3 Type of Microphones for Video Work

No matter how good your video work is, if you do not have solid audio to accompany it, it will not be a successful final product. One of the most important steps for capturing good audio is knowing which type of microphone to use. This excellent video will show you three different types of microphones for use in video work.

Coming to you from Josh Olufemii, this helpful video will show you three different types of microphones for video work. One thing to really pay attention to is the polar response pattern of a microphone (which you will see in the circular graphs in the video). These tell you how responsive a microphone is in every direction around it, which is one of the most crucial properties you should consider when choosing the right type for your work. For example, if you are shooting in a crowded environment with a lot of sound sources competing with each other around the room and want to just pick up a specific conversation, you will want to avoid something like an omnidirectional microphone, which has an even response in all directions and will capture a lot of unwanted sound. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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Lee Christiansen's picture

So much bo****ks in one video I'm not sure quite where to start...

Alex we love you, but you've really got to research your input before posting content. So here's my penny's worth as an ex BBC sound recordist.

Lets deal with stuff as it comes...

1) Amount of directionality is not always dependant on mic length. Some of the excellent Schoeps are very short indeed. I'll direct you (no pun intended) to the C41 which is a supercardioid mic at less than an inch long. Maybe our friend is getting confused with things like interference tube mics which are also directional or other types of gun mic, but hey - let's do the research before spouting limited knowledge.

2) A condenser mic is a design which relies on using a diaphragm with very low mass - which means it can reproduce high and very subtle frequencies. But alas because of their design, these mics require power because they produce almost no amperage. Usually this may be 48volts, but their are also 12volt designs or the older "T" powered type (if memory serves). Some can be powered by batteries and some take phantom power. But the thing about condensers is that this is a description of the construction / diaphragm system, and not the pickup pattern. So NO, condenser mics are not all cardioid. They can be pretty much any pickup pattern. Indeed, many quality directional (shotgun) mics are also condensers, as are many stage mics which may be cardioid or omni - which makes them great for law mics, (also often referred to as electret.

I'll jump in and say that dynamic / condenser / ribbon / electret type mics are completely independent of whether they are cardioid, hypercardioid, directional, figure-of-8 or PZM. One set are designs, and the other set are pickup patterns.

Cardioid mics can often have a "presence boost" at close distances, which gives them a bass increase when used close, but this never makes them muddy due to the frequency of the boost. Of course if you're using a "ported" design of cardioid mic, then this bass increase is almost no existent. There isn't so much as a sweet spot as a point where some mics exhibit more bass. Change in sound due to distance is more likely to be due to the nature of the sound itself.

But remember, condenser does not = cardioid and all that stuff is very misleading.

3) Not all lav mics are omnidirectional. For example the excellent Shure WL185 has a cardioid response which makes it more suitable for stage work, but others like the lovely Tram TR50 or Sanken COS11 (my two personal favourites) are omnidirectional, (with the advantage with the Tram that it can be used like a PZM). Whereas a law mic may be omni, its ability to be close can often offer less ambient sound than a gun mic, (particularly when you understand that unfortunate rear-pickup aspect of most directional designs). So In a reflective room for example, I would often choose a law rather than a directional gun / shotgun type. (Inverse square law applies to sound as well as light and is our friend here). And a quality law mic used properly can exhibit almost no rustling sounds with movement because their cables reject noise and their are pro ways of reducing fabric noise transmission. I've done hidden-mic under shirts etc all day with never a hint of extraneous noise - there are a few easy tricks... :)

Shame there was no mention of:
Ribbon Mics. They can have a wonderful sound that no other can reproduce.
Dynamics which are surely the mainstay of live music.
Or PZMs, which can be very useful in lots of circumstances.

So two pieces of advice...

1) Never trust a video about sound when the sound editing is this bad. (And although it seems to be the style these days, can we please have more than one sentence per edit... :)

2) Always question the professional experience of the guy giving the advice. Someone who has read a couple of manuals and isn't a working professional recordist / engineer requires at least a second opinion - just to check they're right...

Definitely don't take my word for it. I might just be a well meaning hack...

...Although I did run a successful 24-track studio with a recording capability for 80 piece orchestras, (they were always fun), back in the days when 24-track was impressive, desks were wider than we could reach and FX was physical, heavy and had valves and lovely things in them... And then I did do location sound for people like BBC and ITV and other British broadcasters, before teaching some of this stuff and somewhere I wrote and produced possibly the worst football 7" single in the world... And there were all those live venues and a tour here and there... (Sheesh all that before I got into the visual stuff - I've had some fun in my life, but I'm old enough to have done a few things... ha)

These people know more than I do, and it doesn't get much better than Neumann.
There are 8 parts, and here's the first:



Dan Jefferies's picture

Ok. I have a bird flying around fishing 20 meters in front of me. I want to record the bird AND my commentary on the camera, no external recorder. What's my mic set-up? (I have none I'm asking).

Lee Christiansen's picture

Personally I would use a clip (law) mic on myself and maybe have a recordist with a long boom and something like a Sennheiser MKH-70 (assuming you weren't frightening off the bird). If it was in a known spot the a radio clip mic would be great hidden from view - but you've a scenario in the water... A long shotgun like the MKH-70 has excellent rejection so you'd get some results with it by your side too.

But a bird at 20 meters is a tough call, and some may look to a parabolic mic setup, but these don't have the fidelity or frequency response due to the size of dish. It is one of the reasons so many wildlife documentaries dub sound on in post.

Or you could strap a radio mic on the bird whilst it is sleeping... ha.

Dan Jefferies's picture

Good call. I've got plenty of time to play around with this. Combining both sound streams might not work at all but I've got a dual lavaliere mic setup and a shotgun and a small dish. I'll probably just end up recording the bird then narrating later but I love a stream of consciousness delivery. My goal is a camera rig mainly for stills but with the ability to quickly video with what is in my hand. We'll see and thanks my friend.

Lee Christiansen's picture

You may end up finding that recording your hand splashing in a bowl of water for the bird fishing, together with a few natural FX of the outdoors gives a good result. The foley artists who work on these things create amazing sound effects that are highly realistic, (or at least sound what we think they sound like).

I once did a studio recording where we had about 16 tracks of audio to sound like people were digging a whole or two but it was all me banging copper pans and rolling types over gravel on a sheet.

The most fun sound effect we had to create in the studio was the sound of a yak falling from the sky and hitting the ground. In the absence of a yak, we decided an upturned drum stool seat dropped onto carpet had just the right sound.

I once heard that only 25% of the sound in the first Star Wars was actually original on-set recordings. It can be amazing how much dialogue and background or incidental sound is added in the final mix.

(I did a wedding video 30 years ago and the subtle sound of the couple kissing is actually the sound of me kissing the back of my hand. I never told them... :) )

Dan Jefferies's picture

lol at the "kissing". i did a lot of work for Spanish TV. Almost all of the dialogue was recorded in the studio after we shot the scene. The sound guy, Flacco (still at Telemundo I believe), could tell if his pole guy wore his wedding ring just from the sound. He would order the ring removed, of course.

Andrew Eaton's picture

Thanks Lee for saving me a lot of typing... :-)

Charles Mercier's picture

Have you done your own video? I'm sure there's many people who would love it.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I'd never be so bold to think people would be interested in me enough to watch a video. But I'll pop a humble opinion in here and there if it helps. :)

Maybe one day when I'm brave... ha.

Charles Mercier's picture

Sure, you've got something interesting to say.

Brian Bloom's picture

And, unless I'm mistaken, he introduces the "condenser" mic segment by speaking into a Shure SM7B, which is a dynamic, not condenser, mic. Which immediately makes me question his expertise about mic technologies...
Edit: I posted that before I got to the point when he gave us a closeup of it, where it's clear it's actually the new MV-7 instead, which is *still* a dynamic mic.

Gerald Bertram's picture

I try to not post negative stuff since comment sections for video/photography sites tend to be super toxic but couldn't help myself on this one. Guy starts talking about condenser mics and demonstrating how they sound however he is doing this with Sure MV7 DYNAMIC mic. According to him a lav mic is omni-directional. No, they CAN be omni but can also be directional like cardioid or hypercardioid and it important to take into considering when choose the right type of lav mic for a particular situation.