Friday, March 20, 2009

AudioGuy Mail Bag: Properly Setting Up a Shotgun

So first off, BIG thanks to John Florian at Voice Over Xtra for republishing my article on the proximity effect "Please Don't Swallow The Mic! ". The original rant also has a video from the Today Show where you can see some of these proximity read techniques in use by voiceover greats like George Delhoyo, Joe Cipriano, Mark Elliot, and the late great Don LaFontaine. 

I almost instantly got an email from a VOXtra reader. He totally nailed me on the fact that most of my advice is geared towards large diaphragm condensers:
Just finished reading your article on Voice Over Extra about "Please Don't Swallow the Mic."
I wanted to ask you what a proper distance might be for the pop screen to be away from the mic and also what is a good distance to be back away from the pop screen while speaking?  I am using a Rode NT-G2 Shotgun Mic.
 Thanks for the information!
Well ya see Timmy, I can't really say that my advice is going to be very consistent. I kind of have this Love/Hate relationship with my MKH416. It's super loud, super directional, and super tone deaf. Often mic-ing the shotgun will come down to the space you're working in. There are some generalities I can throw you however.

Now, I'm not as familiar with the NTG2, but looking up it's specs, it seems to play in the same super-cardioid space the 416 plays in for most of the EQ spectrum (it seems the 416 approaches more of a hyper-cardioid in the upper EQ, but I'm not sure it really affects the human voice much).
These mics were designed with such powerful side rejection for the purposes of broadcast and film, the mics to be positioned feet to sometimes yards away from their subject, and often being used outdoors.

I personally, REALLY feel that these are not mics to be right on top of.

When I start a session with a 416 I usually position as follows:
*Mic about a foot and a half away from source.
*Active end of the mic height positioned relatively around the nose of the talent.
*Mic aimed at the chest of the talent.

Like this------->

I do this for several reasons. 
One it helps tame puffs of air as most of them will pass under the microphone, but the voice should travel THROUGH the recording path of the mic.
Also, because of the focus of this mic, I tend to not like pointing the mic at someone's face, as then you're picking up the nasal cavity (not a particularly pleasant source of resonance), and instead try to pick up the talent's chest (by design a much more cavernous source of resonance). 

These mics, while built for very rugged conditions, can actually be pretty easily damaged forcing air into them if you're too close. For added protection I tend to use a foam wind sock, as opposed to a pop screen. No particular reason for that, just the way I tend to do it (though sometimes it allows me to be sneaky, and move the mic farther way from talent that like to crowd the mic by scootching the foam towards the end of the mic). 
Also, as promo readers tend to wave and conduct their hands around their reads, this distance helps prevent the random smacking of the mic.
Now here's the tricky thing about miking yourself, depending on your space, all of what I just said might be TOTALLY wrong.

I've found good success with this set up, and usually my only adjustments from this initial setup are asking the talent to move a little closer or farther from the mic, but your mileage WILL vary.

I hope that helps, and thanks for the question!


  1. Hola Juan Carlos,

    I just won an eBay auction on a used MKH-416 MINUTES after reading this article, so this will be VERY helpful!


  2. Cool!
    I'm glad it helped.

    Congrats on the 416!

  3. Thanks for the post! I'll stop eating my 416 now.

  4. And my ears will thank you for it Joey!