Shotguns Move Slowly Toward Surround Sound
So much of sports broadcasting’s audio infrastructure is now built out for surround sound, but the shotgun microphone remains primarily a mono proposition, increasingly stereo but largely resistant to the multichannel movement. Sanken offers the only single-piece example in the form of its WMS-5 five-channel surround-sound microphone.
Jim Pace, president of Plus24, Sanken’s Western Hemisphere rep firm, says the WMS-5 has found favor with NHK in Japanese sports applications but less traction here. “Most of the surround broadcast field here is built out of tons of mono microphones,” he says. “In Europe, broadcast is largely state subsidized. Here, we don’t have that luxury; it’s all run and gun, point and shoot.”
(The shotgun’s interference tube, the microphone’s fundamental underlying technology concept, does show up elsewhere, such as in DPA’s Directional Pressure Microphone [DiPMic] technology used in its DPA 5100 surround microphone.)
Sony Senior Product Manager Karl Kussmaul says that, although the concept of a single-piece surround-sound shotgun microphone “has potential,” his company has continued to pursue entry-level markets for shotgun mics. It recently introduced the ECM-CG50BP and the ECM-VG1, both in the $200 price range. These are intended to match the growth in the DSLR camera market, which he says continues to find new users in regional, collegiate, and high school sports markets.
“In the last year especially, we’ve seen the prices on small-format pro cameras coming down and getting more penetration into various markets, including regional sports,” he says. “The built-in microphones tend to leave a lot to be desired, and these give those users options for better audio. I think that that trend is causing growth in the smaller-shotgun market.”
DPA’s forthcoming MMC-2011 super cardioid capsule when paired with the MMC-B housing will be marketed as a short shotgun. Although the price point will likely be around $1,000, DPA President Bruce Meyers says it’s a new price point for a top-tier DPA broadcast shotgun. Driving that, he says, is a combination of increased manufacturing volume, currency fluctuations, and streamlined production methods.
At Audio-Technica, Director of Product Management Mike Edwards says increases in sales of stereo shotgun microphones might be due to increased awareness among collegiate sports broadcasters. The fact that more shotguns of all types are being used has spurred the company’s long-term project to develop new kinds of coatings to make microphone housings more rugged in general and more moisture-resistant in particular, since they’re used in a wider range of sports environments.
“We started that effort back during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, doing freeze/thaw cycles to make sure the mics could withstand days on end in the snow,” Edwards recalls.
That’s good, because it’s going to be pretty cold in Sochi, Russia, come February 2014.