Frances Bode
by on January 4, 2021

Shotgun microphones are the most commonly used mics in video production. Here’s How to use the shotgun mic in your project.

In the world of video production, shotgun microphones are generally considered the go-to standard for getting the best audio. And, as most of the producers have learned, audio quality can make or break any film or video project.

This is why Microphone Test is important especially when you are buying for professional use. And to use it properly. Whether you are shooting a professional video or an amateur video, a news report or an unclear, poor audio quality can reduce the value of any project - even if it is a visual showpiece.

To get good sound quality from your shotgun microphone, you need to first understand the basics of how it works.

What is shotgun mics?

Shotgun mics are narrow tubes and long with slits evenly spaced along each side and a capsule near the rear end. A shotgun microphone is also called interference tube microphones, these microphones are designed to allow sound from in front of the microphone to pass through the tube to the capsule.

At the same moment, sounds from the sides must enter through the slits. This creates a phase canceling effect that results in the rejection of those off-axis sounds.

In this way, these microphones can indicate the source of the sound while rejecting other noise. Some fans of shotguns refer to them as 'sniper mics', because when it comes to accuracy, there is no alternative.

The exact quality and design vary between shotgun mics. Good ones can reject nearly all sounds coming from one side while still picking up sounds from the front. These will give you a good signal-to-noise ratio.

Benefits of shotgun mics

Capturing high-quality audio offers multiple challenges when video shooting. One of the biggest benefits that shotgun mics have is their narrow pickup pattern. This is a huge step up from your camcorder’s built-in mic, which generally has the cheaper quality and a wider pickup pattern leading to more of the surrounding environment making it onto your recording.

Built-in microphones are generally not designed for quality audio. They can pick up a lot of background wind and noise, while shotgun mics give you clear voice pickup.

One of the biggest benefits that shotgun mics have is their narrow pickup pattern.

Another benefit of shotgun mics is that they have a high reach. This helps enough when you have to record at a distance. Because their pickup patterns are narrow and long, these mics can often help with separation and record the sound.

However, being told that keep in mind that shotgun microphones do not "zoom" the way camera lenses zoom on artists.

The most precious shotgun mics can only capture audio from a distance of six to ten feet, while the less costly ones only capture sound at a distance of three to four feet.

Shotgun mics v/s lavaliers mics

Shotgun mics and lavaliers mics (also known as lapel mics) can both capture quality audio when used properly. Both are great for interviews, dialogue, and vlogging. Lavalier mics generally stick to the case, so even omnidirectional types can provide a good signal-to-noise ratio due to their proximity to the sound source.

Although directional lovelies are available, shotguns typically provide a tight pickup pattern, and their form factor makes them quite versatile. When you compare them to Lavaliers, shotgun microphones may sound more natural, and you don't have to hide them on actors to keep them away from your shots.

Put your shotgun mic on for better sound.

As we have talked, shotgun mics focus closely on the case directly in front of them, and they decline sounds from the sides and the rear. This is why it is important to pass the microphone as close as possible to your case and place it directly on your sound source.

The best sound will come from positioning the shotgun microphone a few feet above your case. Booming from above the subject allows a more fresh and clear dialog to be heard. When booming from above, the microphone will be pointing downwards and the sound from around the room will be off-axis. This gives you more emphasis on the voice and less environmental sound.

Keep the mic as low as possible, so that you don't drown it in the frame.

Another positioning rule to follow is that, if you’re shooting inside, try to avoid aiming your shotgun mic at hard coverings. Think hardwood floors and brick walls. These surfaces reflect noise waves that cause the noise to be somewhat hollow and can reduce the effectiveness of the interference tube design. This indicates more noise will come through on your recording.

Get to know Mics before buying

There are different types of mics out there and you have to know which ones work fittest for your shoots. You may be doing a vlog and shooting an interview, or you may be a field reporter on location. For any situation, there are various mics to accommodate your shoot. Knowing your mics allow you to use them more effectively.

Since most shotgun microphones are designed to carry the human voice, the frequency range will only be a concern when shopping for a mic to fit a particular use case. Keep in mind that a longer shot-on mic is ​​better than reducing off-axis frequencies.

Perhaps more influential in your purchasing judgment will be the microphone’s pickup pattern. This determines how directional the microphone is. Omnidirectional microphones, for instance, taking noise from all directions. Cardioid mics capture sound from the front but don’t capture sound so well from the sides and discard sound at the rear.

There are different kinds of polar patterns for shotgun microphones.

Ultra-cardioids : The smallest pickup pattern possible, usually not good for use on boom poles because they are so directional that even the slightest movement closes the subject.

Hyper-cardioids : Like a super-cardioid but with a more narrow pickup pattern and an extensive rear pickup

Super-cardioid : A small pickup pattern where the microphone is sensitive right in front of the diaphragm and sounds off-axis are rejected.

Any choice in purchasing a mic for your shoot should be based on the pickup pattern - the direction the mic captures the most sound. This is not written in stone since shoots and project requirements change, but once you have a thorough understanding of pickup patterns, this should narrow down your choices.

Shotgun mic deficiencies

Although shotgun mics offer some great advantages, keep in mind that they can also present challenges for some shoots. They also usually require additional equipment. If you plan any movement during your shooting, you will need a boom pole and a special blow mount. And for outdoor shooting, expect to add a blimp or dead cat as mentioned earlier. Your shoots will need a worker who knows how to keep the shotgun mic out of your shots while but positioning the mic to get the best noise.

Shotguns are also particularly prone to wind noise. This is due to their open-back capsule design. Professionals suggest what is known as a sound blur or "dead cat" windshield. These are designed to reduce wind noise when recording in high wind conditions. Some people suggest using these noise suppression devices, even if you are shooting indoors.

Additionally, shotgun mics are not a good option for small rooms, especially those with a lot of hard surfaces. They are ideal for outdoor and large spaces with balanced acoustics.

Final thoughts

If you are honestly considering buying a shotgun microphone, consider all your options first. Your purchase should be based on the camera equipment you are using and the project you plan on shooting. For some shoots, a lavalier or directional condenser mic may be a better option. However, if you want a versatile mic that can be used in certain situations, a shotgun microphone is a better investment.

Additionally, shotgun mics are not a good option for small rooms, especially those with a lot of hard surfaces. They are ideal for outdoor and large spaces with balanced acoustics.

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