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10.2.2: Polar Patterns

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    What Are Polar Patterns?

    The polar pattern (sometimes called the pick-up pattern) of a microphone is the sensitivity to sound based on the direction from which the sound is coming. It is the direction from which microphones are best able to hear sound.

    Omnidirectional

    Omnidirectional mics are able to pick up sound from sound equally from 360 degrees around the microphone (See figure 10.2.2.1). The microphone does not need to face the sound source and is common in lavalier microphones that are used in news programs and during interviews.

    A circle around a microphone showing sound is picked up from all sides.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Omnidirectional polar pattern. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Galak76 via Wikimedia Commons)

    Cardioid

    The shape of the cardioid polar pattern is similar to the shape of a heart (See figure 10.2.2.2). Cardioid microphones are unidirectional because they pick up sound best from the front of the mic, but it is a wide range in front.

    A wide heart-shaped pattern in front of a microphone where sound is picked up.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Cardioid polar pattern. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Galak76 via Wikimedia Commons)

    Supercardioid

    Supercardioid mics are similar to cardioid mics, but are more directional to the front of the mic and can pick up sound that is close to the bottom of the microphone (See figure 10.2.2.3).

    A heart-shaped pattern in front of a microphone and a small circle behind the microphone.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Supercardioid polar pattern. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Galak76 via Wikimedia Commons)

    Hypercardioid

    Hypercardioid mics are similar to supercardioid mics but have more ability to pick up sounds at the bottom of the microphone (See figure 10.2.2.4).

    A heart-shaped pattern in front of a microphone and a larger circle behind it.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Hypercardioid polar pattern. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Galak76 via Wikimedia Commons)

    Bidirectional

    Bidirectional mics (sometimes called figure 8 mics) are able to pick up sound from two directions (See figure 10.2.2.5). It can pick up sounds from front and back, but not from the sides.

    A pattern that looks like the number 8 with a circle in front and in back of the microphone.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Bidirectional (or Figure 8) polar pattern. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Galak76 via Wikimedia Commons)

    Shotgun

    Shotgun microphones are highly directional microphones that pick up sound best from in front of the microphone. You will notice the that microphone is a long tube that is used to cancel out sounds coming from the sides (See figure 10.2.2.6).

    A narrow long oval in front, a smaller narrow oval in back, and two even smaller ovals on both sides.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): Shotgun microphone polar pattern. (CC BY-SA 3.0; Galak76 via Wikimedia Commons)

    Knowing which pickup pattern to choose is important in order to capture quality audio in the field. The video below explains microphone pickup patterns and demonstrates how pickup patterns work with several microphones.

    To watch the video with Closed Captions: https://amara.org/en/videos/Fa9GJfoChTsj/info/microphone-pickup-patterns/


    This page titled 10.2.2: Polar Patterns is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Christopher Clemens (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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