A filmmakers guide to buying the best microphone for filmmaking

Audio is hugely important when it comes to filmmaking. When looking to buy a microphone 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 types of microphones and the key technical specs you need to look into before buying your next one.

Why do you need a separate microphone?

The main reason is to improve the quality of your audio. Built-in camera microphones just don’t cut it. The main issue with them is that they are next to the cameraman and not the subject of the scene. This will leave the sound sounding far away with plenty of background noise.

The types of filmmaking microphones

Wireless microphones

RODE Wireless Microphone

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.

READ MORE: Top audio editing tips on Audacity for filmmakers

Directional microphones

Directional Microphone

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.

Lavalier microphones

Lavalier Microphone

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.

Shotgun mic

RODE 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.

Here is our favourite shotgun mic at a low price and such high quality:

RØDE VideoMic GO On Camera Microphone

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.

The must-know technical specs

Microphone for film

Polar patterns

Polar patterns are also known as pick up patterns. These are the areas that are sensitive to picking up sound and audio. The most common polar patterns are: omnidirectional (A round sound pattern), cardioid (heart-shaped), hypercardioid, supercardioid and line (For shotgun mics, completely directional, forward-facing).

Wireless or wired

Overall 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

This is the measurement of audio frequencies that the microphone is most sensitive too. You’ll mainly find it measured in Hertz (Hz). Depending on what audio you’ll be recording you will want to look into the frequency response and ensure that you will be within the limits to pick up the audio at it’s best.

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.

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Jay Neill

Jay Neill is the founder, owner, and managing editor of iFilmThings and believes everyone should have access to the film resources they need to plan their filmmaking project, which is why he’s dedicated iFilmThings to helping all filmmakers.

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