TV & movie boom operator explains why you’re probably using your shotgun microphone wrong
I’ve been following Mike Delgaudio, otherwise known as Booth Junkie, for quite a while now. Mike’s a professional voiceover artist and so he makes a lot of videos about how you can record voiceovers, typically on a low budget, at home. He’s usually using large-diaphragm cardioid condensers and shotguns but rarely ventures from the comfort of his booth to record audio out in the real world. You know, the way filmmakers do.
It occurred to Mike that he had a lot of different microphones with the same pickup pattern that all seemed to do the same job and… well, in the voiceover booth they probably do. But he wanted to find out more about the real-world differences between them. So, he had a 25-minute chat with movie & TV boom operator Allen Williams, who goes by Sound Speeds on YouTube to talk about where and how you’d use these types of microphones out on the set of a movie or TV show.
It’s a fascinating conversation with a very experienced boom op who’s worked on movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Fast & Furious 7, and TV shows such as The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Halt and Catch Fire (which is excellent if you’ve never seen it) and Cobra Kai. So, it’s pretty safe to say that Allen probably knows what he’s talking about when it comes to recording sound on location and the different types of microphones and techniques you’d use for different situations.
And it’s not just as simple as using a shotgun vs something else. It’s often shotguns. But their size, design, pickup pattern and even how they’re rotated in the holder can all come into play on location in order to pick up the sound you actually want to record while blocking out all of the things you don’t. After all, shooting in a real location isn’t like shooting in a voiceover booth. Out in the wild, you often have no control over the environmental sounds that may be nearby and you need to figure out how to capture the important stuff while ignoring the “noise”.
If you’ve been struggling with location recording and you’re not happy with the results you’re getting out of your microphone, it’s well worth a watch. It might just tell you what you’ve been doing wrong. Perhaps it’s your technique or maybe you’re just using the wrong type of microphone. Just watching this video already answer questions I had about past experiences where I wasn’t able to record quite what I thought I was getting but never really understood why. Now, I think I do.
As well as this video, it’s worth binging both Mike and Allen‘s channels if you really want to learn more about recording audio, whether it’s for voiceovers or location work. Both are packed full of more microphone knowledge than most of us even know is out there!
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.