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I'm looking for a microphone that is sensitive enough to capture a person's breath but reduces all other sound outside of a very close proximity.

I'll be placing the microphone in a sphere of LEDs which will illuminate and animate when the subject (also in the center of the sphere) breathes. The problem is, there will be dozens of people surrounding the sphere, which is only 12' in diameter.

Anyone have any ideas? I tried a shotgun mic, but it was far too sensitive and picked up surrounding footsteps far more than it did breathing.

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A lip mic is designed for similar situations - broadcasting in very noisy environments. The biggest limitation is that is must continuously maintain the required distance from the subject's mouth. If that's not an issue in your given situation, it might work well.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=356414&gclid=CI3U4eKL2cYCFUUUHwodbIQDBw&is=REG&m=Y&Q=&A=details

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Have you tried using a tie-clip mic (lav) or possibly trying a parabolic dish? I don't know if either of these would be better than using a shotgun, but it's worth experimenting if you have access to more equipment.

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If you are not actually recording the sound, but merely using it to trigger some effects, then I guess using a microphone might be overkill. Blowing into a microphone is also not very healthy (for the microphone). It's comparable to using a kitchen scale to detect a truck riding over it.

Maybe a do-it-yourself Contact microphone is more like what you want? Or maybe an old carbon microphone. These are usually less sensitive for sounds, but will surely respond to breath.

If you really want to use a real microphone, try adding a low-pass filter so it only passes the low frequency rumbling (or if you have a wooden floor maybe try just the higher frequencies to avoid footstep-triggering).

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How about using a combination of a less sensitive microphone(try a few out), a butt-load of filtering, and more importantly, capture the sound outside of the sphere, and use phase inversion to remove it from the 'breath mic' signal?

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