Choose the Right Audio Equipment

Article 3 min
Understand the differences between microphones, so you use the right audio equipment for any scenario.

It's a terrible feeling. The interview is over, the subject is gone and you discover that the audio is lousy. Different scenarios call for different equipment. So how do you make sure you don't make an audio mistake like taking a delicate ribbon microphone into the field or handing a wired handheld mic to someone who likes to walk the stage when they speak? You need a core understanding of the different types of microphones, when to choose them and how to position them so you achieve the best possible audio capture.

Read on for a better understanding of which microphone works best based on the environment, the speaker and the type of audio you want to collect.

Choose the right mic

Use labels along the top to progress through scenarios. Click the learn more button for more in-depth information.

If the audio
source is...
  • far away
  • at an indoor ceremony
Then use a
shotgun mic

When the source is
far away

  • Shotgun mic
  • Boom mic
  • XLR cable

Shotgun microphones, sometimes called boom microphones, are directional and provide good quality audio. Shotgun microphones are able to pick up sound from fairly great distances, as well as control what audio you are recording. A long XLR cable plugged into the PA system allows the audio collected from the microphones to be sent directly to your camera for recording.

How to position

  • Aim as close to the source as possible
  • Mount it on studio booms

When to use

  • You're alone/don't have help
  • Interviews that are on the go
Far Away
If the audio
source is...
  • an interview
  • a single voice
  • a subject who has time for a clip-on mic
Then use a
lavalier

When the source is
stationary

  • lavalier
  • Clip-on
  • Wireless

A lavalier mic is the best choice for an interview. It's designed primarily for voice pickup because of its high sound quality.

How to position

  • 6-8 inches below the speaker's chin (line it with the name tag)

When to use

  • When the subject has time for you to clip it on
  • When conducting talking head segments
  • When it's a single source interview
Stationary
If the audio
source is...
  • moving
  • using a transmitter and antenna
  • okay with some interference
Then use a
wireless

When the source is
moving

  • Dynamic handheld
  • Wireless lavalier

A wireless clip on or dynamic handheld is the best choice when the sound source needs complete mobility and where cords might be a trip hazard. These microphones give the performer or talent some control over audio pickup. Used in electronic news gathering (ENG) and by singers on stage, the handheld is rugged and durable. Be aware that wireless microphones can be susceptible to interference so it's good to have a backup mic just in case.

How to position

  • Hold the microphone close to your chest
  • Approximately 45-degree angle
  • Speak across the mic, not into it
  • Clip wireless lavalier to lapel (line it up with a name tag)

When to use

  • The subject is moving around
  • You are on the go for an extended period of time
Moving
If the audio
source is...
  • scattered
  • multiple subjects
  • for B-roll audio
  • for soundbites
Then use
multiple mics

When the source is
scattered

  • lavalier mic
  • Shotgun mic
  • Boom mic

When your audio sources are scattered, you need more than one mic to get the job done. The lavalier mic is primarily used to capture dialogue, so it should be used for the main focus of the story. The shotgun mic is used to get good soundbites with clear audio. It can collect all of the natural audio in a more controlled way than the microphone built into the camera, as the shotgun mic records all audio in all directions, including behind the camera.

How to position

  • Use the lavalier to capture the main focus of the story
  • Use the shotgun to collect sound in all directions

When to use

  • You're conducting interviews
  • When you're collecting natural audio
  • The audio is from multiple sources
  • Your sources are scattered
Scattered

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