Shotgun microphones, which are more commonly known as boom mics, are powerful production-level microphones designed to help you achieve the highest audio quality for your film or video. This type of microphone can pick up specific sounds from a particular spot so that you don’t have to record them separately. But can you use shotgun mics for streaming, or are they only great for filmmaking?
A shotgun mic is good enough for streaming if you won’t be moving around a lot. It also has ideal directionality as it will pick up sounds fed directly to it and leave the extra noises out. You can place it overhead, so it’s a good option if you don’t want your mic to be visible on camera.
In this article, we will talk about the benefits of using a shotgun microphone and what makes it a great mic for video podcasts and streams. We will also talk about how to choose the best shotgun microphone for your video and audio content.
Benefits of Using a Shotgun Mic
A shotgun or boom microphone is a highly directional mic with a high level of concentration on the sound source and can also pick up sound that has high gain. Because of this, you will need to point the mic directly at the source – like how you would point a shotgun at your target – for a more focused recording.
In other words, it focuses on the sound coming directly in front of it while sounds coming from the sides and the rear are recorded very low.
Therefore, one advantage of a boom mic is that you can control the sound it picks up. It will record the sound you wish to record while leaving out all the other noises present in the environment.
All you have to do is mind where the mic is pointing or mind its angle and make sure that the source of the sound is in a fixed position. As long as you record directly in front of it, you are assured of getting the best sound quality.
Using a Shotgun Mic for Streaming
Aside from recording independent video documentaries and movie dialogues for a production, shotgun mics are great for recording voiceovers, lectures, speeches, conferences, streams, and podcasts. These mics are a favorite among sound engineers because they have a sonic character that is amazingly consistent.
With a shotgun mic, you can record yourself talking near or far from the camera and still get the same excellent audio quality. As long as you are speaking in front of your mic or with your mic properly positioned over your head, your distance from the camera won’t make a difference as long as you remain in place.
That means a shotgun mic is perfect if you are into creating a talk show-type of content, whether you are talking by yourself or interviewing and having a conversation with another person. It is a good mic to use if you are filming and recording inside a studio, within close range of the camera, and with the mic set up very visible on the screen.
A shotgun mic is also a great tool for distance speaking. This is if you film and record outdoors or indoors, with a wide-angle shot of you and your immediate surroundings and with the mic hidden from view.
Simply put, you can use your mic independent of your video recorder. But you can also mount your shotgun mic to your camera. And this works if you have another person filming you at closeup and don’t want the mic to be visible on screen. It’s a great solution, too, if you want the camera trailing you as you walk or move around while talking.
What To Consider When Using Shotgun Mics for Streaming
Ty Ford, an audio and video producer and musician, clarifies that a shotgun microphone is good if you use it in the right environment. If you use it indoors, make sure the acoustics of the room are well-behaved. And if you use it outdoors, there should be few hard flat surfaces such as asphalt driveways and walls.
Ford also explains that you have to be at least 24 inches (60.96 cm) close to the mic for the best voice recording. Your shotgun mic also works best if you place it in a suspension mount on a light stand or mic boom stand. According to him, the cheaper your shotgun mic, the weirder its pattern and the noisier it is.
Choosing a Shotgun Mic for Streaming
There’s more to shotgun microphones than their resemblance to the barrel of a shotgun. And these mics are not all created equal. For one, they come in different sizes, from short broad-patterned types to long varieties, which are designed for extended distances.
On-Cam or Off-Cam Shotgun Mics
Shotgun microphones have two basic kinds: on-camera shotgun mics and off-camera shotgun mics. The on-camera ones have a shoe mount that lets you attach them to a slide-in mount, typically used for mounting lights and strobes on top of the camera.
They have a short barrel, so they are hidden from the frame of your video. And compared to off-cam shotguns, they cast a broader polar pattern.
Off-camera shotgun mics are usually far more directional than on-cam shotguns and have much longer bodies or longer interference tubes. They also have numerous phase ports for off-axis sound rejection. These shotgun mics are more commonly used in video production and are mounted on mic booms, and mic stands to capture dialogs from a distance.
Ideally, you will also need a skilled boom mic operator for this type of shotgun mic because a slight move off-axis could cause attenuation of your sound source.
As such, knowing the characteristics of both types of shotgun mics will help you decide which one you will need for the kind of online content you usually create.
Kinds of Polar Patterns
Shotgun mics have different kinds of polar patterns, too.
- Supercardioid. A super-cardioid shotgun mic has a narrow pickup pattern and is sensitive in front of its diaphragm. It rejects off-axis sounds.
- Hypercardioid. A hyper-cardioid shotgun mic is like a super-cardioid, but it has a narrower pickup pattern, as well as an extended rear pickup.
- Ultra cardioid. An ultra cardioid shotgun mic has the most narrow pickup pattern of the three. This type of pickup pattern is usually not suitable if you use the mic on a boom pole since it is so directional that even the slightest movement makes the sound go off-axis.
So if you need to buy a shotgun mic, make sure you have an understanding of these pickup patterns. You need to know the directions from which the microphones capture the most sound, and you can get the one that will best serve your purpose.
Disadvantages of Using a Shotgun Mic for Streaming
Shotgun microphones offer many benefits, but they also present certain challenges. As we have mentioned earlier, shotgun mics are not very flexible when it comes to sound source movements. If the type of video content you create requires a lot of movement from you and a lot of dynamic shots, you would need a lavalier mic.
Another disadvantage is that shotgun mics usually require extra equipment, such as a special shock mount, a boom pole, or a sound blimp, depending on how you intend to use them and the location of your shoot. Distance shots may also require a boom mic operator.
Additionally, shotgun mics are prone to wind noise. Because of their open-back sound capsule design, they register wind noise when you record in windy conditions. This is why you may need noise-suppression devices like a sound blimp.
Shotgun mics are also not ideal for recording in small rooms with many hard surfaces.
Check out my article comparing which is better for streaming: Shotgun Mics vs. Condenser Mics.
Shotgun mics have a tight polar pattern. They focus on picking up sound from a narrow beam pointed directly in front while also rejecting off-axis sound. So if you intend on streaming content from a single sound source that is stationary, a shotgun mic would be great.
Shotgun mics would make a sensible investment because they are versatile and can be used in different situations. You can use them whether you are recording in a big studio or outdoors in a great environment.
- Shure: Choosing a Shotgun Microphone: The Long and Short of It
- 42West: The Top Shotgun Microphones for Filmmaking
- Learning About Electronics: What is a Shotgun Microphone?
- Reddit: Shotgun Microphone vs. Streaming Podcast Microphone
- Audio Technica: Audio Solutions Question of the Week: When Should I Use a Lavalier Mic for Video? When Should I Use a Boom Mic?
- Sweetwater: Shotgun Microphones
- Videomaker: Everything you need to know about shotgun microphones