Electronic Field Production

By Sam Mallery

The need for a shotgun microphone arises when you want to remotely capture a sound that originates from a short distance away. They provide a narrower angle of acceptance that isolates the subject’s sound from unwanted “off-axis” ambient sound. Shotguns are useful in situations where other kinds of microphones may be inappropriate. They are also helpful in situations where other kinds of microphones are in use; a shotgun can pick up sounds the other microphones may have missed.

Shotgun microphones are also known as boom microphones. The way these microphones capture sound from a distance is similar to holding a paper towel tube up to your ear. The longer the tube, the more focused the sound will be.

A common misconception about shotgun microphones is that they can pick-up sounds across long distances. If you’re recording a person who is speaking, you wouldn’t want your shotgun to be more than five or six feet away from them. The closer the subject is to the microphone, the better it will sound, which is why boompoles are commonly used.

When purchasing a shotgun microphone, you must first determine one thing:

Does the device you are going to plug your shotgun microphone into have a 3-pin XLR microphone input, or does it have a single 1/8” mini-plug microphone input? Take note: a 1/8” mini-plug microphone input is the same size as most headphone jacks.

If you’ve determined that the device you are using has a 1/8” mini-plug microphone input, here are some popular shotgun microphones to chose from:

Rode VideoMic
This microphone produces an excellent sound quality. It comes with an integrated shock mount and is backed-up by Rode’s 10 year warranty. Rode also makes useful accessories like an extension cable and a boompole.

Sennheiser MKE 300
This microphone has a slightly lower profile than the Rode microphones and gets its power from a watch-style button battery.

Azden ECZ-990, SGM-X
These microphones are useful if all you require is an inexpensive improvement in sound quality.

If you’ve determined that the device you are using has a 3-pin XLR microphone input, here are some of the shotgun microphones you have to choose from:

Rode NTG1 and NTG2
These affordable shotguns from Rode have good sound, a robust design, and a 10 year warranty. The NTG1 needs phantom power to operate, and the NTG2 runs on phantom or AA batteries. B&H has created on camera kits and boompole kits for this popular mic.

Sennheiser ME66K6

The next step up in price is Sennheiser’s ME66 capsule with the K6 power module. Both of these components are needed to make up a single microphone. The ME66 is a sensitive microphone that picks up a more detailed sound. You can buy additional capsules to use with the K6 power module, like the ME67 and even the MKE2-60 wired lavalier. B&H has created on camera kits and boompole kits for this mic.

There are a number of shotgun microphones that have an even higher quality of sound. All of these mics have XLR and will need phantom power to operate. Here is a brief summary:

Audio Technica AT4073A 9.13” length, open & natural sound
Sanken CS1
7.15” length, excellent sound & best rear rejection
Sennheiser MKH-416 9.84” length, precise sound & built like a tank

Schoeps CMIT5U 9.88” length, stunning audio & build quality

Look for a future article in this series where will discuss the differences between short and long shotguns and their applications.

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