Art is art, whether you’re drawing on a canvas, sculpting with clay, chiseling a statue out of marble, painting with brushes, or capturing beauty through a camera lens. Art is inspirational and inspiring. It tells a story. The artist tells the story then the viewer interprets the story through their own eyes and personal background. Sometimes the two meet in a synergistic union that produces something altogether brand new.
Now and then though, the world of art meets the inescapable variegates of modern life, as when the Louvre in Paris was shut down by a labor union strike
. It’s a sad and dingy story, beneath the dignity of the great museum, but there it is anyway. The world of art, including the historic Mona Lisa, shut down because of a fight over filthy lucre.
Bringing Art Into The Modern Age
Art, it has been said, transcends the ages, but that’s more of a theory than a reality. The truth is, art has always been at the mercy of fickle human nature. Sometimes it is at the mercy of merciless Mother Nature as the hairbreadth escape of a 12th-Century Afghan minaret that was barely saved from rushing flood waters
Art tries to rise above the times in which it lives but instead only succeeds in cataloging those times in “artistic” ways. The “artist as reporter” is trapped in his or her role by the necessity of earning a living or by the demands of those with power. As art moved into the electronic age the methods may have changed but the artistic desire to break through boundaries has not.
The art of filmmaking, like all the arts, has its secrets. Also like most secrets, it is ill-kept at best. In the age of Google and the internet of things where your refrigerator can spy on you, there are no secrets anymore. Anything can be uncovered with a few keystrokes.
If you’ve ever wondered what shotgun microphones look like
or what they’re used for, wonder no more. They are often used in filmmaking to record sound from a distance. They get their name from the fact they are shaped like the barrel of a shotgun, and like a shotgun, they have to be aimed at their target in order to function properly.
Front, Not Sides
Shotgun microphones excel at recording sounds directly in front of them. They have a very narrow focus though. If the person speaking moves too far to the left or right, they’ll leave the microphone’s area of focus and it won’t be able to pick them up anymore.
Better Quality Sound
Shotgun microphones deliver better quality sound than a lapel microphone. A lapel mic will pick up the sound of rustling clothes. A shotgun doesn’t do that. It will record sounds that are more natural in tone, closer to what your ear would hear if you were there.
Unless someone is holding the microphone to keep it pointed at the person speaking, that person has to stay rooted more or less in one spot the whole time they’re talking. Depending on how far away the microphone is, they can move a few feet to the left or the right but that’s it.
The person holding the microphone, called the boom operator, has to carefully coordinate their movements with the camera operator otherwise the camera will catch the microphone in its lens. Anyone who remembers the old Batman or Dark Shadows shows from the 1960s can testify to seeing the boom mic dropping into the picture on numerous occasions.
Shotgun microphones aren’t cheap. An inexpensive model can run you $179 while a professional version will be closer to $700. Much of the price difference is attributable to the sensitivity of the microphone and the range of frequencies it will pick up.
Technically speaking is no such thing as the “range” of a microphone. It will pick up and record any sound waves that reach it. Using a shotgun microphone is not like using a zoom lens on a camera. Instead, it is like taking a picture through a cardboard tube like the one a roll of paper towels is wrapped around. It filters out everything to the sides so the sound from the front doesn’t get diluted by all the other noises.
The sensitivity of the microphone determines how soft a sound it can pick up. It takes more sensitivity to record soft or faint sounds. Better quality microphones will record more sounds.