Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Me of Little Faith

I don't actually believe in shotgun microphones. Uh. That's actually a long and complicated subject.

Here's the thing: even the very best shotguns (and I'm talking Schoeps and to some degree Sanken here) sound somewhere between "meh" and "poopity" off-axis. When you get to editing dialog it's much easier to have a nice hypercardioid that sounds good off-axis (I'm talking Schoeps again, with the cheap exception of one of the good Oktava mics like we use.*)
So what do you get with a shotgun? Well you get less sound from off-axis. But that sound you do get sounds more yukkity. Will the airplane flying overhead be a bit quieter? Sure. But when you move the microphone from one character to another you'll get a little squonky "swish" sound.

The advantage to wireless lavaliere microphones is that they sound equally crappy all the time, so you don't have to worry about them getting "swishy". The biggest issue with lavs is that they're prone to clothing noise when you try to hide them under shirts. It's very difficult to not hear the damn mic rubbing against whatever jacket or jewelry the actor has on.

The main "Hollywood" boom mic is the Schoeps CMC6. They're good mics. They sound good indoors, outdoors, wherever-you-want. They're a bit sensitive to moisture, but that's probably just because like many "pencil" mics they have interchangeable capsules and a bit of schmutz can get in there if you keep removing the heads.

Now, I'll tell ya, I just looked up the price of those Schoeps and they're not as expensive as I thought they were. Less than a thousand bucks.

This is the Oktava you want. It's nigh on $300, which is a little less than 1/3 the price of the Schoeps. I've done tests on both mics. Off-axis I'd say they're both equally as even - sounding. In other words if you're turn the microphone just as someone starts a line you won't hear a "swish" in the sound of their dialog -- they'll just get a little louder as the microphone turns toward them. The Schoeps has a little "rise" in the upper mids which can sound "better" on a lot of voices, but ironically the Oktava is more "neutral" sounding. In either case, you're not going to immediately notice that one sounds "better" than the other.

*You need to buy from the Sound Room. They have the "good" Oktava mics. The difference is in the quality control -- the QC of the Oktava mics you get elsewhere can really suck.


DAVID FREY said...

This conversation looks familiar. I'm still running into some confusion on the mic subject. The Oktava you use on set has a pretty narrow, hypercardioid pick up pattern, so is it safe to say that a "shotgun" mic with a hypercardioid pick up will do a similarly good job rejecting off axis noise, relative to a shotgun mic with a cardioid or supercardiod pick up pattern?

Andrew Bellware said...

Ha! Yes, it is a familiar conversation. ;-)

A "shotgun" is actually a polar pattern -- more extreme than cardioid or hypercardioid.

For our amusement I have now included an image of the differences in polar responses between different microphones in this blog post.

DAVID FREY said...

Interesting. The shotgun picks up a lot more behind it then I expected

Andrew Bellware said...

Yes, you'll often see boom ops whispering into the back of their mics in order to speak to the mixer.
That being said, the Sanken I have does NOT have such a huge lobe behind it, indeed it does a pretty good job of just picking up what's in front of it.

Kangas said...

I gotta tell ya, I've used nothing but shotgun mics on my flicks, and I've loved them.

Especially if you can't get that mic right into their face, you NEED the sensitivity of a shotgun.

It was one of the best pieces of advice I got before I shot my first flick--if you can only afford 1 mic, and you're talking under $500, get a shotgun mic.

So since then I've just bought MORE shotgun mics and used multiples.

I REJECT your post!! Get thee away, Satan!

Andrew Bellware said...

Hey man, have you ever tried a Schoeps? Everybody's doing it. C'mon, you'll be cool if you use a Schoeps.
Or, under %500, an Oktavia. ;-)

Kangas said...

Never tried them, no. An audio guy convinced me to use Sennheiser's on my new flick, and I can tell you, worst decision I ever made. Not all the mic's fault, but the bottom line is that change is BAD. I fear it.

I will not change again. Underwear included.

Andrew Bellware said...

Which Sennheiser were you using? The best are the Schoeps shotguns, but they're fairly pricey

Well, $2100. The Sankens are OK (for shotguns).

Kangas said...

Honestly, and you may scoff--For 1/10th of that price(apiece), I own 3 Audio Technicas--and they're great. I record all my stuff, foley and looping included.

Have you heard any of my movies? Well, skip Hunting Humans 'cause wtf did we know?

Check out Fear of Clowns. Wait, don't. It sucks.

Uh...hey, take my word for it, they sound good! Well, acceptable. If we had a dedicated sound guy they'd sound super!

Andrew Bellware said...

Audio Technicas sound better than the equivalent amount of money spent on pretty well any other brand. But you're still talking about shotguns. ;-)