Production Sound & Technique

Mic Proximity

Remember this: a cheap mic near the audio source is better than an expensive mic far away. Technique is huge. Don’t buy gear that doesn’t represent an appreciable difference in quality or convenience for your purposes.

Microphone>Pre-amp>AnalogToDigital>Recorder

Environment

Look at where you’re recording and listen to your environment. Watch out for small rooms with hard, parallel reflective surfaces. Treat the walls with acoustic blankets. Turn of a humming fridge and put your car keys inside. Be cognizant of how audio’s physical needs affect blocking when planning shots.

Input Gain = Trim

Some field recorders will have a separate “Gain” setting in the menus and along with a dedicated “levels” physicalThis is the main knob you use to control the input level on your audio device. You’ll always want to keep your peaks below -3dBFS, even in a very controlled recording environment. About -12dBFS average is a very general target for recording dialog, but if you can, record at 24 bits or higher and at a softer level (e.g. -18 dbFS) to maintain the aforementioned headroom. The headroom is useful in case of a loud laugh or unanticipated performance.

Polar Patterns

A microphone has increased sensitivity to a certain area around it.

OmniCardiodSuper Cardiod

No Shotguns Indoors

Just like you wouldn’t operate a traditional shotgun indoors, don’t try it with the microphone version. Hyper-cardioid pencil mics don’t use interference tubes and are better for small indoor spaces. A shotgun mics interference tube uses phase cancellation which creates problems with early reflections. A shotgun mic is often a hyper-cardiod pattern with the interference tube to reject off-axis and rear sounds–this makes the shotgun mic more directional.


Physical Connectors

TRS

TRS connectors are common 3-conductor setups which can be used for a mono or stereo mic. “Tip Ring Sleeve” comes standard in 1/4″ and 1/8″ varieties. The 1/8″ is also known as 3.5mm or just a “regular headphone jack” and it’s the one you’re most used to seeing on your consumer audio device.

XLR

The most common professional audio connector you’ll see used with microphones. It’s a balanced connector meaning positive, negative and ground are separated.

For much prosumer work, at short runs, XLR/balanced audio isn’t as big a deal as some make it out to be. You’re audio quality doesn’t immediate drop when being passed through a 3.5mm connector vs. an XLR. Once you’re past six feet you may experience issues. Definitely don’t try taking unbalanced audio runs over twelve feet.

Mic Power

A twelve foot stereo headphone extension cable is frequently used to provide convenient distances from subject to camera for wired mics.This only works with cameras, recorders, or mixers that provide mic power on a 3.5mm jack. Audio Technica (others?) supply a similar mic with a couple button-size batteries in-line for power. There are “power box” suppliers, too, typically a 9v battery system. All of these are based on 3.5mm connectors, except in the case of wireless mic body packs, which can have any of a variety of small connectors. This is called “plugin power”.

Prosumer/Professional Phantom power is nominally 48v. Some systems only supply 24 or 28v, which doesn’t work on all mics, especially large-diaphram condensors. A mic’s specs will state what’s required, a camcorder’s, mixer’s, or audio recorder’s specs will state what they supply. Phantom is (almost) entirely a XLR connector system. Such balanced systems can usually run a few hundred feet when properly wired.””All condenser microphone elements need a few volts of bias voltage, which is often derived from phantom power but need not always be. Many condenser lavaliere microphones these days are used with wireless bodypacks, and those usually don’t supply phantom power (but do supply a bias voltage). There have also been various condenser microphones made over the years that require a separate battery rather than phantom power.” “Bias is a dc voltage (1.5 – 9 volts typically) that is provided on a single conductor. Unlike phantom power, bias does not require a balanced circuit.” “not all external microphone powering is phantom power. The term “phantom” refers to the invisibility of Phantom power, which does not need a dedicated power wire but rides invisibly on the two balanced mic cable conductor wires. When you need it, it is there, when you don’t need it, it isn’t (barring problems with cables or connectors). Mic powering that is delivered on balanced cables in this manner is correctly identified as phantom, regardless of the voltage. “To confuse this understanding, very often ANY powering of condenser microphones is incorrectly called “phantom” even when it is delivered on a dedicated wire or via a battery.Many lavs designed for video/film include a preamp body that can be powered off a single 1.5v AA battery and/or phantom. A few shotguns, too.It takes a converter to plug a lav mic into an XLR input. Though it appears to be just an simple adaptor, the MZA900P converts Phantom Pwr. to a usable ‘bias current’ ( sometimes referred to as ‘Plugin Power”) Using the mic with just a cheap 1/8″ to XLR adapter with Phantom power. could permanently trash the mic.

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