Shotgun Mics, From the Mixer’s Perspective

By Dan Daley

As we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, sports mixers tend to rely on a fairly limited number of shotgun microphones, out of a deep pool of products on the market. Understandably, microphone manufacturers try hard to get some mindshare from mixers as a way to get a bit more market share when it come to sales.

Freelance audio supervisor Phil Adler is currently trying out an Audio-Technica AT4073 short shotgun for college basketball on CBS and says it performs as well as the pair of AT4071 long shotguns he already owns. It’s not so much an aversion to trying new possibilities as it is how deeply entrenched a handful of microphones are within the sports-broadcasting infrastructure. “The Sennheiser 416 and 418 shotguns have been on the truck forever,” says Adler. “They’re a known quantity, and, with the pressure what it is in sports broadcasting, you tend to go with what worked last time. A big game isn’t a time to experiment.”

Which is not to say he hasn’t tested different tools. In lieu of his usual practice of positioning a pair of shotguns under the basket and pointed towards the foul lines for another image perspective, he has tried using a single stereo shotgun to achieve the same effect, but the outcome thus far has not been to his satisfaction. “With college basketball, you have a lot of extraneous noise, from cheerleaders and bands and so on, and the 416 tends to be a little wide [in its pickup pattern], so I tried a stereo shotgun a few times,” he explains. “But it never gave me the same effect as using two mono shotguns did.”

Dave Free does not obsess about specific brands or types of shotgun microphones that he uses for the audio for golf broadcasts. At the LPGA’s SBS Classic in Hawaii this month, he submixed his effects using a Sennheiser 816 as the walking field shotgun and the 416 and ME 66 on greens and tees. “The ME 66 is a bit more affordable, and it can be battery-powered, which helps in the field,” he says. “I still like the sound and the range of the 416 better, but I can work well with whatever’s in the truck.”

Dennis Baxter prefers Audio Technica stereo shotgun microphones because they output three patterns — MS, XY (wide), and XY (narrow) — where the Sennheiser stereo shotgun outputs only MS. “That can be problematic for some field applications if you do not have an MS microphone input,” he explains. He also uses a lot of them at times – he counted 800 stereo shotguns at the Beijing Olympics last year — and plans to deploy the longer AT4071 on the Alpine Downhill event at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next year, as well as the BP4027 stereo shotgun.

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