Recording 101: Microphones - OFFICIAL DISCUSSION


Wondering which microphone would be best for your shoot? Kevin breaks down the basics so you can figure out the type of mic best suited for what you’re recording.

In this video, we cover how a microphone actually works, the difference between mic and line levels, XLR cables, pre-amps, phantom power, transducer types, and mic polar patterns.

More on recording techniques (and other equipment) later on in the series!

Some of the equipment pictured:

  • Shure SM58 Vocal Dynamic Microphone
  • Rode NT5 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
  • Rode Blimp Windshield
  • Rode NTG3 Shotgun Microphone
  • Sony ECM-V1BMP Electret Condenser Lavalier Microphone
  • Zoom H6 Handy Recorder

Any more questions about mics? Ask Kevin directly below!




3 posts were split to a new topic: Maintaining consistent audio throughout a film


I got a great new camera it is a nikon coolpix s33 it isn’t the best but it gets decent footage the only problem is the audio from it sucks and it doesn’t have a port for a mic. What should I do


ive had the Sennheiser MKH 50 P48 Microphone in my que for abit- its the only mic ive ever used as a non sound guy that blew my socks off in the audio sense


I’d say it comes down to two questions - what sort of stuff are you trying to shoot, and what (if any) budget do you have for equipment? While there’s certainly some work you can do with what you have currently (I got some good mileage out of a similar camera some years ago), at a certain point you may need to upgrade to the next price tier if you need certain functionality (in this case, either a mic port or a separate sound recording unit plus a mic). Also, an extra question, do you have a smartphone?


I am trying to shoot an action video, like devinsupertramp style. I have like $100 budget for them mic, I don’t need anything too fancy, just something to get sounds like shoes shuffling on dirt.(also, I do have a smartphone, I have an Iphone 5s)


Honestly, I think your best value-bet for the time being would be to either use your iPhone as a sound recorder on voice memo mode, or possibly just shoot your whole video on it (for picture and sound) - it looks like the Coolpix has a fairly narrow field of view on video mode compared to an iPhone; a wider lens may be better for action anyway?

If you’re using two devices at one time (say, the Coolpix for video and iPhone for audio), just do a clap slate at the start of each take - have someone on-camera say what take it is, then clap where the camera can clearly see it - you can use that to sync the picture and sound later (visually, you have a clap you can see, and in your audio file, you should have a loud, clean waveform of a clap - match the two up and you’re good).

What you also may want to consider is doing a foley pass after the video is shot, and not worry about the sound while you shoot - while this will add some editorial work, it could potentially speed up your actual shoot a lot by reducing the number of complications. If you go this route, you can use the iPhone’s voice memo mode to record some “wild” foley either between takes, or after the video is edited - just put the phone in a good recording position (make sure to shelter it from wind that’ll audibly “buffet” or blow against the mic) and re-create the action you need sound for, maybe in a couple takes. If you have music throughout, this may be sufficient to just cover the key moments that feel big and/or happen in close-up, where you really want to hear stuff clearly - otherwise, whatever sound you capture raw at a low level under the music should work okay for the rest, in most cases. This approach always necessitates some extra editing to get it to sync to picture, but if you’re comfortable with some detailed editing, it can be done relatively quickly.

The other option, which I don’t actually recommend (but am mentioning for the sake of a more complete answer) is buying a low-end handheld recorder like the Zoom H1, which goes for $99.99, exactly at your budget max. Something like the H1 is lightweight and easy-to-use, with built-in mics for recording, but long-term doesn’t allow any flexibility for upgrading, and it also can’t be used as a recording unit for most professional microphones, since it lacks XLR inputs (XLR being the cable type basically all pro mics run on). So while it has some benefits over the iPhone as a recorder, for the time being I’d suggest you save the money for further down the road, unless you try the iPhone and it legitimately cannot do what you need it to do, period.


Thanks for the help. :grinning:


do you work on sound design for films remotely? if so could you shoot me over a email (not sure if you want to post info here) about what your interested in doing/rates/etc. Looking to work with someone for some 2017 projects im working on currently and your pretty much top on my list.
thank you in advance


I work at RocketJump full-time, and while that doesn’t necessarily exclude me from taking a freelance job on discretionary terms, I know I’m completely slammed through at least the first half of this year for sure. I’d still be more than happy to look at a cut for you, or potentially suggest a sound editor to you. DM me as things develop, and good luck!


understood sir and will do


Thanks for both the video and this response. I’m teaching filmmaking in Mexico and I think I will show my students this video and try to explain what’s going on in Spanish. They’re smart kids, so I think they’ll catch on despite my mangling of their language.

Besides the voice memo app, can you recommend any other audio recording apps for iOS?* Is there a decent digital audio workstation app for the iPad?

My current mission is to do as much as possible with smart phones. On the next project we will be shooting on an iPhone SE with an iOgrapher rig and the cheap Rode mic. I’m starting to like the idea of using a second iPhone for location mixing.

  • A Nagra app would be the bomb. Soooo retro!


I unfortunately don’t use an iPad so I lack first-hand experience with what’s available, but I’d recommend checking out these two articles, and then looking up a few other reviews as well - there’s definitely some DAWs available, and some seem decent!


I asked this in the comments, but I will reask it here. What is the best mic to use in a small room or hallway, when there seems to be a lot of echo?


There’s two parts to this answer.

First, a mic will only help you with so much. The other half is killing reflected sound by using soft, sound-diffusing surfaces. It’s not about “soundproofing,” but about making sure that if sound goes at a flat, hard wall, that it doesn’t get reflected right back at you. As much as you can, you should use blankets, sound barriers, acoustic foam, etc. to stop reflections from any direction that won’t be on camera. That’ll help a ton with unwanted reverb.

As for microphone, it’s usually the same answer: if you want to pick up one single source and avoid picking up other sources, you want a shotgun mic, or at the very least some kind of directional mic (i.e., cardioid, super- or hypercardioid). The one issue with a shotgun mic is that it does pick up sound from behind, so if you don’t kill reflections to the back of the shotgun mic, you’re still going to get the reverb.

One final thing that will help is being more precise with mic placement, and getting as close to your subject as you can, again, without getting your boom/mic into the shot.


Thanks for your quick response! I had both, a shotgun and a hypercardioid mic and we had a couple of blankets, but it was still a bit echoed, maybe due to the really low ceiling. I just wanted to know, in the event it came up again. Thanks!


Yeah, I mean it’s really tough to get good sound in a small room with hard, flat, parallel surfaces. If you have any leeway in terms of set design, you could do a lot to improve sound quality by designing in some ways to break up those flat surfaces. Anything from hanging tapestries, using throw rugs, etc. can really help.

If you can’t do any of that, well then it sounds like you’re already doing the best you can :slight_smile:

Might be able to do some work in post to help that out, but I wouldn’t know. Maybe when he gets done with some super, super more important responsibilities (not sarcasm), @Kevin_Senzaki might have an answer for ya.


@Daniel did a great job of covering it! You can usually get away with less-than-pristine dialogue in most cases, if the location we see onscreen is part of the story. As in, if it looks like an echoey hallway, then it’s usually okay to have some natural echo. However, if in the story the place is supposed to be somewhere else and/or have a different environmental feel, you just do the best you can, and worst-case it may need ADR (but still get the clearest audio you can no matter what; it can be invaluable as a guide track for actors later). As Daniel noted, there’s only so much you can do on-location!