Recording Audio Without Using a Lav or Boom, Comparing on Camera Mics

One of my goals for this year is to start working on videos again. A few of the projects I have in mind require a microphone to help capture better audio, since we know the built-in mics are not really that great. Jay P. Morgan's latest video from The Slanted Lens hits the web and couldn’t come at a better time for me.

For those scenarios where you cannot use a lavalier or a boom while recording, your best bet would be to use a good mic that you can mount on the camera. In my case, I do not own either yet so I was beginning my research on what to pick up. In this video, Jay compares the Sound Shark Parabolic Mic with the popular Rode Mic to see how it stacks up for indoor and outdoor situations.

Before the comparison section of the video, Jay mentions the fact that the Sound Shark has two hot shoe mounts on the side to solve the problem of not being able to use a mic and a video light on top of the camera. It is a nice feature to have it built in, but a simple solution for those not using the Sound Shark and still wanting both the video and mic, you can use a dual or triple hot shoe mounting bracket.

The indoor comparisons stacks up the on-camera mic versus the Sound Shark and the Rode Pro Shotgun. There’s a few different recordings held at different distances away from the subject so we can hear for ourselves. Jay is pretty happy with the performance of the Sound Shark and how it compares to the competition. I think the Sound Shark does do a great job, but I do prefer the audio out of the Rode mics. Next up is the outdoor comparisons, this time the Sound Shark is put up against the Rode Pro Shotgun and Rode NTG1 Shotgun to see how they fair with ambient noises. In this comparison, the Sound Shark is the clear winner for me. The Sound Shark seems to be more focused while muffling more of the background noises.

For outdoor interviews where you cannot use a lavalier or a boom, you might want to check out the Sound Shark for those scenarios as it seems to be a great solution. You can read more about it from Jay here. Is there another mic you found that work well? Let us know in the comments below.

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13 Comments

On-camera mic'ing is "easy" ... but it's never "good".
The best you could ever do with an on-camera mic is "acceptable".

Just wondering what scenario would permit you to use an on camera mic, but wouldn't allow you to use either a boom or a lav?
I'm not sure why an outdoor interview would preclude using a lav?

Single operator run and gun still let's you use a lav, and you can always stick a boom in a C-Stand if the talent is stationary.

Obviously on-camera mic'ing is common enough that every major mic manufacturer makes a mic to slip into a flash shoe ... but the huge hit you'll take in sound quality never (IMO) makes on-camera mic'ing a recording method of choice.

Paul Terpstra's picture

To be upfront, I manufacture the Sound Shark so I can't deny my bias. However, when listening to the indoor clips you must keep in mind that they were made in an extremely quiet theater with very little echo. There were no people talking or walking around making noise. That's not a very common recording situation.

Parabolic microphones are typically more directional than shotgun mics. This means that they will pickup less ambient noise from the side or rear than a shotgun. They also provide mechanical amplification that a shot gun does not. The indoor shotgun clips were amplified in post processing in order to match the volume of the speaker in the different clips. (I verified this with Jay P.) If there had been more ambient noise in the room, the ambient noise would have been amplified as well and been much more noticeable.

If you are interested in long-range microphones, consider going to SoundSharkAudio.com and clicking "Hear The Difference". You will be taken to a series of sample clips where you can hear the Sound Shark in different situations.

Thanks for the article and letting me comment.

How does Sound Shark deal with the issues of extremely poor bass response of a parabolic microphone inherent in the very parabolic design itself?

Generally considered "OK" for nature type recording, and sports sideline audio pick-up ... professional audio engineers don't use parabolic microphones due to their abysmal pick-up of audio below one kilohertz.

This poor bass response of every parabolic microphone is directed by the Rayleigh Criterion, which, as a mathematical equation is not something that can be "overcome" by design.

I appreciate it whenever an audio company brings something new to the table in the field of audio for video ... but there is an obvious lack of specifics as to how any parabolic microphone can overcome poor sound quality issues inherent in the very design of the parabola itself?

Paul Terpstra's picture

I'm not a physicist but it is my belief that the wave length limitation to low frequency response applies to electromagnet waves and not pressure waves. This is based primarily on my personal experience with parabolic microphones. I have recorded frequencies below 50 Hz with a Sound Shark (8-inch diameter parabolic reflector) while theoretical frequency limit should be over 1600 Hz.

I can't explain it, I can only tell you what I, and our customers, have experienced.

I would encourage you to listen the to the sample clips on the Sound Shark Audio website.

Certainly nothing precludes a 50Hz audio signal entering your microphone DIRECTLY - but that has nothing to do with the parabola, and is effectively no different than an on-camera mic in a hot shoe at that point.

The home stereo world is full of "voodoo audio" that apparently defies mathematics and can't be explained, but the Rayleigh Criterion CAN be explained, and indeed defines the lowest frequency that any parabolic microphone can capture via the parabola.

Which is not to say your microphone wouldn't be excellent for those uses parabolic microphones were designed for, but when making extraordinary engineering claims online, one must be able to back those claims up with the specific engineering details as to how they're accomplishing what it is they claim they're accomplishing.

Paul Terpstra's picture

Roger, I am not making engineering claims. I am stating what I, and our customers, have experienced. I am stating my belief that the Rayleigh Criterion is improperly applied to parabolic microphones as the Rayleigh Criterion pertains to frequencies and wavelengths. The wavelength for an audio signal is entirely different than the wavelength of an electromagnetic signal such as light.

You seem to be saying that the parabolic is not amplifying the audio you hear in the videos -that the microphone itself was capturing the audio. I would love to find a lavalier microphone that could pick up the speaker in Jay P's video from 50 feet away. If you know of one, please let know. I think all videographers would love to know about it.

(All references to Rayleigh Criterion that I can find are based on electromagnetic waves. If you have an article that applies the Rayleigh Criterion directly to audio energy I would love to see it.)

I thought I would just drop into this conversation and simply give a photographers view in my real world scenarios. I own 2 of the Sharks and I mostly use them in the field at elementary schools and weddings. Just imagine 600 kids in a gym or playground screaming and me trying to interview a kid that mumbles! Yes, that is my hell. LOL

I've used several of the Rode Mics and at least with those two systems head to head, I truly prefer the Shark, hands down. If you are in a situation where you need to keep the audio in front of you crystal clear and need to have all that surrounding noise cut down significantly for an interview, ceremony speech, etc., this Shark Mic is the one you desire.

Now I'll let the two scientists go back and forth on why X will work and Y won't. :)

Anybody that thinks that a low frequency sound wave with a peak to valley of around 50 feet will reflect into a microphone from an 8" parabolic dish needs to give their head a shake.
This isn't a subjective observation, it's basic mathmatics.

And Paul, you ARE making engineering claims, but you're making them without any engineering data to back them up.
You're a manufacturer saying "trust me".
But I don't trust manufacturers who can't back up their claims with hard engineering data in support of what they're saying.
Anecdotal tales from anonymous forum posters describing microphones performing far beyond their engineering specifications are useless to a professional production audio engineer.

As for your apparent misunderstanding of the Rayleigh Criterion, best start with the most basic Wikipedia explanation of all:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parabolic_microphone

BTW, Rode microphones hardly represent the best in shotguns, indeed they're on the low end of the shotgun microphone spectrum.
Undertake the same test with a Schoeps, Neumann or Sennheiser and your experience will be completely different.

Parabolic microphones don't pick up coherent audio below one kilohertz, they never have - and they never will.
The math simply doesn't allow it.

Paul Terpstra's picture

I'm afraid you are mixing longitudinal waves with transverse waves. Longitudinal waves, including sound waves, do not have peaks and valleys like transverse (electromagnetic) waves do. These two websites explain it very well. http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/sound/u11l1c.html
https://www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/education/mos_now...

I have seen the Wikipedia article before. Unfortunately it is incorrect as are other sources that make the same statement based on the wrong type of wave. I will agree that parabolic microphones have a high frequency bias but there are other explanations and it is rather easy to correct. The audio does not become incoherent or unusable.

There are many examples of coherent audio below 1 kHz on our websites. We did not somehow fabricate these videos.

I know you don't trust me so please, please take a moment to watch this video that was created by a professional audio engineer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4WQK04rWJk

He's not a close friend or even a customer. He just asked for our help trying to get around a difficult audio situation and we offered some demo equipment and spent a few hours with him trying different setups.

BTW - I don't consider Rode a "professional" shotgun mic but it is what Jay P's followers would be familiar with. I have done comparisons against the Sennheiser ME67 shotgun, which is a professional mic. There are videos on the Sound Shark website including a customer doing the same comparison for himself.

Mmmmm, sound waves most definitely have dimension Paul ... but let's not continue trying to convince one another that one is right, and the other is wrong.

I don't trust voodoo science Paul, I'm sure I'd trust you personally if I knew you. That doesn't mean we'd agree on everything, but that has nothing to do with trust.
Indeed, I believe that YOU believe the mic works for you personally ... and that's fine.

Regardless, I would disagree with your video link as a vote of confidence for the mic for vocal pick-up, in that picking up audio at an airshow has nothing to do with human voice as it relates to production audio. It highlights a strength of the parabolic mic as seen in its frequent use on nature recordings - and sports sideline audio pick-up.

We'll likely have to agree to disagree on the subject of parabolic mics Paul.

Paul Terpstra's picture

Roger

You are right, that video didn't have vocals. You said a parabolic could not capture audio below 1 kHz and I thought that video would convince you otherwise.

These videos show examples of vocals recorded with the Sound Shark.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc77CTQah4A

https://vimeo.com/133615527

As the guy who did the airshow recordings, you can pick up low frequencies with a parabolic just fine. You need the right mics though, just like anything else.

I used the large dish for the max directionality and isolation. using the lav from sound shark with a LF boost, plus an old ECM 55 which has great LF I did a psuedo MS recording. simply putting the ECM 55 a couple inches off center gave me a nice wide effect. Yes sure its not the technically correct way of recording MS : using a cardioid and figure 8, but the nice thing about MS is that there are all sorts of cheats you can do to still get a stereo image using alternative mics and placements that work just fine.... if you know what your doing and there is thought to your method.

The Rode shotgun is basically a 416 knockoff. The problem is the 416 is its an overly bright mic designed for tape recording with mediocre preamps where HF loss happens, not digital recording with decent preamps. I would not consider it a great mic by any means, but a serviceable one thats better than the cheaper ones. Of course most folks have the LF cut on with those mics which limits their LF pick up considerably.

one of the things I did was I had the low cuts all OFF on the 664 recorder. if you have any low cut on you'll kill your LF....

if you listen to the airshow shots on speakers with any sort of LF, you'll hear plenty of LF... if you are judging on laptop speakers you are missing a lot of the sound.

Paul Terpstra's picture

Roger

I would love to have you stop by our booth at NAB (booth C6841) for a live demonstration so you can hear our parabolics for yourself.

You can use the code LV2236 to get a free pass.
https://registration.experientevent.com/showNAB171/?Tracking=WB01&_ga=1....