Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › Cameras and Camcorders › Professional Camcorders › Shotgun Microphone Questions › Lavs and shotguns do totally
Lavs and shotguns do totally different jobs. Shotguns are just more narrow in their pickup angle, so they reject sounds towards the back and the sides. Sounds good, but the downside is that they have to be aimed accurately. If the camera is stationary looking at your subject from two or three feet away, a shotgun works OK enough, however, if they move to one side, then you hear the wall with it’s contribution – reflections and that distant hollow sound. It’s generally accepted that the worst place for a shotgun is on the camera. The best place is in somebodies hand or on a boom, being aimed by somebody wearing headphones so they can hear what the mic hears. Shotguns at a distance sound dreadful – thin and weedy. Most on camera mics are wider and give more latitude for people moving about. Shotguns get in the shots, too – but worst of all they are VERY unhappy with any form of wind. A light breeze can sound like a hurricane, so all shotguns end up in wind housings. The simple foam ones are pretty ineffective. The hairy slip on ones better, and proper blimp style with hairy covers the best. These also incorporate suspension systems to isolate the mics from mechanical noises – which they are very prone too. Having one in a camera clip means every touch of your fingers produces a thump.
Decent ones are very expensive, and a wind control system might easily be over a hundred quid. I have them in my stock, and without a person managing them, they’re very limited.
Lavs, however, can be clipped onto your talent, work well, and there are even pretty decent cheap ones. If I was going to sit somebody in a room, aim a camera at them and record a talking head I’d use a lav every single time. People often try to use shotguns to record interviews – you ALWAYS miss the start of any interjection while the mic gets moved. pointing it centrally just doesn’t work. When you see feature films being shot with shotguns on long booms – just remember that virtually everything is re-recorded. I use mine for football with the mics on short stands along the touchline, or behind the goals, or on a boom – but always with an expensive, skilled person working them. Boom aiming is quite a specialist subject. Short shotguns – like the ones similar to the 416 types are the best compromise between directional capability and length/weight, but they usually do a poor job. A lav close in sounds better, hence why TV presenters use lavs, and rarely shotguns.