Join Anthony Q. Artis for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing the right microphone, part of Video Foundations: Interviews.
Audio for interviews is a fairly simple affair, since you usually have just one speaker on a single mic. But there are some decisions you have to make, such as which mic to use. Which mic you use for an interview is dependent upon the particular interview and audio situation you're in. So let's run through a few common scenarios and talk about some of the audio strategies you would choose for each scenario and why. Now, for standard, formal sit-down interviews, I personally recommend that you stick with hardwired lav mics. The advantage of using wired lav mics over the more common shotgun mics are twofold.
Firstly, hardwired lav mics are small and unobtrusive. They're mounted on the chest area, so they're also out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind. People essentially forget that they have them on a few minutes later. So that makes for a less self- conscious and more relaxed interview subject. The other reason I recommend hardwired lav mics over wireless lav mics for formal sit-down interviews is that they can be powered by phantom power from a camera or mixer, so you don't have to worry about running out of battery power, and you don't have to worry about any wireless interference issues.
Anytime you can eliminate a potential problem, I say do it. I assure you that there were still be ample challenges on set to deal with; no need to create extra ones. So hardwired mics is what I recommend you use anytime you've got somebody in a chair for ten minutes or longer. Yet another choice for a formal sit- down interview is a shotgun mic. The shotgun mic is often the first, and in many cases the only, external mic that filmmakers will have starting out. If you can only afford one mic, it should be a shotgun mic.
A shotgun mic on a boom pole is hands-down the most versatile mic setup you can own. If you're doing an interview, I think it can be a little distracting to have someone standing a few feet away, hovering a big object just above your head; instead, if you need to use a shogun mic for sit-down interview, I recommend that you purchase a boom stand so that the shotgun mic is held perfectly still and in place. This will be considerably less distracting and intimidating than a handheld boom pole. Not to mention it's one less person you need on set.
If you don't have a boom mic stand you can simply prop the boom mic up on a chair or MacGyver some other simple solution to keep the pole in place with a little gaffer's tape. (Female speaker: So, Anthony, this is where the magic happens. All the shaping for the boards primarily is done in this area.) Anytime you have a moving subject, such as someone giving a walking tour of a workspace or demonstrating how to make a recipe or any other situation that involves a moving audio target, it's best handled by a wireless lav mic. When you mount a wireless lav mic on the subject, they're free to walk, cook, drive, work, or even play a sport, completely unhindered by wires, and still have crystal clear audio.
(Female speaker: Colors and things like that, we use that all here for client space.) Apart from moving subjects, wireless mics are also the only effective solution to getting good audio in wide shots or certain intimate situations where a boom operator in a scene would really kill the moment. Now, dialogue for many moving subjects could also just as easily be picked up by a shotgun mic on a boom, and it would sound just as good, or in some cases even better. So there's nothing wrong at all with using a boom to cover these situations if that's all you've got.
However, you should be aware that there are some things you'll have to work around. For example, a boom mic can be a little distracting, as I just mentioned. But also using a boom pole requires an additional crewmember, and may limit some of your camera angles, since you now have to shoot around the boom operator. So I think walk-and-talk and demo interviews are easiest shot using wireless mics. However a boom pole will sound just fine. (Male speaker: There is nothing that just beats being out there in the sunshine...) Man- or woman-on-the-street interview segments are typically recorded with a handheld MIC when the scene involves on-screen talent, such as a reporter or show host.
Using a handheld mic allows the on-screen talent quickly go from person to person with the microphone. Handheld mics generally have cardioid pickup patterns with the range of about 1 to 2 feet, so they're perfect for a conversation between host and interviewee. However, in noisy situations such as an event with live music or speakers or a party or a political rally, handholding a shotgun mic is a better bet. The more focused and narrow pickup pattern of a shotgun mic will better hone in on the subject speaking while also diminishing somewhat the excessive background noise you normally pick up with a less-directional mic.
Keep in mind that you can usually capture quality audio using many different types of microphones. However, some choices will be more practical than others. When it comes to audio, just like any other task, half your problems are solved by simply choosing the right tool for the situation. As you become more experienced, you'll instinctively come to understand the advantages and limitations of each type of mic; but until then, you may wish to review this movie and download my cheat sheet entitled The Right Mic for The Job from the project files of this course.
- Choosing the right mic
- Mounting the mic
- Scouting locations
- Using backdrops and cycloramas
- Getting single-camera and double-camera coverage
- Making your subject look good
- Crafting interview questions
- Editing the interview