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microphones near gunshot


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I'm working on a shoot where guns will be shot by the cast.
What precautions should I take with my microphones?

I have it on good authority that the mic capsules can handle ridiculously high SPL before they would be permanently damaged, with condenser mics the concern is that the front end amplifier gets saturated and will clip in a very unflattering way from most gunshots.
I was on a shoot with blank guns fired by the cast and there was also (shouted) dialogue during the gunfire. My blue dot schoeps was distorting like crazy, and I don’t have a pad for it, so I went back to my Oktava MC-012, and used the -10 dB pad that screws in between the capsule and the body, and that took care of it. I think I may have doubled up the pads actually for -20.
I would also recommend isolation headphones both to protect your ears, and so you can actually hear what your mics are getting. I used drummers headphones and they work well.

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I have blown capsules on two separate occasions, once with an MKH 416 and once with a KMR-81, so it does happen. But, for ordinary gunfire, it is unusual; most of the time the microphones are quite robust. 


There are two circumstances to be cautious of:


1. Working inside where reflective surfaces tend to amplify the sound. I’ve not ever had difficulty when working outside but I did instruct my boom operator to give a little “air” during the gunfire. 


2. With fully automatic fire. On both of the occasions when I had blown capsules the weapons were firing on full automatic, once with a Mach-10 and once with an AR-16.



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From my understanding, a gunshot is a bit like a drum snare: very dynamic, short and loud. Some friends in post use dynamic microphones to record gun shots (such as a Shure sm57, believe it or not) for their sound design. They have it quite close to the gun and have an array of other mics further away or pointing at "reflective areas" just like Mike West said.


Either way, if blanks are used, I was told they do not have the same sound than real bullets. So it's maybe not as interesting than a good library shot and the location sound is likely to be replaced (again Make West is right on this one too).

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With adequate microphones for high SPL and a good PAD in your recorder you can record gunshots without problems and with quality. The DPA 4007 are a great microphone for the task https://www.dpamicrophones.com/ddicate/4007-omnidirectional-microphone


Earthworks have a nice contenders, but support 10dB less than the DPA https://earthworksaudio.com/microphones/time-coherent-series/


Some info:








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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 years later...

We did a bunch of gunplay last night on a shoot.

We record dialog with a shotgun mic (PDA 4017) and wires then waste the boom off the person for gunshots and I bring up a dynamic mic. 

They actually both worked well but  the swing in dynamics between words spoken (often whispered while actor not trying to let their opponent know their position) and the very loud guns shots, even with half or quarter loads, can be drastic. Doable and the first take is always a learning experience.

That's how we do it here.

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