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Parabolic vs Shotgun (1 Viewer)


Staff member
Nothing to do with birds but this weekend whilst watching various men with odd-shaped balls I noticed the following.

In the 6 Nations rugby all the pitch side sound people are using shotguns. However, in the Super Bowl they are all using parabolics.

Is this just the way the sound industry does things on either side of the pond or is there some other reason?
Might it be that in rugby, they are looking to record the grunts and hits of the played game within an ambient setting (=background to to video) whereas in American Football there might be a greater interest in exactly what the players are saying to each other (such as calling plays)?
Knowing very little about American football, I can still imagine that every bone crunching tackle is a thing of fascination. I think with a parabola, you will get less of the ambience and the roar of the crown, and a more intimate rendition of every thud, crunch and wack.
A parabola increases the amount of sound reaching the mic inside whereas a shotgun mic only minimizes where the sound can come from and be picked up by the mic. It is easier to muffle any wind noise with a shotgun mic and it can be mounted to a camcorder. The parabolic dish plus microphone requires using two hands or mounting it to a stand.
It is easier to muffle any wind noise with a shotgun mic and it can be mounted to a camcorder. The parabolic dish plus microphone requires using two hands or mounting it to a stand.
Again not the most versed in Soccer or Rugby, but when I occasionally see a game on TV, they seem to be using long gun shotguns, so not really suitable for mounting on the camera. They tend to be positioned around the stadium and are unmanned. Presumably the inputs are controlled manually at a mixer, with someone fading in and out mics, depending on where the action is (and where the relevant fans are sat).

I know that in the USA they use the Big Ears Parabolas at some games, which are a two handed (ultra expensive) dish. I presume that the outputs are also routed to a mixer and that there are probably other mics picking up the roar of the crowd, the signing of the anthem etc. It would be interesting to know if a parabola can cover more of the field, so that less equipment is required to capture the on-field sound, but the converse to this is that each parabola would have to be aimed, so it could mean more sound engineers are required.

I am not sure the two handed issue or the wind rejection are the key issues. There are large parabolas that can be used single handed (although they could be unwieldy in strong wind) and you can fit a wind fleece to the front of the dish (thus creating pretty still air around the mic capsule).

I notice a huge difference between my long shotgun and my parabola, with the latter creating a much more intimate and close recording effect. But I don't always want a recording as if the bird is sat 3ft in front of me, so the shotgun is still nice.

I still suspect that in the USA the emphasis is on hearing every grunt, thwack, or occasional crack and snap from a tackle. Dare I say it, but perhaps the British are more squeamish, or perhaps just British sound engineers!
Sorry to take this thread a little away from the O.P.s original point but….

I imagine that capturing the ambience at a 6 Nations game is seen as important.
If you are able to experience a live game in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh or Paris (and I have) the atmosphere is incredibly electric and all part of the day. This is what I imagine that the broadcasters are trying to capture.
Note that watching 6 nations games in Rome wasn’t as good but it’s getting better as the Italian fans are becoming much more engaged than previously. Watching in London isn’t a great experience, and it’s ferociously expensive.

The thwack of basically unprotected bodies against each other in rugby can be heard during a broadcast, but it’s a different sound to that of protective pad on protective pad.
It is ten years old but I found this in-depth article about the broadcast sound setup at stadium sporting events.

There is a section on the different characteristics of spot mics...

Longer shotgun microphones may start to increase directivity at ca. 500 Hz, but with greater reduction of sound quality. One alternative to this is to use parabolic reflectors, which have a supremely narrow pattern at high frequencies. But at low frequencies they have almost no directional effect, which limits their use to special effects such as ski noise or the sounds of American football.
Again, straying off topic, but what would happen if I used my shotgun mic at the focal point of a parabolic dish?
Would I have a super sensitive, very directional hearing device?
Thinking more of looking for birds as opposed to sound quality
Cardoid shotgun mics are what is most often used with a parabolic dish. The dish captures more of the sound and reflects it to the microphone and so in effect amplifies the sound reaching the microphone. The shotgun simply reduces sound from the sides and rear of the microphone.

It is easier to avoid wind noise with a shotgun mic where it is covered with a "dead cat" muffling device. At a game the parabolic operator needs more free space to operate than the person with a shotgun mic and the shotgun is usually mounted to a boom pole and can be elevated above the crowd.
Again, straying off topic, but what would happen if I used my shotgun mic at the focal point of a parabolic dish?
I don't think this would work for two reasons.
1/ You want to capture the reflected sound from the entire dish. By using a supercardiodal (long shotgun), the interference tube, would cancel out some of this reflected sound, so you would loose gain.
2/ Generally cardiodal mics are used with Parabolas, with the mic facing inwards towards the dish, so that reflected noise is captured and direct noise rejected/reduced. The longer the refraction tube, basically the more directional the shotgun. The mic capsule is at the base of the diffraction tube. This means that with a standardized sized parabola, you physically couldn't point the mic inwards and have the mic capsule at the vocal point - the diffraction tube would clash with the dish. You could have a huge parabola, with focal point sufficiently far away from the dish to allow accommodation of the diffraction tube, but then the supercardiodal narrow beam, really would be incompatible with capturing reflected sound from a much larger dish.

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