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Get The Right Shotgun Mic For The Job

When filming digital video, DSLR and action cameras can deliver high quality images and advanced visual capabilities. Great images need great sound, and capturing audio to match your visuals needs the right equipment. When you need more than the on-board microphones to capture clear dialogue, it is time to expand your equipment to include a shotgun mic.

Why should you buy an external microphone?

Getting the sound recording right can make a lot of difference to a film production. Many shotgun mics can be mounted on top of the camera, but they can also be attached by cable. By moving the microphone away from the camera and nearer to the subject, you will capture better sound and improve the quality of your film. Shotgun mics therefore provide greater control of your audio recording than the internal mics in most cameras.

What should you look for when buying a shotgun mic?

Shotgun mics are usually mounted on the camera or attached to a boom pole. Some features to consider when buying a shotgun mic include:

  • Condenser elements are fragile and need careful handling but generally they produce high-quality sound.
  • Dynamic elements are more robust, work well in varying climates, and are able to pick up a variety of sounds.
  • Pressure Zone Mics or PZMs work in a different way. A small element is placed near the surface of the mic. These are recommended for picking up quality sound without ambient noise.
  • Balanced output means that, inside the mic cable, there are three wires, negative, positive and grounded. At the end of the cable there are transformers that convert them to a normal signal. This allows for longer cable runs without interference.
  • Unbalanced cable has an audio signal and a grounded wire and is more at risk to interference noise. For cables of around three metres or less it is usually adequate.
  • The pick up pattern is vital as it determines which direction the mic picks up sound. An omni-directional mic will pick up sounds from all directions, but a directional mic will only absorb from one. A shotgun mic is the most directional kind of microphone, with the tightest pick up pattern available.
  • A mic with a cardioid pattern hears best what is happening in front of them, while rejecting what goes on behind.
  • Both super-cardioid and hyper-cardioid mics have very sensitive rear lobes, making them highly directional.
  • The range which the mic can capture, between two figures, is referred to as a frequency response.
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