Finding the Right Microphone for Interviews

B&H Photo’s newsletter recently featured an interesting, very detailed article on choosing the right microphone for interviews.

As we’ve written before, most consumer camcorders have an onboard microphone, but it should be avoided if sound quality is important. The onboard mic will pick up ambient sound (traffic, wind, dogs barking etc) as well as the sound of the camcorder’s motor.

A lavalier microphone is a good choice for a single narrator – but you’ll need extra equipment to get two lavalier mics to work with most camcorders. Indeed, finding a reasonably priced, consumer grade camcorder with a microphone jack is hard enough. Finding a built in method to plug in two microphones is fantasy.

A shotgun mic, like the Rode VideoMic, is one solution – but it is still susceptible to ambient noise in a busy location.

The preferred solution for most professionals is a handheld microphone. As B&H’s newsletter explains:

While the act of sticking a microphone in someone’s face may not be the most inconspicuous method for capturing the sound of their voice, it’s still a great tool because against adverse circumstances, handheld interview mics still attain better audio than other types of mics in this situation. The reason for this is that they tend to get closest to the sound source. Proximity plays a huge role in audio, and the closer your microphone is to the person’s voice, the better it will sound.

However, not all handheld mics are created equal. One that works for a stage performance by a musician will have different characteristics than one used by a lecturer on stage. An interview mic will be different than a lecturer’s mic.

If you are doing interviews, here’s what to look for:

  1. A long body. This improves reach and it gives you room to add an identifying flag to your mic
  2. An omnidirectional pick up pattern
  3. Check the connectors! Professional microphones frequently have XLR connectors. Your camcorder may have only a mini-jack input. Be sure the camcorder’s inputs and the microphone’s plug are compatible

How much can you expect to pay for a solid, handheld microphone? $80.00 on up. If you think you’ll use this microphone frequently, don’t stint on quaity – but don’t confuse price with value, either. The Shure SM63L is an excellent mid-level microphone.

You can find a very useful table listing handheld microphones and their prices, dimensions, and frequency responses in the B&H Photo and Video Newsletter