Sunday, June 2, 2019

Our Preferred Mic and Placement

Some of this will make far more sense after watching our new video.  Not everything made the video though. Long videos drive me nuts and so details like what other mics we use on occasion can be found below.

Lets dive in and start with the mic itself.  Without the proper recording equipment and environment it would definitely not be the best mic.

Why did we chose it then?  We selected it knowing we were building a video space around it and knew that it would be useful for voiceover and podcasting as well. The criteria were simple and you'll see them repeated in future posts no doubt.  Here they are: For maker videos it should be shot like a cooking show. For interviews the angles should follow a prime time sit down location interview.  Last but not least, for audio it should sound as good as the most memorable voiceovers and audiobooks.

You must be thinking, I see lavalier, sometimes called lapel, mics on interviews.  You're right! What you see is likely the safety. A second choice.  We have those too and some reasonably good ones for the price.  We also have something else that productions use frequently.  A Sennheiser MKH416 shotgun mic. Our Shure WL185s with wireless lavs are great, but in our space next to the 416 there is no contest.

The reasons for this are many and they should be given its twice the price. If your time has value though it pays for itself in easier setup, editing, and confidence in the audio. Here are the highlights. First, the 416 has a narrower pickup pattern.  As in its better at focusing on the subject its pointed at.

Shure Pattern

416 Pattern

Since it is not placed on the user, it also suffers less from clothing rustle or other noises from the subject moving. As a bonus, in our configuration it is also pretty much set it and forget it. So with cleaner sound and no hassles like hiding it on your outfit, it really is a better choice in my opinion.  Especially if you have multiple users with low experience levels.  Or if you just want to spend less time editing after the shoot.  Is this the perfect mic?  That's subjective.  If we had the money we'd definitely buy an additional 416.  If we had $2.2k though we might just add a CMIT 5u for two person interviews instead.

That brings us to the second part of this post, placement.  Our mic is on the long side of ideal distance  from the talent.  Its around 24 to 28 inches away. That, like so many other things in this journey you're on, is a choice.  Our factors for placement included table position, combined rigging point for overhead camera and mic, and framing for talking head shot. Lets dissect the mockup below and see how those work together.

Cutaway view inside video space

I can't overstate this, create a visual and physical queue for where you need to sit or stand and the direction in which you should be looking.  Using Maker Videos broadly as an example, you see above a table (working surface) with the video host behind it. For everything from cooking to assembly style videos to tutorial talking heads can use and benefit from this setup.

The talking head portion of each video is an asset in keeping the host focused in the right direction for the microphone. We use a teleprompter which relieves the need to memorize lines, but not the need to practice. Just as importantly, while new users are dependent on the script they have to look directly into the camera.  I know you're thinking something like great we have eye contact, but what does that have to do with the mic? 

While reading from the teleprompter and physically close to the far side of the table, you (the host) are now speaking directly into the path of the microphone's pickup pattern.  Congratulations you have created a box that provides physical limit not to cross (the table) and visual queue for the direction of the host's head (the teleprompter). We did not merely opt to use this layout to reduce the amount an inexperienced user would have to juggle in their mind while reading a script or worse reciting memorized lines.  It was chosen to also reduce training time on mic placement and setup time once in the space.  If your use case has a number of similar height users or you use apple boxes to overcome height variance, you can walk into the space and begin recording in minutes with great sound quality every time.

Thanks for reading and watch our new video to see how all these words play out in our physical space.  If you have questions about your particular project or space check out the links to the right.