Audio is hugely important when it comes to filmmaking. When looking to buy the best microphones for filmmaking there are many factors to consider. You need to consider the style of the microphone as well as their technical specs to fit.
Make sure you consider your primary type of filmmaking before you buy. You want your microphone to suit your style and the purpose of your filmmaking.
Are you filming action? Filming a documentary? Filming interviews. Make sure you base the decision on this as well as cost, quality and features.
Here we break down the 5 different types of microphones for filmmaking and the key technical specs you need to look into before buying your next one.
Why do you need a separate microphone?
There are several reasons why a separate microphone is often necessary for filmmaking.
One reason is that the built-in microphones on cameras are often not of high quality and may not capture audio with the same level of clarity and detail as a separate microphone. Built-in microphones are typically small and not designed for high-quality audio capture, and may not be able to pick up sound from a distance or in noisy environments. This can lead to distorted or incomplete audio that is not suitable for use in a film.
A separate microphone allows for greater control over the audio capture process, as it can be positioned and aimed in the direction of the desired sound source. This is especially important for capturing dialogue, as the microphone can be placed closer to the actors to pick up their voices more clearly. A separate microphone can also be used to pick up ambient sounds or specific sound effects, such as the sound of footsteps or the rustling of leaves.
Using a separate microphone also allows for the use of different polar patterns and frequency responses to better suit the needs of the production. For example, a cardioid microphone may be used to capture a single voice or instrument, while an omnidirectional microphone may be used to capture ambient sounds.
Using a separate microphone for filmmaking allows for greater control over the audio capture process and allows for the use of high-quality microphones that are specifically designed for capturing audio. This can result in more clear and detailed audio that is suitable for use in a film.
The types of microphones for filmmaking
1: Wireless Microphones
A wireless microphone is also known as a radio microphone. These are a little more on the expensive side but are essential pieces of equipment whilst filming scenes. They are wireless microphones usually attached to the subject – ideal for action shots, or anything that’s quite tricky. You’ll also find they are used a lot for interviews.
Best Wireless Microphone for Filmmaking:
2: Directional Microphones
The directional microphone picks up sound depending on the direction it’s pointed in – therefore cutting out any other sound coming from opposite directions.
These are ideal for cutting out any background noise leaving a lot less work in post-production to eliminate the noise. The directional microphones use a 3-pin XLR connection, which keeps the noise down when you are using long cables.
Best Directional Microphone for Filmmaking:
3: Lavalier Microphones
A lavalier microphone is a small mic that usually sits on the collar or just underneath the subject’s clothing. These are mainly used on tv for interviews or talk shows.
However, you can use these in one on one scenes, for example, if your character visits their counsellor – just make sure it’s covered correctly for continuity. They pick up high-quality audio, so it can be a consideration. Your best use of it is for interviews and documentaries.
Best Lavalier Microphone for Filmmaking:
4: Shotgun Mic
The best in our opinion for indie filmmakers. They produce a far better quality sound than the built-in microphones on your camera and are extremely compact. They produce great sound but are also built to last.
You can also get larger shotgun microphones that can be attached to a boom pole but will set you back a lot more money. The biggest advantage of the shotgun mics is their versatility and endurance.
Best Shotgun Microphone for Filmmaking:
5: Audio Recorders
Audio recorders are small devices that can sit within the centre of the scene. These are like dictaphones and can be a cheaper version but produce high-quality audio recordings. These are usually used for composing music or interviews – these sync really well to your editing platform so are a viable source of audio.
Best Audio Recorder for Filmmaking:
The must-know technical specs
Polar patterns are also known as pick up patterns. These are the areas that are sensitive to picking up sound and audio. Here’s a great overview video on microphone polar patterns.
When it comes to filmmaking, the most common polar patterns are:
Omnidirectional (A round sound pattern)
Omnidirectional microphones have a polar pattern that picks up sound equally from all directions. This makes them useful for capturing sound from a wide area, such as a conference or a live music performance. They are also useful for recording ambient sounds, since they can capture the sound of the entire room or environment. However, they may not be ideal for recording a single voice or instrument, since they can also pick up unwanted sounds from other sources.
Cardioid microphones have a polar pattern that is shaped like a heart, with a directional pickup pattern that is most sensitive to sounds coming from directly in front of the microphone. These microphones are often used for recording or amplifying a single voice or instrument, since they are able to reject sounds coming from other directions. They are also useful for isolating a specific sound source in a noisy environment.
Hypercardioid microphones have a more directional pickup pattern than cardioid microphones, with even greater sensitivity to sounds coming from directly in front of the microphone. They are even more effective at rejecting sounds coming from other directions, making them useful for isolating a specific sound source in a noisy environment. However, they may not be as versatile as cardioid microphones, since they are less able to capture sounds coming from other directions.
Supercardioid microphones have an even more directional pickup pattern than hypercardioid microphones, with increased sensitivity to sounds coming from directly in front of the microphone and even greater rejection of sounds coming from other directions. They are useful for isolating a specific sound source in a noisy environment, but may not be as versatile as cardioid or hypercardioid microphones.
Line (For shotgun mics, completely directional, forward-facing)
Line microphones are designed to pick up sound along a specific line or path, rather than from a specific direction. They are often used in applications where the sound source is moving, such as in a TV or film production where the microphone is mounted on a boom and follows the actors as they move around. Line microphones can also be used to pick up sounds from a specific location, such as the sound of a sports event or a traffic intersection.
Wireless or wired
Wireless microphones and wired microphones are two types of microphones that are used in filmmaking. Both have their own unique features and benefits, and the choice between the two will depend on the specific needs of the production.
Wireless microphones use a radio frequency (RF) signal to transmit the audio from the microphone to the receiver, allowing the microphone to be used at a distance from the recording device. This makes them ideal for use in situations where the microphone needs to be mobile, such as when recording dialogue on location or when using a handheld microphone for interviews.
Wireless microphones are also useful for situations where it is not practical or possible to use a wired connection, such as when the microphone needs to be hidden on an actor’s clothing.
However, wireless microphones can be prone to interference from other RF signals, such as those emitted by cell phones or other electronic devices. They also require batteries to operate, which can be a limitation if the production is shooting for an extended period of time.
Wired microphones, on the other hand, are connected to the recording device via a physical cable. This allows for a more stable and reliable connection, but can be limiting in terms of mobility. Wired microphones are often used in controlled environments, such as in a studio setting or on a soundstage, where the microphone is stationary and the recording device is close by.
One of the main advantages of using wired microphones in filmmaking is the ability to record high-quality audio with minimal interference or noise. They are also more dependable, since they do not rely on batteries or RF signals. However, they may not be as flexible or convenient as wireless microphones, especially in situations where the microphone needs to be mobile or the recording device is not within reach.
Both wireless and wired microphones have their own unique features and benefits, and the choice between the two will depend on the specific needs of the production. Both can be useful tools for capturing high-quality audio in a variety of filming situations.
Overall though, wired microphones tend to be a little more reliable for audio. Wireless runs the risk of having radio frequency interference that would totally ruin your audio. The newer products now have a set up that will defend your system from interference, however, it’s ridiculously expensive.
The choice between the two is simply the budget.
Frequency response is a measure of a microphone’s ability to reproduce different frequencies of sound. It is typically expressed in hertz (Hz), which is a unit of frequency, and represents the range of frequencies that a microphone is able to capture.
In filmmaking, frequency response is an important consideration when choosing a microphone, as it determines the microphone’s ability to accurately reproduce the sound being recorded. For example, a microphone with a wide frequency response will be able to capture a wide range of frequencies, including both high and low frequencies. This is important for capturing the full range of human speech, as well as the full range of sounds in a music performance.
On the other hand, a microphone with a narrow frequency response may only be able to capture a limited range of frequencies, which can lead to distorted or incomplete sound. For example, a microphone with a narrow frequency response may not be able to capture the full range of frequencies in a music performance, leading to a lack of clarity or detail in the sound.
In general, microphones with a wide frequency response are considered to be more versatile and able to capture a wide range of sounds accurately. However, it is important to consider the specific needs of the production when choosing a microphone, as different microphones may be more suited to different applications. For example, a microphone with a narrow frequency response may be more suitable for recording a specific instrument or sound, while a microphone with a wide frequency response may be more versatile and suitable for a variety of applications.
To sum up. When looking to buy your next microphone, please take into consideration all the key factors and make a decision based on what suits your filmmaking style and your finances.
We hope this was a useful guide to buying your next filmmaking microphone. Follow us on Twitter and YouTube for more tutorials, guides and filmmaking tips.