A lavaliere microphone is not your only choice when recording dialogue. At eIMAGE we prefer to use a shotgun microphone for most interviews and to-camera presentations. It’s the only type of mike you’d use on a fishpole. A shotgun is a large, long microphone with a “cardioid” pickup pattern; actually, a hyper-cardioid. I’ll explain.

A cardioid microphone on a fishpole in an office interview.

Unlike the lavaliere which is usually omni-directional (has the same sensitivity to sound from all directions), the cardioid pattern is in the shape of a heart: long in the front, shorter at the sides and down to almost nothing directly in the back. A hyper-cardioid is even more sensitive in the front, making an elongated heart pattern. In other words, a shotgun mike has a bit of “reach” by not being very sensitive to sounds coming from the sides and almost completely rejecting sounds from the back. Shotguns start at $50 and go into the thousands, so be prepared to spend at least a little over $100 for an acceptable one if you take your video production seriously.

I like using a shotgun or cardioid microphone for interviews because it often sounds fuller than a little lavaliere would. And you don’t have to worry about clothes rustling. If your speaking subject doesn’t move around, suspend the shotgun mike above and a little in front of their face, just out of camera frame. (The only practical way to suspend a microphone this way and have a little control over its placement is to use a stand with an arm. The classic solution video production professionals use is a C-Stand, but also having a fishpole to clamp into the C-Stand helps a lot.) You want to be as close as possible to the mouth with this mike, but out of the shot. And make sure it’s pointed precisely at the mouth, or a little bit below (the chest resonates and it’s good to pick up some of that sound too). Beside the better sound, the benefit of this mike is that your subject is not tied down with a microphone cable.

Using a shotgun on a fishpole with a fuzzy “dead cat” windscreen for a street interview.

A shotgun or cardioid mike can also be used as a hand-held microphone during interviews. Just make sure to point it at the source of the sound; it is directional! And it is a useful mike for on-camera use because it will pick up sound in front of the camera and ignore a lot of the sound behind camera. If wind is a problem, once again a foam windscreen is the first line of defense, followed by a fuzzy “dead cat” draped over the foam.

A cardioid microphone in a studio setting. Keep it just out of frame.

There are many other types of microphones, but a lavaliere and a shotgun are the two basic types you can’t live without if you want to do anything more than home movies.

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