A directional microphone is a microphone which picks up sound only in specified directions. For example, a omnidirectional microphone will pick up sound in all 360° with equal sensitivity, unidirectional microphones only pick up sound from one specific direction, for example a shotgun microphone, and bidirectional microphones will pick up sound from two directions without picking up other sound in a roughly hourglass shaped sensitivity in microphone tests.
Recommended Directional Microphones
Which recommended microphone is suitable for you is entirely down to the job you want it to do and the environment you are likely to be in. Will you be in a studio, on a film set or outside recording background sound? Will the source be a single person or a group of people or a frenetic action sequence? Microphones are designed to excel in one task but not another.
Best rated directional microphone: Audio-Technica AT875R
*Audio-Technica’s AT875R* is a very compact number, so much so that it can be mounted on compact digital cameras as well as DSLRs and is designed for video production and broadcast audio acquisition. It has a narrow angle of acceptance and is ideal for long range audio pick up, with excellent sound rejection from the sides and rear and the tailored response minimises camera and handling noise. The fact that it operates on phantom power frees up the user of cables or worrying about keeping batteries charged, and at 80g it won’t add weight to a camera, and being short in length (7”) it does not encumber the line of sight. It is free from EU defined hazardous substances. It offers excellent value for money and will quickly become an essential part of any videographers kit.
Alternative Directional Microphone: Sennheiser ME66
The *Sennheiser ME 66* is a shotgun microphone head specifically designed to pick up quiet sound in noisy chaotic environments. It is made for use with the K6 and K6P powering modules only and it discriminates against sound not emanating from the direction in which it is pointed. The super-cardioid/lobar, in other words the most directional type of polar pick up, is complemented by its low inherent self noise, its high sensitivity and its wide frequency response. A great option for reporting, broadcast and, with its anodised scratch resistant matt black finish, suitable for a bit of rough and tumble.
Budget Tip: Directional Microphone: BOYA BY-PVM1000
The *BOYA BY-PVM1000* is a broadcast quality shotgun microphone with directional characteristics, uses 48V Phantom Power or 1.5 AA battery, is specifically designed for use with a DSLR or camcorder and its Line + Gradient pick up with the length of 27.8mm, low noise and transparent pick up and with it being direct coupled with low noise circuitry, it ensures a clean signal even in high output conditions. It has an integrated foam windshield, a professional foam windshield and an adaptor. It is of a lightweight durable construction and its transformerless design with switchable 80Hz two-step high pass filter secures a clean signal. A very reasonable price makes this an attractive choice for those not committed to high budgets.
Professional directional microphone: Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3
The *Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3* uses the interference tube principle, in which a ported tube with a mic capsule at the bottom promotes the interference of sound from the direction in which the microphone is pointed, with the sound from directions other than that in which the microphone is pointed, thus cancelling it out. The result is an increased directivity because of less peripheral noise. It is an ideal professional microphone for outside broadcasts in film radio and television because of these features. It has very low inherent self-noise and high sensitivity, is transformerless with full floating balanced output and has a rugged weatherproof matt black all metal body. It is an undoubtedly expensive model, but a very reliable, high performing piece of kit.
Who needs a directional microphone?
If you’ve ever watched a youtube video where the video is alright, watchable at least, but the sound is unbearable, garbled, lots of wind noise, or with a horrible echo that makes it seem like the person talking is inside a saucepan, then you will realise the effect on the perception of the viewer that such low sound quality has: that this person is an amateurish one man (or woman) band without a grasp of video production. TV and film has, over the decades, led us to certain expectations of sound quality of film and video.
With regard to film and TV, there are two types of operation. Those with large crews and those with small crews. Those with large crews, who, for instance, might be recording dialogue on a fiction movie, will have multiple sources of sound, ie multiple microphones, recorded to drives external to the camera to be syched up later in post production. The sound results are as good as it can get but it is a cumbersome strategy as you may need extra takes to get the sound right, not to mention the intrusiveness of large crews. With a smaller crew, say a documentary maker with a single run-and-gun DSLR with a shotgun microphone mounted on the hotshoe of the camera, the sound may be recorded in camera or on an external drive to be syched up in post. A shotgun, in other words a highly directional microphone is almost exclusively used because it is affixed to the camera and only picks up sound from the direction in which the camera is pointed, thus only recording sound from the direction of the subject of filming. It is an awesomely effective strategy, giving the viewer the impression of being right in the thick of things with the camera operator.
Hobbyists can exploit the same strategies without the thousands spent by professionals but with exactly the same drawbacks. Most hobbyists do not work with large crews, but I should hasten to add that some are passionate enough to do exactly that. However, most hobby videographers will be lone operators and that makes the shotgun microphone the obvious choice. The fact that three of the above four microphones tested are affordable to the hobbyist, particularly when you take into account the general cost of DSLRs, the a shotgun microphone is an essential accessory to the hobby kit.
Recording in the field makes a shotgun microphone essential because the background noise, in other words the noise of the environment, could be overwhelming, as in the instance mentioned above where wind noise drowns out everything else. I think most of us have seen such videos on Youtube. The directional microphone ensures that the sound focuses on that which the camera, and therefore the viewer is focusing on.
It is a similar situation in the case of recording wildlife. The viewer may be focused on wildlife that makes an interesting sound, in which case a shotgun microphone is preferable, to elucidate the sound characteristics of the subject. But the subject may make no sound, for example a spider, but still, in this case a directional microphone would be fine, since the viewer will experience whatever sound the camera is focused on. Or the camera may record a panning shot of a landscape, recording the general sounds of nature experienced by someone who was actually there. Still, a shotgun microphone would be fine as it would avoid picking up noise from the camera operator. A bidirectional microphone would be an alternative.
Whatever shotgun microphone you choose for your video production it is sure to be better than any inbuilt camera microphone and will give your video the kind of polish that viewers are used to from TV. A directional microphone and especially a shotgun microphone is essential for videographers whether you are shooting for friends and family, Youtube or for a portfolio of your own work with the objective of getting hired professionally.