How to choose the right broadcast microphone


TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
By Ralph Dunlop, Director, Sound Network– UK distributor for DPA Microphones
1. What are most common types of microphones for broadcast use and how far has microphone technology progressed in the digital world?
Traditionally the most popular microphone used in broadcast and film sound recording was the “Boom” mounted mic. The problem with older boom microphones was getting the mic close enough to the artist without it appearing in shot or casting a shadow over the performer. This changed somewhat when highly directional shot gun microphones were developed as these allowed engineers to achieve much higher sound levels while further away from the performer, but in some circumstances getting the shot without seeing the microphone hovering in mid-air could still be a problem.
In the 1950’s and 60’s the ‘lavalier’ microphone was developed for studio use, giving performers a greater degree of mobility whilst maintaining a constant distance between the source and microphone. These, however, were hardly discrete, and were little more than a dynamic vocal mic on a string hung round someone’s neck.
As with all modern recording technology, microphone design is now a highly sophisticated art-form. With the right microphone, professional recordists can achieve the most superb and natural sound quality in the most challenging of circumstances. Continuing miniaturisation of the product has also been demanded by the visual industry and companies like DPA have been responsible for pioneering new technology and production techniques to create very high quality microphones in ever decreasing physical profiles.
2. What are the advantages of a body worn microphone over a traditional shotgun microphone?
Today, the choice of microphone is very much dictated by the working environment and application desired. For example, body worn mics with wireless microphone systems are almost exclusively used in broadcast studios by presenters, allowing complete flexibility of movement and great sound quality. Being so small, body worn mics can get closer to the sound source and be hidden easily.
3. When choosing a lavalier microphone what should I be aware of?
Analogue sound is still at the mercy of the laws of physics. Even Newton and Einstein couldn’t find a way of changing these, but what we can do is work with these limitations to produce the best solutions for the best possible results, depending on the environment and application. DPA currently have miniature microphones available with a selection of pick up patterns and a variety of sensitivities enabling the professional engineer to tailor the microphone for every situation.
There are basic criteria that a sound engineer must consider when choosing any type of microphone, especially body worn transducers:
Sensitivity - Sensitivity tells you how well the microphone can convert the acoustic sound into electricity.

Sound pressure level (SPL) handling & total harmonic distortion (THD) - SPL handling tells you how much sound pressure in dB the microphone can handle before it either clips (the diaphragm hits the backplate or the amplifier overloads) or reaches a certain level of distortion (THD or total harmonic distortion). Typically this level is either 0.5% or 1%, and the higher level of sound pressure before clip or distortion, the better.
Frequency Response - The frequency response curve illustrates the microphone's ability to transform acoustic energy into electric signals, and whether it will do so faithfully or will introduce colouration. With frequency response charts, the rule of thumb is the more linear (flat) it is, the better.
Phase Response – In terms of microphone impulse response it is important that microphones react to transients in a constant way to avoid anomalies such as phase cancellation. This is especially important where multiple microphones are used. It is always wise to be aware of the phase response of a particular microphone and ensure any combinations of microphones are well matched.
4. When is it best to use an Omnidirectional Microphone?
By far the most popular types of lavalier microphone used in broadcast are omnidirectional, and are ideal in a controlled environment. With these microphones artists are able move around and turn their heads without affecting the sound quality and level. This is applicable to both lavalier and headset microphones, except you will have a much higher signal to noise ratio with the headset mic because the capsule is that much closer to the sound source.
5. What about Cardioid and Super Cardioid? When should I use these?
Miniature cardioid mics are becoming more widely used because of the style of modern TV and Film recording. For example, reality shows are frequently shot in a documentary style and often outside, while game shows increasingly use PA systems for audience monitoring. As the ambient noise is that much higher, directional microphones are favoured to acquire more separation and better sound quality. In very hostile environments there is often no other alternative than to use a highly directional Super Cardioid microphone.
6. What are advantages of a headset microphone over a lavalier mic?
The simple answer is the proximity of the microphone to the sound source. The closer it is the more sensitive it is. Unlike cameras you cannot zoom a microphone capsule – unfortunately.
5. Can lavalier mics and headset mics be used on a wireless system – if so what do I need?
Yes they can, especially if you are using a DPA miniature capsule as all of these are designed to be used with both 48V phantom powering. DPA also has a clever adapter system that matches to all professional wireless beltpacks. It is simply a matter of choosing the correct adapter.

Tags: iss077 | boom mic | broadcast microphone | guide | review | how to | choosing | for broadcast | ralph dunlop | sound network | dpa microphones | lavalier | dynamic | Ralph Dunlop
Contributing Author Ralph Dunlop

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Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

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Contributing Author Joshua Round Click to read or download PDF
Creating Authentic Content That Counts
Frank le Mair We’re deep into the 2010’s and the way in which we consume content has changed forever. Broadcasters and content owners are fighting for eyeballs in a saturated market where consumers are watching their favourite shows on different devices across a number of platforms. To target millennials and younger generations, who generally consume short bursts of video on YouTube and social media - particularly Snapchat, Instagram and now IGTV - media companies are creating more and more authentic stories and are using platforms that are compelling for this demographic. Unlike generations before them, they have totally new video viewing patterns and ideals.
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Contributing Author Frank le Mair Click to read or download PDF
Perimeter LED screens management
Nicolas Houel Opened in January 2016, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, also known as Groupama Stadium, is the new home of Olympique Lyonnais football club, one of the most popular clubs in France. Since its inauguration, the stadium was a host of UEFA Euro 2016, and was also chosen to stage, among other important events, the 2018 UEFA Europa League Final and football at the 2024 Summer Olympics.
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Contributing Author Nicolas Houel Click to read or download PDF
The Pace of Change
Dick Hobbs - new

The youngest human to stand on the moon (so far) was Charles Moss, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 16. Charlie had a wonderful claim: his father witnessed the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, and lived to see his son on the moon.

Does anything capture the speed of technological advance better than that? The whole of the history of powered flight in one lifetime.

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Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Managing Technological Change
Alan Wheable Continual technological change in the broadcast and media industries can make it difficult to plan for the mid to long term. Typically, broadcasters and media organisation are still implementing the last set of changes to working practices when the next changes come along.
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Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF