In this blog post I will cover the different types of microphones, what the differences are, and how best to utilise them. 

First off, there are two main groups that define a microphone. Dynamic and Condenser. 

Dynamic

–        Good for radio and podcasting as it created a focus on low end frequencies creating a pleasing warm rich bassiness to vocals. It is also good at not picking up background noise. It doesn’t make the most accurate sounds, but it sounds lovely.

–        Very sturdy so it is good for live performances.

–        Requires a pre-amp to boost signal and gain, as it would be very quiet otherwise.

–        Good for capturing loud noises and strong vocals.

Condenser

–        Good for capturing more natural sound, and is more sensitive so it is easier to record quieter noise and higher frequencies. Basically it captures more detail and accuracy.

–        Generally a lot more delicate than dynamic mics so not great for stage use etc.

–        Needs to be powered by phantom power or battery source, as a result it is much louder off the bat, and doesn’t require much gain from a pre amp.

–        Ideally used in a controlled environment such as a studio or on set due to it being more fragile and its ability to pick up more detailed and natural sound.

Types of mic patterns

The microphone pickup pattern is dictated by the position of the magnets inside. The pickup pattern refers to the area in which the microphone picks up sound, and will therefore dictate what situations to use them in.

Omnidirectional – Pics up sound in all directions. It’s good for recording scenarios where you have little control and where the subject is moving their head such as interviews, which is why lavalier mics tend to have this pattern. They are very flexible and easy to use, but can easily pick up noises which you might not want.

Cardioid – This mic pics up sound is a wide cone in front of it. Its wide range makes it very flexible, but unlike the omnidirectional you have some control over what gets picked up. It generally has around a 180 degree width in the shape of an upside down heart.

Super/Hyper Cardioid – To be honest, I don’t know which way round these two go; And everywhere I have looked seems to have a different answer. Either way, these refer to a 2 step narrowing of the pickup pattern, with one being more focused than a standard cardioid, and the other being even more focused that that. 

Lobar/Shotgun – This is the narrowest and most focused mic pattern you can get. It is generally used in controlled environments such as professional shoots for films as it is very good at isolating sound and getting clean audio of a subject. They are also the hardest to use due to its narrow pattern, as if the operator does not aim the microphone correctly then you will not pick up the desired audio.

Tips

  • Always do a sound check before you have to record something. Do it in the same environment as you’re recording in so that you can guarantee all the settings are correct.
  • When putting a Lav mic on an interview subject, make sure that there’s nothing it can rub against as it will sound terrible and overwhelm audio from the subject. Also make sure that any cables are neatly hidden and can’t get caught on anything.
  • Place Lav mic’s around 8” below the chin, and make sure it lies in the centre.
  • Always record some ambient audio in the location you are filming, this is very handy for when you’re editing. A complete lack of audio in an edit, for example gaps between audio on your timeline, are extremely jarring. You can cover these gaps with ambient noise.
  • Inform your interview subject to do their best not to move about much. It’s hard to record a moving subject, and sounds created while moving can be picked up on the audio. This means never put someone on a rotating office chair. It will also mess up your camera frame. Obviously this is for an ideal scenario where you have time and control over the environment and subject, this is often not the case.

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