When it comes to shooting video, the three most common microphones to use are:
– Shotgun mic
– Lapel mic
– Handheld mic
Whilst there is no right or wrong way to capture audio, each mic has advantages for different applications.
This is probably the most bang for your buck type mic as it can be used in a large variety of situations and you will be able to get good audio. It also teaches you about how audio works when sounds are recorded at different distances. This is a directional mic which picks up sound in the direction it is pointed and it rejects much of the sounds happening from the sides and rear. A rule with audio is the closer you get to the subject the clearer your subject audio will be. It’s a good all around multipurpose mic because you can use it to capture the sounds of your environment, you can set it up on a mic stand close to a subject when shooting an interview and you could also use it as a hand held mic, although I don’t recommend it as this mic is sensitive to handling noise when you touch the mic and can be distracting.
Depending on the shoot, it can be common to use a boom pole to get the shotgun mic in close to the subject whilst keeping the mic out of shot, the mic usually sits in a shock mount to avoid handling noise occurring. Often when outdoors you will need a wind cover on the shotgun mic to protect it from wind that can ruin an audio recording. This accessory can be known as a “dead cat” or “fluffy” (featured in the picture above) and can come in a more heavy duty form of a blimp which acts as a shock mount/windshield combination (featured right). A shotgun mic is normally added to your camera to give you better quality audio over your inbuilt mic but you should not rely on it as your primary source for all applications if you have other options available depending on the shoot.
- Great for capturing the environment you are in
- Very versatile can work well as an environment mic, an interview mic and a hand held mic
- Very mobile on a boom pole
- Windshield accessories work extremely well and give you great reliable audio outdoors
This is an awesome mic for presenters, talent, interviews and any individual in front of the camera. The big benefits are that the mic is small and discrete and is easy to keep hidden if need be and it can attach to the subjects clothing which means the mic is very close to the source. So it looks good on camera and sounds great. If you are on a budget there are wired options available however if you are able to purchase a wireless lapel system it opens up fantastic possibilities and conveniences. A typical situation where a wireless system works well is at a wedding where you don’t want to have equipment in shot but need to hear the vows. If you have it on a presenter that frees up both their hands as they are not holding a mic and it looks much more natural and still sounds great.
There are two common pickup patterns on lapel mics which are omnidirectional (picks up sound all around) and cardioid (picks up mostly the direction it’s pointed and rejects noise to the side and rear). You have to be on the ball with a cardioid, it is very good at isolating the subject but it’s very easy for the subject to sound off mic and the audio inconsistent. If you are just starting out and in general I recommend an omnidirectional mic as it makes capturing audio much more consistent and reliable.
- Great for interviews and presenters
- Looks great on camera, small discrete and natural
- Wireless solution gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom (highly recommended investment)
- Reliable audio because it’s so close to the subject
My favorite aspect about a hand held mic is that it will allow you to hear people when crowds are talking, the music is loud or machinery is being operated. Imagine a basket ball on top of a hand held mic, all the audio happening inside the basketball is heard very clearly and the further outside the surface of the basketball you go the faster the audio clarity will drop off. Handheld mics are good at isolating the subject and it is easy to have the mic close to the subject. In the situation of a presenter going around an event doing vox pops with this mic it’s easy to do one on one interviews by moving the mic close to the general area of the subjects mouth, you don’t often get hand held mic handling noise and it is less directional than a shotgun mic so that is an advantage of using a hand held mic over a shot gun. There is the option to go wireless and I think this one really comes down to budget, what type of work you are doing and where, cables can slow you down and sometimes get messy but it still does the job just fine.
- Works great in noisy environments for vox pops and pieces to camera
- Fast to mic up people
- Easy to use, just get the mic close to the subject
- Minimal handling noise
There are some mics and hand held recorders that will record sounds left and right of the mic, whilst not used as often as the others listed above they can give you a great sense of the environment you are in. I have heard stereo mics used in documentary pieces and with headphones on it can give you a strong sense of being at the location of filming. I would recommend the other mono (one channel) mics for recording speech but this mic is a specialized mic for capturing the ambiance/environment that has the ability to add some nice production value to your video.
- Can give the viewer a real sense of being there by hearing different environment sounds on the left and right.
- Great ambient and environment mic
How clean you want your voice over recording to be is up to you and every mic mentioned could be used as a voice over/narration mic. The idea of this process is to isolate the subject as much as possible from any noise other than the voice and to get the best clarity. Pop filters are used to prevent wind from your breath hitting the mic with particular words pronounced, for example that start the letter “p”. You can find sound proof booths/rooms built primarily for voice over, there are also mobile solutions available that do a great job of deadening the recorded sound to give you good clarity. These mics and processes are best to be used in controlled environments to get best results.