February 4, 2017

Which Microphone Pick Up Pattern Should You Choose for Your Film?

Don't know the first thing about microphone pick up patterns? This video should help.

Choosing a mic can be difficult, especially if you don't know the difference between an omnidirectional microphone and a supercardioid microphone. In this video from Aputure, Stephen Harrod, which has done audio on VICE, HBO, and ABC shows, explains what pick up patterns are, as well as which ones work best for different projects. Check it out below:

Harrod breaks down four common pick up patterns:

  • Omnidirectional: The pick up pattern on these mics are spherical, and since they pick up sound from an equal distance all around it, you'll hear a little bit of everything. These mics are good if you need to record sound in a large area or if you aren't sure where the sound will be coming from. Lav mics are typically omnidirectional, which is why it's a good idea to get them close to your subject. There are some condenser mics that are omnidirectional, which might come in handy if you're shooting, say, a documentary piece out in the field and don't want to miss any audio.
  • Cardioid: These mics have a pick up pattern that is wide, but more directional toward the front. They are typically used by musicians or for live interviews (journalism/news).
  • Supercardioid: The pick up pattern on a supercardioid mic is narrower than that of a cardioid or omnidirectional, with a coverage angle of 105-degrees. These types of mics are the most common on film sets, because they allow you to be very selective of where you're picking up audio; simply point your shotgun mic toward the source you want and record.
  • Hypercardioid: With a narrower pick up pattern than the supercardioid, the hypercardioid has a coverage angle of 115-degrees. Harrod suggests using this kind of mic in a smaller, more intimate spaces, especially when the audio needs to be crisp and clean.

One word of caution for those out there shopping for mics, be sure to check out the polar (pick up) patterns of the ones you're interested in to ensure that you are, in fact, getting the kind of mic you want. Sometimes manufactures will market a mic as a supercardioid or omnidirectional when it's actually not.      

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I think the angles of super- and hyper-cardioid are reversed in the summary text. A hyper-cardioid is narrower.

February 4, 2017 at 6:19PM

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