Tip #520: Tips for Using Shotgun Mics

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #520: Tips for Using Shotgun Mics

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Think of shotgun mics as “lenses for sound.”

This is the symbol of a low-cut filter.

Topic $TipTopic

These tips are taken from this Audio-Technica video. Link. There’s no “perfect” mic, but shotgun mics are ideally suited for video production. Here are some tips on how to use them.

  • The length of a shotgun mic is analogous to a lens: short shotguns are wide angle, long shotguns are for closeups.
  • Short dynamic shotguns sound best when placed 2-3 feet from the mouth of the speaker.
  • Placing the mic above or below the speaker’s mouth does not alter the sound, but pointing the mic down tends to minimize room noise.
  • Always use a foam windscreen indoors to guard against wind noise. Outdoors, invest in a soft, furry blimp to minimize wind noise.
  • If your mic has a low-frequency cut-off switch, use it. (The screen shot illustrates the low-frequency roll-off switch.) This minimizes traffic rumble, wind noise and some handling vibration by removing frequencies below human speech. A low-cut filter also improves the clarity of dialog.
  • Condenser shotguns tend to sound better with richer sound than dynamic shotguns. Condenser shotguns will also pickup good sound up to 6 feet away from the talent.
  • Long shotguns are the best choice for exterior shots. They can pick up clean sound up to nine feet away from the talent, but they are extremely directional and can only be pointed while wearing headsets.
  • While long shotguns are good outside, inside they tend to pickup excess reverberation.
  • With any shotgun indoors, noise from the side is generally less of a problem than echo. For this reason, short condenser shotguns tend to be preferred because their design minimizes echo.
  • Regardless of length, any shotgun will sound better as it gets closer to the talent, up to a limit of about 2-3 feet.

In short, there’s no one perfect mic. Understanding how shotguns work can help assure you record the best sound possible.

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4 replies
  1. Philip Snyder
    Philip Snyder says:

    Hi Larry,

    After using my Sennheiser mic for 12 years and being quite pleased overall with the audio, I used it on Sunday for the first time with the low-frequency cut-off switch on. I was amazed at how crisp and bright the sound was compared with what it had been previously. What an improvement! And it was good before that.
    Thank God for “Inside Tips”!

  2. Philip Snyder
    Philip Snyder says:

    Hi Larry,

    My mic switch has a flat line position and the bent one pictured above. Is the bent position the
    “on” position?



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