Selecting a Microphone
Welcome Andrew Jones from Deity Microphones into the studio to help us with some basic Microphone Selection Tips! A camera operator never brings one lens to a job, and we don’t either! The more microphones you have in your selection, the better the opportunity to pick a microphone that is great for the composition of your shot.
A common mistake when selecting a microphone for your production is over micing a scene. It is not always a good idea to put a lavalier on each talent as well as two shotgun microphones over each talent. In the example with Andrew and I, this would be way too many microphones for this situation. We literally have our knees touching underneath the table.
Sometimes Less is More when Selecting a Microphone
Because of this, our proximity is so close that we can use a cardioid microphone when selecting a microphone and get away with only using one. If we used more microphones, it would actually have a negative effect on the mix or take even longer in post-production to mix between all the different sources.
Now in our scenario, we are using lavaliers only because our space is very big (even knowing you don’t see it) and one microphone in the middle would have picked up a lot more reverb than the lavaliers we have on instead.
When it comes to selecting a microphone, it is all about your location. It is big and reverberant? Or is it outside and in an open space? Are there multiple cameras that will be used during the recording? How high will you need to place your microphone to get it out of the shot? Let’s break all these down.
What Makes a Shotgun Microphone Reach?
When it comes to the framing of your interview, you may not always have the ability to get your microphone in really close. But then again, you may not have to. Shotgun microphones have ports on the side of the microphone that make the characteristics of how the microphone picks up change depending upon how many ports are on the microphone. Longer Shotgun Microphones have more ports and are physically longer, while shorter shotguns have less or possibly only a few.
These interference tubes are generally hollow and allow for natural cancellation to occur from sound waves that enter from the front to the side. It all comes down to sound waves entering at different angles mixing together and canceling out before the sound gets to the circuitry on the inside.
Interior locations can vary in shapes and sizes. What does this do? It makes it impossible to select one microphone for the job. Some rooms will be small and cozy and have no resonance in them. Others will be extremely live and have a huge reverb trail.
If your shooting in a room like the one above, a nice short shotgun, like the few listed below will sound extremely warm and inviting.
Selecting a Microphone for exterior locations boils down to a couple of different factors. Are you in an area with clean ambiances, like a secluded park? Or are you filming in a busy part of town with traffic and need a microphone with a lot of rejection?
Because we aren’t confined to the limitations of rooms with different ambient levels, selecting a microphone gets a little more fun. It all comes down to how much of the location needs to play in order to help tell the story. For example, if you are filming in a park that has a water fountain that is NOT being seen in your shot, I would use a completely different microphone to really cut out that sound. If the waterfall was being seen, however, using another microphone with a brighter tone and a more rounded pattern would help the location play a greater part.
Here are a few choices of shotgun microphones that I recommend listening to before purchasing. You need to listen to these microphones in order to make an educated assessment as to what to do on the day.
Deity S-Mic 2
This is a great starter shotgun microphone that is even in some of the biggest sound mixer’s packages. Check out our blog post on putting it in a pizza oven…
Neuman KMR 81i
Neumann KMR 82i
As a Production Sound Mixer, I encourage you to slowly accumulate as many of these microphones (and more) as you progress throughout your career. They all have sonic characteristics that will work for some productions and interviews, but not all. Just always remember that selecting a microphone doesn’t come down to one.
A microphone will only sound as good as it does until you compare it to another microphone. So, when purchasing a shotgun microphone, always do comparison tests to make sure you get something that sounds good to you. This is when you begin to hear sonic differences, like tone qualities that sound better from one brand to the next. Sometimes the brightness of a microphone might sound unimpressionable at first until it is put under the right voice. Do your best to not just plug in a shotgun microphone, turn up a fader and then put down a credit card. Learn to make an educated decision based on what you will be using it for.