A mic that hears near and far? How is this possible?
A lot of people ask me questions about mirrorless streaming cameras. There are so many now and many price points, so this ends up being a detailed conversation based on the aesthetics (and wallet) of the person asking.
Interestingly, hardly anyone asks about mics and audio. However, have you ever tried to listen to a radio station, or TV when the audio isn’t very clear? It’s a terrible experience, and the listener will turn it off faster than the speed of light if they can’t hear well.
So what kind of mic should I invest in?
A lot of cameras have mics built-in, but that really is not the way to go if you want superior control and sound. And, hey! If you’re making a video that you later want to make an audio podcast from, you really should invest in something that will sound fantastic.
What aesthetic are you going for?
A lot of my clients do not like the look of a mic on their table or right in shot so the viewer can see it. It’s understandable since that can make the viewer feel a bit “distant” from the talent (you). They like the warmth and intimacy of appearing like they are talking to their audience across a coffee table, with no mic in the way.
Some DO like to look like they are in a studio, complete with a mic and the windscreen in front of the mic. They feel it makes them seem more like broadcast professionals.
A quick lesson on mics: Mics have listening patterns
The omnidirectional polar pattern (it looks like a globe – called omni for short) is the easiest to understand. It picks up all sound uniformly around the mic, regardless of direction. The microphone in your phone is a common example of an omni mic. Typically you will want to use an omnidirectional mic when recording audio that you can’t control very well (like ambiance, a press conference, or a moving talking head). Omnidirectional mics are the most flexible mics, but they are also the noisiest.
Cardioid listening pattern (heart shaped)
This pattern is a highly flexible pickup pattern that is great for all-purpose use. Cardioid microphones come in all shapes and sizes. Though they are “cleaner” capturing you voice compared to an Omni, Cardioid mics will still pick up background noise if they are not in a controlled environment.
Hypercardioid mic pattern, aka mini shotgun.
A hypercardioid pickup pattern is a directional pickup pattern that is great for isolating audio. Typically you’ll only see this heart-shaped pickup pattern in shotgun mics (the long narrow mics typically seen in film production). This pattern these mics pick up is perfect for on-camera mics, documentary recording, and instrument recording. The biggest difference between a hypercardioid mic and a supercardioid mic is how much of the rear and side noise is picked up. Hypercardioid mics are typically used for instrument recording.
Bi-Directional pickup pattern
A bidirectional microphone (also known for its “figure 8” pickup pattern) is a mic designed to pick up audio equally from the front and back of the mic. Typically, bidirectional microphones are used for radio interview recording or podcasting. They can be used as a backup mic for talk shows when placed on the hosts’ desk.
Ok, but what is a good mic for a podcaster/vlogger/streamer?
I used to use a little tiny “shotgun” mic that fits nicely into the hot shoe (the top metal part) of the camera where a flash could go, and then plug that into an audio jack on the camera. The camera audio and video connect to the computer via a cam link, so this will go “on air.” Because you plug into the camera, you don’t tend to get audio sync problems.
The Rode mics have a great rep in the industry and do a good job.
This mic, placed about 9 inches from my mouth, pointing up at me from my desk has the benefit of…when I turn my camera off, the mic automatically gets turned off. No more flat battery before a big stream!
It does pick up a little bit of room noise, like the slight buzz from my lights.
Another popular podcasting mic: The Blue Yeti
You may have heard of this little mic. It was my first podcaster mic and its still very serviceable.
The Blue Yeti Condenser Mic. With an Omni, Cardioid and Bi-Directional setting on the mic, along with its own headphone jack, it is a great entry mic to podcasting around $100.
If you are interested in a more PROFESSIONAL sound, a richer, deeper sound, you either need to get up close to the mic and speak into it, risking the audience seeing your mic. (Unless you use a lavaliere mic,the clip-on kind like newscasters use, or, a wireless lavaliere mic. More on that in another post.)
There is a NEW(ish) mic on the market that can capture sound “near and far” so you can keep your coffee-talk aesthetic, and sound better, clearer, and more professional.
Enter: Shure MV7.
If you want the mic up close, in the shot, you can do that. Or, you can have it out of shot on their “far mode” and it should sound wonderful in both placements.
Shure suggests that you can set the far mode to 6-18″ and it should still pick up well as if it is right in front of you. You can get the great quality of a podcaster mic without it being in shot.
You can connect this mic with the (professional audio) XLR cable, a USB connection, or a headphone cable. XLRs are what the broadcast pros use and deliver wonderful audio. However, if you’re using an XLR it is probably because you’re putting that mic, via the XLR cable into a mixer so you can play with the audio and sweeten it any way you like.
The Shure SM7B is an XLR (bigger brother) to this mic if you’re looking for super pro mics.
Using an XLR ensures you will not have any mic delay or syncing issues.
Keeping things simple?
Assuming you are streaming just you, and you don’t have a guest, then I’d just plug-in using the USB connection. That way, the app will be enabled and you can select near/far and more through the app. (Mic position, tone, or auto settings).
This does introduce a mic delay, however, which is a nightmare for live streams and Zooming. That is when you will need to go into your streaming software and use the Mic Delay. Some software uses a “virtual mic” select the virtual mic and this will make sure you won’t have a delay.
If you’d like to chat about mics, lights, cameras, streaming software, and graphics – all of which YOU CAN DO – I’m happy to chat for a complimentary 30 minutes. 😀