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On-Camera Audio Recording: Essential Shotgun Microphone Gear

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Unlike a lavaliere, a shotgun requires a little more kit to make it work properly. In this tutorial, you'll learn about stands, windscreens, shock mounts, and more. 

Mic Clips and Mounting Systems: How to Attach a Shotgun Mic to a Stand

Let's go through the equipment you'll need to mount your shotgun microphone to a stand.

Shock Mount

More than likely, your microphone came with a mic clip. If that microphone is going to be on a boom pole that someone is moving, you probably are going to want to use a shock mount. It's a little microphone holder, with some rubber bands that isolate the microphone from the rumbles that can be generated from the boom pole.

So if they're in a regular mic clip and it's on a boom pole, you can pick up the faintest movements in the boom pole. Sometimes, you can even pick up fingers moving on the boom pole or cable noise. So to help isolate that, a very basic shock mount is all you need. A basic shock mount will cost maybe US$12. You can certainly find fancier mounts, but I find a basic one perfectly adequate. 

So what do you attach that mic clip to? At the very basic level, you can get away with a standard microphone boom stand. It's very common to see on stage and in the recording studio. This is not ideal for the shotgun microphone because it's pretty long, so you do have to get it up pretty high. It works in some situations, so I wanted to mention it because I've used it several times perfectly well, and you can find these quite inexpensively on Craigslist or at your local music store. So it is an option to be aware of, but it's not very flexible. 

Boom Pole

This ideal setup for a shotgun microphone is a boom pole. This will allow you to get the microphone way out there. You can find boom poles in lengths from five feet to over ten feet, perhaps as much as twelve feet and in multiple sections. 

The boom pole I use is made out of aluminium, which is probably the most inexpensive boom pole material out there. This pole only cost about US$150, and it works very well—it's lightweight, and it collapses down.

There are plenty of inexpensive DIY options out there, like getting a painter's pole for about US$30 and an adapter for another $10 or $15. Or, as you move up in price, you get into materials like fibreglass and carbon fibre, and the main advantage with those is weight.

You'll see some boom poles with an internal cable inside and some without. An internal cable is going to add to the cost. If you're doing a lot of run-and-gun stuff—setting up fast, tearing down, and running from place to place—an internal cable is probably the way to go. 

Boom Pole Holder

So how do you suspend a boom pole like this? Well, you use a boom pole holder. This is a very crude device, but it's very effective. The boom just sits in it, and when there's a weight at the other end, it's held down. 

Boom Pole HolderBoom Pole HolderBoom Pole Holder
Boom Pole Holder

Microphone Stand

But what do you attach your boom pole holder and grip head to? Traditionally you use a beefy stand, something like a C-stand. You can get away with some sort of lightweight stand, like an aluminium light stand.

But I do caution you to make sure that it's sturdy. You want to make sure that there is adequate weight on the stand, in the form of sandbags. I wouldn't put a boom pole, a grip head, and boom pole holder on a $14 stand that I got on eBay. You want to make sure that it's a beefy stand that can actually take a little bit of stress and torque, because when that thing is up there eight or ten feet in the air and then boomed out, there is a pretty good amount of stress that is put on the stand. So this is not the area to go super thrifty. I often put mine on a C-stand and sometimes a beefier aluminium light stand. 

Wind Protection

The last major accessory category to talk about when it comes to shotgun microphones is wind protection. I have a windscreen that came with my microphone, and it slips right on the end. It's not fantastic, but it's better than nothing.

Shotgun microphones are pretty sensitive to wind noise—so sensitive that when I use this microphone for a voiceover, I put the windscreen on it, even inside. It doesn't affect the sound too drastically. 

Primarily, of course, windscreens are used to protect the microphone from the wind. Outside, you want more substantial wind protection than the basic windscreen provides. You can get one from a company called Movo that has a less dense foam on the inside and a rubber gasket and a big furry covering on the outside that does a much better job of reducing wind.

The ultimate in wind protection for shotgun microphones is a blimp with what is usually referred to as a "dead cat" on the outside. The main idea with a blimp is to give the microphone a lot of protection and shock mounting against wind.

I use a homemade blimp, which actually has two layers of wind protection. The outer section of fur does the job of reducing most of the energy from the wind. Then, on the inside, I have another layer of wind protection, and then there's a cage, the same that you'll find in a commercial unit, and inside the cage there is a shock mount.

I built my own because a commercial blimp, something made by Rode or one of the other big names, would run between $300 and $350, and I built two of these for about $40. If you want the best wind protection out there, it's going to be in the form of a blimp.

Wrapping It Up

So now that you know about all the different things you may need to get your shotgun mic working for you, look out for the next tutorial in this series, in which you're going to learn about lavaliere microphones. 

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