What microphone is best for your video production?
Whether shooting for a short film or commercial, picking the right microphone will help you tremendously. So where do we start?
Each microphone has a unique pattern in the area that the microphone picks up sound. Here we will focus on the three main categories: omnidirectional, cardioid, & bidirectional.
Omnidirectional microphones pick up sounds from every direction of the microphone, yes 360 degrees. These mics are the most flexible, and mostly seen in lav mics (we will get to that later). They are also great for moving subjects and interviews.
Cardioid microphones, or unidirectional, are more narrow than omnidirectional mics with a range of about 100-150 degrees, where they will capture sound from the front. They also include hypercardioid (mini-shotguns) and supercardioid (shotguns) microphones. These are considered an all-purpose microphone, and are great for documentaries, weddings, events, & narrative scripts.
Bidirectional microphones pickup audio from the front and back of the mic. They are typically used for radio interviews and/or podcasts.
Professional Microphones Used
There are four types of microphones that are commonly used for professional video production. They are dynamic, condenser, lavalier/lapel, and shotgun microphones. Let's take a look how each one is used.
Dynamic mics are the go-to studio mics. They have a cardioid (unidirectional) pattern that works as a spotlight, where they will capture sound in only the direction you point them. You will get some sound from the sides of the mic as well, but none from the back. (Here is an example of what a dynamic mic looks like.)
Condenser mics are normally used for voiceovers or podcasts. They are very similar to dynamic mics, although a lot more expensive because of their ability to deliver single-source audio recordings. They offer options for omnidirectional (no sound is cancelled) and bidirectional (for interviews and conversations) patterns. (Here is the studio mic that I currently use for voiceover work.)
Lavalier (Lav) or lapel mics are small enough where you can attach them to your talent during a shoot. They are smaller condenser mics that work wirelessly so you don't have to worry about cords or proximity. The quality of these mics won't be as perfect as the others though, but do come in handy when on the run. (Here are the lav mics that I am currently using.)
Shotgun mics, or boom mics, are the microphones you will typically see on film sets. They can be mounted anywhere out of frame as long as the microphone is being pointed at your speaker, hence the word shotgun. (Here is the shotgun mic I use almost 100% of the time.)
So now that you have a better understanding of which microphones are typically used in video productions, you can feel a lot more comfortable on your next purchase and recording.