Lens vs Microphone (& why i love myopia)

My fundamental creative core is sonic, make no mistake: whether its sound, music or that glorious blurry region inbetween; my ears are my primary sense. If it came down to some apocalyptic trade off of losing a sense & surviving I would instinctively sacrifice my sense of taste or vision or touch or smell, so as to retain my hearing… but as time passes I slowly become more & more interested in my sense of vision…..
It may well be inspired by my myopia: I am short sighted & have been since age 15 +/- but that is a ‘flaw’ I hold dearly. Both my brother & sister-in-law had laser surgery to have their short sightedness erradicated & when they confronted me as to whether I was going to follow suit I said HELL NO!!! Reason 1: I dont like the smell of my retina being burned off by a laser… but more importantly, reason 2: I love wearing glasses – people with ‘normal’ eyesight dont realise what they are missing out on & I am seriously reticent to share the secret that is common to all my myopic percentile of the population, whether they realise it or not…. ok, let me explain, lenses are like microphones….

Lenses are like microphones. This is a relatively obvious conclusion that makes total physical sense, but despite all that it never even crossed my mind in the previous 3 decades. I fully appreciate light & sound are just arbitrary zones on a spectrum that extends down to earthquakes & light years…. and extends up beyond the frequency of electrons in various orbits on the periodic table…
But I love shallow focal depth; sonic or visual…. and if you are myopic you have an instinctive appreciation of intensely shallow depth of field well before any of those words had any meaning to you. For an experienced cinematographer to achieve what I am talking about would require an informed & prolonged discussion with many departments of a film shoot… and yet, I take off my glasses & there it is: absolute beauty, surrounded by a sea of lovely analogue blurr…. and that proximity to something, or more impoertantly;someone, carries with it an intimacy the instinct of which is far more important & emotionally valuable than any premeditated intent….

And as I learn to appreciate lens, first on my stills camera & recently on my HD camera, I find myself more & more translating their behaviour & response relative to my microphones…..
ie that zoom lens is like my shotgun mic!
& that macro lens is like my contact mic (if its quiet) or a dynamic mic (if its loud)
& that 50mm prime lens is like my Neumann…

it really is a continuum…. of frequency & response….
but it makes me wish for the character of one format to translate to another
for example, why cant I take a Sennheiser 816 microphone & follow focus?

I totally recognise my own (& others) ability to shift focus on the sounds they hear in an otherwise dense soundscape, but that is psychological focus as opposed to the physics of visually shifting focus…. We often emulate the phenomena in a mix, but it doesnt exist in a single microphone as far as I know……..?

7 thoughts on “Lens vs Microphone (& why i love myopia)

  1. tim

    true, i hadnt thought of the soundfield in that way… but as with M/S recording that is after the fact, I think I am dreaming of a very directional shotgun mic with controllable reach/focus….

  2. Danijel

    Heh, I guess cinematographers are dreaming of being able to change focus during the post 🙂

    And they will soon have it:

    BTW, when you have sharp vision, with some exercise, you can un-focus things (without crossing eyes and seeing double), so you have the best of both worlds 🙂
    I sometimes un-focus (along with half-closing my eyelids) when I rest and want to detach myself a bit from the reality.

  3. Andrew

    I wonder if those parabolic refelctor microphones the FBI uses (at least on TV – that’s my only frame of reference) could do something like that. Not “zoom” in and out, but follow one particular sound source as it moves relative to background sounds.

  4. tim

    you know, i have never tried using a parabolic reflector to record sound – i read somewhere ages ago that they have a frequency response limited by the size of them, but i’m not sure of that scale/frequency trade off… more info here:

    pursuing the same goal via other means I just picked up a secondhand Sennheiser MKH70, which is a long (400mm) shotgun mic & is very directional,
    will post some recordings once i’ve been out & about with it a bit….

  5. neil

    “but as with M/S recording that is after the fact” – tim

    As far as I remember, the Soundfeld can be after the fact or real-time. The mic I used to use had four outputs (one for each capsule). If one recorded the raw output, it could be manipulated after the fact. Or it could be plugged into a decoder box which had stereo outputs, and controls on the front for controlling pattern and width and something else, but I can’t recall what.

    So one could zoom in to an extent. Not quite omni to shotgun, but omni to hyper-cardioid was possible.

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