A shotgun microphone is a microphone used for digital camcorders and DSLR’s that picks up all of the sound coming from one specific direction, straight in front of the camcorder.
When using a shotgun mic and the subject that your filming moves 10 feet to the left or right, the sound that you pick up will dramatically decrease.
The Name Shotgun Microphone comes from the microphone shaped like a shot-gun.
In order to be effective with a Shotgun you have to aim at your target, the microphone works the same way.
Shotgun Microphones vs. Internal Microphones
If you buy a camcorder online it will already have a microphone embedded into the camcorder. Internal microphones are good for picking up sound in any direction in a room with no background noise that’s not too loud or too soft.
In the world of videography, this situation almost never happens.
If you use weddings as an example, many sounds can come from any direction that are not planned events in the wedding ceremony. Babies can cry, kids can be making too much noise, and other noise distractions such as water from a waterfall can all be picked up more than the sound of the subjects that you are trying to film.
The result is a video that’s less than professional, and sometimes not even presentable to a client.
Why use a Shotgun Microphone?
Shotgun Microphones such as the Rode VideoMic Directional Video Condenser Microphone w/ Mount shown above will help to fix poor audio situations such as at wedding ceremonies by concentrating all of the audio response to one specific place. The microphone is designed to pic up sounds that are only directly in front of the camcorder, and not anywhere else nearby.
Because Shotgun Mics are so specific in the sound area their trying to pick up, it’s not uncommon to get the sound of wind blowing into the microphone as you are using it. A Dead cat wind muff is used to help cut the sound of wind coming into the microphone.
Microphones come in many shapes and sizes, and are used for specific purposes. A shotgun microphone works well for capturing a conversation that’s 50 feet away on the other side of the room such as filming someone’s speech, their vows, or a pastor giving a sermon.
If you filming two people having a conversation a short distance away, the shotgun mic is not a good choice. Lapel microphones on both parties during the conversation would be a better option in this case.
The biggest thing to consider when choosing a microphone is to get to the venue where your filming early, and talk to the staff setting up, and get to know the room and what kind of noise environment your dealing with.
The quality of your camcorder’s audio can be dramatically improved by taking the time to research and to understand your environment, and learn if you need to use the internal mic, lapel microphones or if a shotgun microphone is best.