will it come with?
The ZAXCOM ZFR100 records to a SD card with rock solid timecode syncing which is great if you have a good timecode generator on your camera. You can always get a portable timecode generator if needed for that. Deneke, Ambient or Horita have quite a few.
There is no wireless so there is no chance for interference, drop outs or anything like that. The sound on them is excellent, really top notch too. This might be the best bet in NYC because of no worrys about the crazy wireless nightmare that NYC can be sometimes.
Another plus is the B6 is so easy to hide on clothing or in the person's hair.
Either would be a nice upgrade in my book. The Lectro 100's are nicer, but not that much nicer and might not be worth the extra money, go one step to either listed above.
The Lectro 200's are great too, but honestly I have not to much experience with those to comment with any real world use.
This is one of those questions that has a real back-door answer. Here's my $.02.
Does your soundman have any experience with using lav mics on-camera? Any experience with wireless mic systems? How is he planning to capture the dialog in any case?
As as has been stated before, recording dialog for motion pictures (that could mean anything from shooting Super 35mm to shooting on your mom's 15YO VHS camera although techniques will very for all formats) requires a very specialized skill-set. If your soundman has no/little experience in this, I would highly recommend hiring someone with more experience and let him provide the gear as well. Even if your short looks f'ing fantastic, if it sounds bad, you'll get no views. Really. That leaves the tedious process of replacing (looping) the whole thing or great parts of it.
Okay, off the soapbox.
To answer your question, any of the Lectrosonics products coupled with a good lav (Countryman B6, Sanken, Tram, Sonotrim, AT etc) will provide good results assuming the system works well in the RF environment in which it is being used (see above!). Even the 100 series are very solid. The 400 series is Top-of-the-line; expensive to buy and to rent. I don't use any Zaxcom products so I can't speak to their reliability, but they sell plenty of systems to plenty of pros.
Here's another question: how concerned should I be about rf interference and dropouts on the streets of NYC? What can I really do about it? I spoke to the rental house and they made it sound like it isn't cause for worry, but she didn't sound too reliable, to tell the truth. It's not HER film, I guess. I'm mostly just concerned about getting to New York and having tons of trouble with distorted audio or just not even getting anything at all.
Anyway, if I were to go with the 100 series kit (comes with a Tram lav), would it be much more worth it than going with our Sennheiser G2s? I mean, what sort of major difference will it make? We're not averse to spending the money; we just want to know it's being well spent.
I used to film in NY, Tokyo and work (at present) in Tel Aviv.
All these big cities, have intensive RF signal traffic.
However I would not place an RF interfirence as number one consideration.
Usually you will get a clean nice sound in the city. This being said in few situation there could be RF interfirences. From my experience less than in 5% of the cases.
What you should be more concerned as it was said before:
1. placement of the lav on the body or on the subjects - a REAL art and experience!
2. Range. I recently had a situation in the desert where I couldn't get a clear signal within 3 meters! (UCR195D/UM195)
3. Getting it right to the mixer.
I too advise you to get a pro. In the end it will be cheaper and you'll end up with good sounding material. Remember that you'll pay in post to fix things that you didn't pay (attention) on production.
All the evolution series (ew)of Sennheiser wireless are NOT pro. They are not diversity systems and their output signal not high enough. The audio quality is bad.
The only exeption is SK50 UHF and SK250 UHF transmiters (with EK3241 recievers), transmitting 50 mW and 250 mW accordingly.
Lectrosonics are very good. But get a diversity system such as UCR 195D, UCR200D 201D,210D 211D,401D,411A
Almost all lectro transmitters have a solid 100mW output.
But don't forget that the lav is "the only choise left" option.
Have a good gun mic, boom pole and mixer.