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The Essential Guide to Microphones Used in TV and Film Production

Actor behind the scene. Sound boom operator hold microphone fisher on outdoor set location

A film team looks for a premium level of sound when they create a motion picture. The audio helps to tell the story through dialogue, as well as the ambient sound. With that in mind, having the right equipment is important, and among that equipment are microphones.

Single or Double System Recording

Mainly, the distinction lies in the choice to either do single-system or double-system recording. Single-system refers to when audio and video captures come from the same camera. This is mainly used for documentaries and independent productions. Double-system sound means sound is recorded separately on another device. After production ends, the audio is lined up with all of the footage that was previously shot. This format is used by most motion pictures with larger crews.

Let’s take a closer look at which microphones are employed during film production and how the determination is made for each to be used.

Wireless Microphones

A wireless microphone refers to microphones that cannot be stationary, which are usually in close proximity to the actors during shooting. The microphone type that is often in use are lavalier microphones. These are usually called “LAVs” or “body mics”. Lavaliers attach to an actor’s clothing, usually the lapel.

Where does a Lavalier Microphone Connect?

In some cases, the microphone attaches to the actor’s hair or under their chin. This kind of application results in a sound does not seem totally natural, referred to as an “acoustic shadow”. A lavalier microphone captures sound in an omni-directional pattern and contributes to the acoustic shadow.

Choosing a Lavalier Microphone

Lavalier microphones come in wired and wireless versions. The wired version connects to a battery pack that attaches to the talent. A wireless lavalier connects to the receiver, which contains the battery. These days, these LAV systems also have features where the battery can be quickly recharges and the potential radio frequency interference can be tampered down with a switch.

Shotgun Microphones

These are a type of microphones that attaches to boom poles that capture sound from a distance. These boom poles extend to perform this function, and a boom operator holds them on set. The microphone that attaches to the boom pole is often referred to as a shotgun microphone. The microphone’s name comes from its ability to pick up sound not only from its direction, but also all of the ambient sound.

What is a Shotgun Microphone Used For?

This microphone also picks up ambient room tone as well as any foley effects that occur within the scene. This shotgun and boom setup not only requires the boom operator to have skills with the microphone, but also to ensures all gear stays out of the shot, as well.

Shotgun Microphone Setup

Shotgun microphones vary in size, but shorter ones in terms of physical dimensions work as well as larger ones. These are often used in conjunction with lavalier microphones on most motion picture production sets in order to ensure that all of the audio gets recorded. When it comes to power supply, they are usually wired.

Want to Learn More?

The impact of microphones in the production of a motion picture cannot be overstated. Having an understanding of how they’re used and which ones to use are what leads many to want to learn more. If you want to learn more, IPR’s Digital Video Production Program may be right for you!

Contact us today to learn more about the digital video and media production program and starting a rewarding career in the film and TV industry.