If you’ve ever seen a film crew in action, you may have wondered about the large blimp-shaped object that is so often held above the heads of the actors. In sporting events, you may have seen these same blimps pointing at the field or at the audience.
What are microphone blimp kits and what are they used for? Microphone blimp kits are big windscreens that fit over shock mounts. Blimps allow a microphone to be fully shock-mounted and provide full wind protection around the entire mic rather than just around the capsule. Blimps are best implemented with long shotgun mics.
In this article, we’ll talk more about microphone blimp kits, their applications, and why they are sometimes superior to other types of windscreens.
What Is A Microphone Blimp Kit?
A microphone blimp kit is actually made of 2 different components designed to fit together:
- A microphone shock mount.
- A fully-encompassing microphone windscreen (the “blimp”.
A microphone shock mount effectively holds a microphone in place (like a mic clip); attaches to a mic stand/boom, and mechanically isolates the mic from the mic stand/boom (and the other solids in the environment).
Rode is featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.
To learn more about microphone shock mounts, check out my article What Is A Microphone Shock Mount And Why Is It Important?
A fully-encompassing windscreen “blimp” effectively acts as a barrier around the entire microphone (rather than only the mic grille). This helps to further reduce the amount of wind noise in the microphone, especially for shotgun microphones that have long interference tubes that allow sound to enter from many acoustic ports.
As we see above, the Rode Blimp (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent example of a microphone blimp/windshield and shock mount. It is built with two main components: the shock mount and the all-encompassing windscreen.
To learn more about microphone screens, check out my article Why Do Microphones Have Screens? (Pop Filter, Grille, Windscreen).
Blimp kits are typically designed to host shotgun microphones. These are the long and narrow windscreens we see on film sets and at sporting events (often covered with a dead cat).
Rode’s Dead Wombat (link to check the price on Amazon) is one such example of a “dead cat.”
To learn more about microphone dead cats, check out my article What Are Dead Cats And Why Are Outdoor Microphones Furry?
However, there are models out there that are designed to hold shorter pencil mics. There are even blimp windscreens out that that stereo mic pairs and other multi-microphone arrays.
An example of a microphone blimp kit that holds a stereo microphone array is the Rycote Cyclone MS (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video). This particular kit is designed to hold two Schoeps CCM microphones (a cardioid “mid” microphone and a bidirectional “side” microphone).
It’s important to note that the shock mounts in blimp kits generally need to attach to microphone stand or boom pole. These shock mounts attach in the same way that regular shock mounts or mic clips would (typically with a 3/8″ or 5/8″ threaded connector).
It’s also important to note that the microphone(s) inside the blimp still needs to connect to a mic preamp somehow. Typically this is done via an XLR mic cable.
Therefore, blimp kits have tiny slots for a mic cable to run through. Many blimp kits have very short XLR cables that run from inside the blimp to beside the threaded connector.
This design allows us to connect the microphone within the blimp to the short XLR and makes it easy to connect and disconnect the mic from the main mic cable without having to remove the blimp.
So microphone blimp kits are essentially designed to hold a microphone in place and reduce noise as much as possible.
The shock mount reduces mechanical noise while the windscreen reduces wind noise.
This makes microphone blimp kits exceptionally valuable in outdoor situations and in applications where the mic is being handled and moved around (such as when boom miking).
Speaking of applications, let’s dive deeper into why we should use a microphone blimp kit.
When Should We Use A Microphone Blimp Kit?
There are two main applications where using a microphone blimp/windscreen kit along with a shotgun microphone is advised:
- At the end of a boom pole
- With outdoor field microphone
Microphone Blimps And Boom Poles
Microphone blimps are nearly always used at the end of boom poles.
Boom poles and microphones are common in film and video applications to get a microphone close to the dynamic video frame without being in the shot.
A boom microphone will benefit greatly from a quality shock mount.
Boom mics are consistently being moved around. A shock mount helps to ease a mic’s movement into the start and stop motions of the boom pole and operator.
The main benefit, though, is that shock mounts provide mechanical isolation, which is paramount. Any time the boom operator adjusts his or her grip, mechanical noise is transmitted up the pole. This noise will enter the microphone unless the mic is properly shock-mounted.
The boom operator will also typically need to move and even the footsteps of the operator will lead to mechanical noise in the microphone.
The blimp helps to minimize wind noise and acts as a pop filter.
Indoors, this means that the mic will not experience nearly as much noise as it is moved or swung through the air.
The same benefit applies outdoors with the obvious added benefit of reducing the actual wind noise.
Note that dead cats help to further reduce wind noise in outdoor boom microphones.
For more detailed reads on microphone booming, check out my articles What Is A Boom Microphone? (Applications + Mic Examples), How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone, and Best Boom Microphones For Film.
Microphone Blimps And Field Microphones
Speaking of the outdoors, microphone blimp kits are common for field mics in outdoor sports broadcasting and nature recording.
Blimps are often used in these situations because shotgun microphones are often used in these situations.
Shotgun microphones are very directional and have longer reaches than less directional mics (unless a parabolic dish is used). Therefore, shotgun mics are popular choices on the sidelines of field sports (football/soccer, American football, rugby, etc.).
These shotgun mics are exposed to wind and sometimes inclement weather. Microphone blimps help tremendously to reduce wind noise in the microphone which could otherwise ruin the mic’s signal-to-noise ratio.
Combine the blimp with a heavy duty dead cat and we have some protection against rain, snow, and humidity (though I wouldn’t rely on this to keep your mics safe in poor weather conditions).
Other Situations That Call For Microphone Blimps
Sometimes blimps are used as a simple pop filter for shotgun microphones when recording voice. This helps to reduce plosives in the mic signal.
To learn more about microphone pop filters and plosives, check out my articles What Is A Microphone Pop Filter And When Should You Use One? and Top 10 Tips For Eliminating Microphone Pops And Plosives, respectively.
Other times microphone blimps are used in ADR (Automated dialogue replacement) for film to best recreate the conditions of the film set in the studio.
Are shotgun mics condenser mics? The vast majority of shotgun microphones are also condenser microphones. Typically, these are FET condensers and are powered in the same ways most other condensers are. However, some other shotgun mics are RF (radio frequency) condensers , which are powered differently and are more weather-resistant.
For more information on shotgun microphones, check out my articles The Lobar/Shotgun Microphone Polar Pattern (With Mic Examples), Best Boom Microphones For Film and Best Shotgun Microphones For A Camera.
What is a dead cat microphone cover? A microphone “dead cat” is a type of fake-fur windscreen that covers a microphone blimp. These furry dead cats help tremendously in reducing wind noise in the mic signal by effectively reducing the area in which wind may create vortexes on the windscreen’s surface.
To learn more about microphone dead cats, check out my articles What Are Dead Cats And Why Are Outdoor Microphones Furry? and Best Microphone Windscreens.