A Quick Overview
Our Review of the Top 5 Best Shotgun MIcrophones and Boom Mics for Filmmaking
Best Overall - Editor’s Choice - Sennheiser Pro Audio MKH416-P48U3
Anybody into filmmaking audio will probably be familiar with the name Sennheiser as they are a top-tier audio kit maker. The quality this manufacturer delivers comes to a head in this best shotgun microphone for filmmaking.
To start with, this shotgun mic has an RF bias that makes sure it does not lose quality even when being used in harsh conditions. This mic is encased in an all-metal housing and that assures you of durability. The metal casing is also useful for the optimal cancellation of side noise.
This mic uses a hypercardioid pickup pattern which indicates a very well focused sensitivity on the sound of choice. With an impressive SPL (sound pressure level) of 130dB and a 40Hz to 20Khz frequency range, you can be assured of this mic adequately picking the sounds you throw at it.
This shotgun mic has a very low self noise and also has a low proximity effect: a problem that is associated with shotgun microphones. This mic is powered with phantom power which makes it suitable for use with any device. Although this shotgun mic is a bit on the high side in terms of price, it provides all the premium features you can ever want in a mic for filmmaking.
Best Budget Boom Mic for Filmmakers - Rode VideoMic
Just like Sennheiser, Rode is also another company that makes good audio equipment. The rode mics have an excellent reputation with filmmakers. In your quest for the best boom mics for filmmaking, you would also be considering the attached price, which brings us to this mic that happens to be the best budget boom mic for filmmaking.
As with most Rode shotgun mic products, this mic comes with the Rycote Lyre Suspension system which is crucial for retaining good sound when there is vibration. With a frequency response ranging from 40Hz to 20KHz and a sound sensitivity of – 38dBV, you don’t have to worry about using this mic over a distance.
The Rode VideoMic mic comes with its own kit which includes a boom pole in case you don’t want to attach it directly to the camera; there is a 25″ cable for that, and a windscreen that can help you achieve good audio against wind speeds up to 25mph.
This mic is powered with a 9v battery which can give the mic power for over 100 hours although you will have to get it separately. No complaints though as you will still be getting a quantitative kit for the best budget boom mic for filmmaking.
Best Shotgun Mic Under 200 - Comica CVM-VM20
It is common knowledge that quality attracts a higher price but there are always some exceptions in some cases. Anyways, if you are in the market for the best shotgun mic under 200, then you are in the right place because the Comica CVM-VM20 offers enough quality for a moderate price.
The Comica CVM-VM20 can be used by both professionals and amateur filmmakers partly because of the easy setup. Another attractive feature professional filmmakers will appreciate is the two-step low cut filter and the accompanying stepless gain for modulating the sound waves and frequencies.
The supercardioid polar pattern combined with a frequency response ranging from 20Hz to 20KHz and a sensitivity rating of -43dB assures you of getting quality sounds even at a distance. The signal to noise ratio stands at 65db and the sound pressure level is 105dB. You also get to enjoy a battery life of over 60 hours with this mic.
The full metal casing to this shotgun mic gives an assurance of durability. You can also monitor the battery level with a tiny but effective OLED screen. As I mentioned earlier, this shotgun mic can be used by both professionals and amateur video makers because of the provision for connectivity to phones and cameras alike. The exciting qualities of this shotgun mic make it without a doubt the best shotgun mic under 200.
Best Budget Shotgun Mic - Rode Videomic GO
Rode Videomic GO is another Rode product that gets a mention on this list albeit as the best budget shotgun mic available. Like the other shotgun mics from this manufacturer, you get the Rycote lyre suspension system that works as an anti-vibration when using the mic. Although this mic is a budget mic, it does not disappoint in its functionality.
This shotgun mic has a more reserved frequency response range which starts from 100Hz to 16KHz. This frequency response will actually serve most users. The sensitivity which is at -35dB and the sound pressure level which stands at 120dB more than make up for the deficiency in the frequency response range.
Just like the Comica CV product, this shotgun mic is very easy to set up. Connectivity to a video system is through a 3.5mm cable which is also how this mic is powered. With the Rode Videomic GO, you don’t have to worry about the mic going off mid-shot.
This best budget shotgun mic has an asking price way below other products offering the same value. In addition, this shotgun mic is lightweight – weighing just 73 grams – which removes the worry of having to move cumbersome audio kits when you want to create videos in different locations and hence the tag “GO” assigned to the name.
Best Premium Boom Mic - Rode NTG8
Yes, another Rode product. They make awesome products and this mic may just be their best yet. As against the best cheap shotgun mic discussed, this mic attracts a high price but it’s a piece of equipment made for absolute professionals that want the best boom mic for filmmaking.
This mic is made to be extra thin and longer than the average boom mic. This design is aimed at achieving a very focused unidirectionality. The RF bias used in this mic ensures that you don’t lose the sound quality even in bad weather.
The sensitivity of this mic is top-notch. With a sensitivity of -20dB and an output impedance of just 20 Ohms, you can be assured of getting clean sound. The frequency range starts at 40Hz and expands to 20KHz. In addition, it has a sound pressure level of 124dB. Of all these features, the sound sensitivity, and the extremely low output impedance being the most impressive ones.
This mic comes with its own protective casing, a special shock mount, and a windshield. Also, the NTG8 uses a phantom power of 48v. The NTG8 is very versatile and exhibits quality whereby the directionality increases with the frequency. It is a perfect mic for every scenario (including use in sports) and that earns it its place as one the best boom mics for filmmaking in the market.
All features of a boom mic or shotgun mic work hand-in-hand with each other. While you can prioritise one feature over others depending on the project, you cannot ignore the quality of other features.
How to Choose the Best Boom Mics and Shotgun Microphone for Filmmaking
You may have been wondering what differentiates shotgun mic from boom mics since I have been using the same features in describing both boom mics and shotgun mics. Well, let me quickly highlight the similarities and differences in both.
Boom Mics Versus Shotgun Mics
Boom mics and shotgun microphones have one important feature in common and that is the directionality of their polar pattern. Shotgun mics earned their name through their design which is barrel-like because of the need to concentrate on a particular sound coming from a direction, Boom mics work with this principle too.
In filmmaking shotgun mics and boom mics have enjoyed increased usage because of their abilities to pick out the desired sounds without much interference. Movie producers mostly use shotgun microphones for booming during video production but not every boom microphone is a shotgun mic.
While Boom mics help to get the microphone to the sound without getting in the way of the camera, shotgun mics can be attached to a boom stand to give you a boom mike and in essence, the same effect.
Since boom mics work using the same principle as shotgun mics and they can be used interchangeably during movie production, what are the things to consider before purchasing a boom mic or shotgun mic.
Both shotgun mics and boom mics use the cardioid polar pattern. The cardioid polar pattern is a polar pattern that has the highest sound sensitivity at the mouth of the mic while the sensitivity reduces towards the side, and it becomes zero at the rear.
This polar pattern has variations and these variations include the supercardioid, hypercardioid, and ultracardioid. The variations indicate the concentration of the unidirectionality. Ultra-cardioid being the most directional (1).
Most boom mics and shotgun mics use the supercardioid polar pattern which has a little sensitive area to the rear of the mic but the sensitivity zeros out at the side.
When choosing a mic to be used on set, always go for the polar pattern that best suits the project. A good example will be, using a highly directional boom mic or shotgun mic for an amateur who is likely to move off axis.
Every sound that is made is made on a particular frequency. Frequency is a way of knowing how much bass or treble is in a sound. Generally, more frequencies indicate increased presence of treble and a reduced presence of bass. For example, the average human’s speech frequency is in the range of 85Hz to around 300Hz.
Microphones are partly judged on the range of frequency they can replicate without distortion which is usually indicated with the frequency response rating. This is important because movie makers need to know that the mic can actually model the sound its receiving without distortion.
For the sake of emphasis, a mic with the larger frequency response range will be used in more scenarios than one with a small frequency response range.
Just like the name implies, the sensitivity of a mic is how well a microphone can pick up sound without distortion. Boom mics and shotgun mics are highly sensitive in the front with very low sensitivity at the back. Sensitivity is important for picking sounds even when at a distance although the sensitivity becomes attenuated with more distance from the sound source.
Very sensitive microphones pickup the tiniest of sounds like handling the microphone, hence the need for a suspension system when booming or recording. Some microphones offer ways of attenuating the low frequencies that will likely be picked up by sensitive mics by adding filters and gains to the features of the mic.
It is advised to look for high sensitivity in microphones but you should also look out for options that can help you sieve unwanted sounds picked up by the mic.
This is the ratio of the wanted sound to the unwanted sound. The polar pattern adopted in boom mics and shotgun microphones have really helped a lot in improving the signal to noise ratio of microphones. The signal-to-noise ratio is usually written as SNR and represented in dB.
As a movie producer looking to procure a shotgun mic or boom mic that are known for their high sensitivity, you should really check out the SNR. Unidirectionality means your mic picks up only wanted sounds but imagine shooting a movie in a club, you will want the best SNR on a boom mic you can find.
Booming on set takes stamina especially if you are to be the one holding the boom stand. Thankfully, some boom stands now have tripod legs that you can simply adjust to get the desired result. Unfortunately, stationary boom stands will not work if the sound is mobile which brings us to the weight of the shotgun mic or boom mic
Technology has really helped in reducing the size of the important components that make up a mic. Whether you are using your shotgun mic with a camera or with a boomstand, weighty microphones can become a problem especially if you have been shooting for a while.
While weight may not be the first quality you will look for in a mic you want to use for booming, it is worthwhile to consider it.
Sound Pressure Level
Usually written as SPL on microphone descriptions, is the highest sound pressure a mic can process before producing distorted sounds. SPL is indicated in dB. This means that sounds coming at the indicated decibel or lower decibels can be successfully transmitted with that mic without distortion.
Higher SPL indicates better accommodation of loud sounds by the mic.
Yes you can. Shotgun mics are perfect for booming during video productions. Although not all booming mics are shotgun mics, they work with the same principle of unidirectionality.
Generally, yes. But you have to consider the location you want to use the mic. Although the cardioid polar pattern helps remove unwanted noises, highly sensitive mics will still pick unwanted noise.
Boom mics and shotgun mics are very useful during filmmaking because of the way they are designed to pick the desired sound although picking the best ones can be tricky. However, choosing the best shotgun microphone for filmmaking should be a walk in the park after reading this article.
For me, the Sennheiser pro audio MKH416-P48U3 comes out ahead of the other microphones on this list because of the value it offers. It has the best SPL, a low self noise and, is quite durable. Other boom mics and shotgun microphones on this list will also cater to the audio needs of filmmakers with the qualities they have.
Do you prefer to boom during video production? Which shotgun mic will you prefer to use? You can tell us in the comments.
- Thomas, K. T. (August 16, 2016). Microphone polar patterns. Retrieved from https://www.lewitt-audio.com/blog/polar-patterns