What are microphone polar patterns? If you don’t work in the audio field, then the term may be completely unfamiliar to you. Having a working knowledge of polar patterns, also known as pickup patterns, is crucial when it comes to choosing the best microphone or microphones to use for a specific project. We’ll break down what a polar pattern is and explain the different types of patterns.

What are Microphone Polar Patterns

First, let’s define polar patterns

There are different types of polar patterns. We will define the overall term first, then get into the specifics of each pattern type. If you come across any other terms that are unfamiliar to you, our ultimate guide to filmmaking terminology is a helpful resource for looking things up.

POLAR PATTERN DEFINITION

What is a polar pattern?

A polar pattern is the space around a microphone where it picks up sound or is the most sensitive to sound. These patterns can be visualized in three-dimensional space. Different microphones have different polar patterns, and these patterns play a role in determining their best uses.

Microphone Polar Patterns Characteristics:

  • Three-dimensional space
  • Originates from the microphone capsule
  • Comes in different shapes

What are the three types of microphone pickup patterns? Those would be cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8, also known as bidirectional.

For tips on capturing great audio, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to audio recording. Let’s get into each of these types in more detail.

Microphone Types and Polar Patterns

Mic polar patterns — cardioid

Cardioid Polar Patterns StudioBinder

Cardioid polar pattern  •  Types of polar patterns

Microphones with a cardioid polar pattern pick up quality sound in a heart-shaped pattern in front of the microphone. The sides of the microphone are less sensitive but will still pick up a usable degree of sound at a closer range, while the rear of the microphone is entirely out of range.

Cardioid vs. Hypercardioid  •  types of polar patterns

In addition to the cardioid polar pattern, there are also the supercardioid and hypercardioid polar patterns. You will notice that these polar patterns look quite similar. Both patterns have a similar front-facing pickup pattern, plus an additional back-facing pickup range.

Microphone Polar Patterns SuperCardioid and HyperCardioid Polar Patterns StudioBinder

Super and hypercardioid  •  mic polar patterns

The major distinction between these two patterns is that with hypercardioid polar patterns, the rear-facing range is larger.

Different Types of Microphone Polar Patterns

Mic polar patterns — omnidirectional

Omnidirectional polar pattern

Omnidirectional polar pattern  •  Polar coordinates microphones

Microphones with an omnidirectional polar pattern pick up audio equally throughout a 360-degree space. The range of this sphere-like space can vary from microphone to microphone. But the shape of the pattern will hold true and the audio quality will remain consistent from any angle when using an omnidirectional microphone.

Omnidirectional vs. cardioid  •  Pattern microphone

The above video compares the omnidirectional pickup pattern with the cardioid pickup pattern. There are circumstances where each polar pattern type would be preferable over the other.

Polar Coordinates Microphones

Mic polar patterns — bidirectional

Figure polar pattern

Figure-8 polar pattern  •  Microphone patterns and uses

The bidirectional polar pattern is also known as the figure-8 polar pattern because the shape of the pickup area forms the outline of a figure-8. A bidirectional microphone records audio directly in front of and directly behind the capsule without picking up sound from the sides.

The following video shows how a bidirectional mic can be used to record guitar and vocals simultaneously.

The figure-8 polar pattern in action  •  What are Microphone Polar Patterns

The video above shows just one of many possible applications of a microphone utilizing a figure-8 polar pattern. Each polar pattern type has its specific uses, so be sure to pick the microphone with the right polar pattern for the job.

UP NEXT

What is a Lavalier Microphone?

Now that we know what microphone polar pickup patterns are, it just might be the perfect time to start researching the different types of microphones that utilize these pickup patterns. Lavalier microphones are a good place to start. We’ll explain what lavalier mics are, how they work, and why you might want to use them.

Up Next: Lav Mics →
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  • Sam Kench is an internationally-awarded screenwriter, independent filmmaker, and film critic. Lover of foreign films; hater of American remakes.

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