How to choose your first microphone for filmmaking

Nov 4, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to choose your first microphone for filmmaking

Nov 4, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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There is such a vast array of microphones on the market these days of many different types. It can be difficult to know where to begin when beginning our journey with audio. It’s usually the last thing on a filmmaker’s mind, but it’s one of the most important aspects of video. We stopped by the Rode stand at PhotoPlus 2019 to find out why sound is so important and how different microphones work better for different situations.

One of the things many people don’t understand about buying microphones is that it’s a lot like buying lenses. A good one will serve you very well and last you for years, while a bad one will do a substandard job and not live up to the task for long at all. I purchased my first shotgun microphone a little over ten years ago now, and even then I bought it used. The person I bought it from had been using it for about fifteen years, and it still sounds absolutely perfect today.

My microphone collection has since expanded into several shotguns, studio mics, lavs and others, and one common theme runs through them all. The higher-end ones last the longest because they’re better built. In the short term, that may be a more costly purchase, but in the long term, they’ll save you so much money.

That being said, in the last few years, the quality vs price ratio of good microphones has declined dramatically. That shotgun mic I mentioned earlier I bought used for £500 (at the time, around $800 equivalent with the then exchange rate), and it retailed for around £1200 (~$1900) new. Now, microphones of similar quality can be found for around half of that, or even less. Rode’s new NTG5 short shotgun microphone only costs $499 and is one of Rode’s flagship microphones.

And while it won’t satisfy everybody’s needs for every situation, even the $59 Rode VideoMicro produces outstanding quality compared to similar unpowered on-camera microphones that cost several times more than that just a decade ago. Obviously, though, there’s a big step in quality vs that and something like the $319 VideoMic Pro Plus.

And just as you can achieve similar quality with a $500 shotgun microphone today as you might with a $2,000 microphone from ten years ago, there’s a big leap in quality again between today’s $500 microphones and today’s $2,000 microphones.

Ultimately, which will work best for you will depend on your needs and your budget, but if you’re just starting out, hopefully, this video gives you some tips and pointers on which direction to go.

What was your first microphone? Or what will it be if you don’t have one yet?

DIYP’s coverage of PhotoPlus Expo 2019 is sponsored by Luminar, Cosyspeed, PhotoPlus, and Spiffy Gear – check ’em out.

We’re giving away photo bags, software and lights – join the giveaway here.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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