The 10 Best Shotgun Microphones
This wiki has been updated 10 times since it was first published in October of 2018. Whether you're making narrative films or documentaries, or you find yourself in a recording studio tracking voice-overs or certain musical instruments, a good shotgun microphone will prove to be an essential piece of equipment. It utilizes a long cylindrical tube in front of its capsule to dramatically cut down on noise coming from anywhere but the exact direction in which you point it. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best shotgun microphone on Amazon.
October 29, 2018:
German company Schoeps proved more adept at creating realistic sound environments than companies many might expect to outgun it. There's something warmer and more natural about it, almost like the difference between shooting movies on film rather than digitally. Of course, customers who prefer the sharpness and low-light performance of digital video might also want a mic with a colder pickup that's more manipulable in post, like a Rode or Sennheiser, for example.
What Can A Shotgun Mic Do For You?
That leaves more work for audio editors in post, which means more money and time spent, and possibly a lower quality moment for your movie.
The most common place you’re liable to see a shotgun mic in use is on a film set. They have plenty of uses elsewhere, as well, from podcasting to field recording, but the movie set is where they really shine. That’s because sound is easily the most important aspect of film production, especially as film editing continues to push toward shorter and shorter cuts.
Imagine you’ve shot a scene of a hero in an action film hanging off the side of an oil tanker flying down the highway. The hero drops his gun, and the editors cut a shot of the gun falling to the blacktop that might last a mere half a second. The wind at those speeds makes it so that the entire sequence is shot MOS, or without sound recording on the day. That leaves it up to a foley artist to set up a trusty shotgun mic and point it at a slab of concrete, dropping different metals on it until one sounds like a gun hitting the highway. When you sync that sound up with the picture, your audience makes the connection much more reliably, and fewer viewers will wonder what happened to the hero’s gun, even if they happened to blink when he dropped it.
Without a shotgun mic, that foley sound of the gun dropping would suffer from too much environmental noise to be useful. That leaves more work for audio editors in post, which means more money and time spent, and possibly a lower quality moment for your movie. That’s because a shotgun mic is extraordinarily directional. It suppresses its sensitivity to anything accept for the people or objects at which it’s directly pointed. This is particularly useful when recording dialogue, as any ambient sound in a conversation will quickly become a nightmare for a sound editor, and things like traffic noise, wind, and hums are going to immediately cheapen your film in the eyes (and ears) of audiences.
What To Look For In A Shotgun Mic
When shopping for a shotgun mic, the first thing that’s going to constrain most consumers is their budget. These products differ wildly in price, from less than $100 all the way into the tens of thousands. The trick is to identify what range you fall into, after which judging between mics is actually quite the same regardless of that specific range.
These can be a bit difficult to use outside of highly controlled environments like sound stages, however.
For example, if you can only afford an inexpensive shotgun that’s designed to live in the hot shoe of your DSLR, there are a few simple things to consider. Generally speaking, the longer these mics get, the better job they do suppressing unintended sounds and the farther their directional reach. For a camera-mounted option, you’re going to want the longest mic you can afford that won’t creep into your shots if you’re using a wide angle lens. This way, even if you have to set your camera up a distance from your talent, you can still get a decent amount of isolation in their dialogue.
If that mic also comes with things like onboard controls or internal battery power, you’re going to be able to manipulate its sensitivity in a greater range without having to rely on phantom power from your camera. And all of these features — length and ambient sound suppression, as well as battery power and built-in controls — are much the same things you’d look for when evaluating more expensive models.
There is another thing to consider when you get into the more expensive models, however, and that’s the particular type of production you’re a part of, and what its needs are. If you know there are going to be a lot of two-shots and back and forth between multiple characters in a single frame, it might be a good idea to go with a slightly shorter mic that has a more narrow frequency range, but that intentionally doesn’t offer quite as much suppression at the sides. That way, you can let it hover between two characters in conversation without necessarily pointing it at either one, and still get a professional quality sound. These can be a bit difficult to use outside of highly controlled environments like sound stages, however.
Pro Tips For New Sound Recorders
There’s a reasonable chance that if you’re looking into the mics on our list you’ve decided to make an effort to become a professional sound recorder, or that you’re a one-man-band type of filmmaker or live streamer. Whatever your particular needs, there are some tried and true practices and even a few purchases you can use to ensure you get the best audio quality for your production.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do when mixing sound live is to make sure your signal level is significantly higher than the ambient room level without clipping.
One important thing to keep in mind is the angle and direction of your shotgun mic. Remember that these are incredibly directional mics with narrow pickup patterns. If you’ve got your mic above an actor, but it’s pointed at the top of their head, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the nuances of their speech. It’s best to position your mic above them and aim it at the top of their chest. This will cause it to pick up on the vibrations in the air that emanate just past their lips, negating any plosive sounds but capturing just about everything else.
If you’re going to be recording outside, the wind is going to be your enemy. Fortunately, there are a number of tools to handle this, some of which will work on just about any mic, while others are going to be brand-specific in order to fit properly. These include foams, socks, and dead cats, as well as blimps for use in particularly high winds.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do when mixing sound live is to make sure your signal level is significantly higher than the ambient room level without clipping. Ideally, the room would barely register on your recorder, and your talent’s voices would land between -12 and -6 dB, with 0 being the point at which they’d start to clip. This disparity will help audio editors use tools like gates and filters to remove all but the sound of the actors’ voices from the track.
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