Fig. A: Use clippers to remove the plastic straps
connecting the hat to the umbrella. Fig. B: Cut the
tip off the umbrella knob. Fig. C: Cut an X into the
umbrella to feed the microphone wire through.
Fig. D: Insert the paint roller rod through the tip
of the umbrella. Fig. E: Install the microphone, then
secure the cable to the paint roller with cable ties.
Fig. F: Ready for spying.
2. Attach the handle.
Remove the paint roller’s plastic caps and wire
frame. Push the shaft through the hole in the top
of the umbrella, so that it protrudes 6" underneath.
Leave ½" of clearance between the outer surface of
the umbrella and the bend of the handle (Figure D).
Just above the umbrella’s top knob, wrap a length
of tape around the shaft and ring it with a cable tie
pulled tight. Wrap the the shaft with more tape, to
provide a gripping surface for the microphone.
3b. Plug the mic into a recording device, put on
some headphones, and point it toward a ticking
clock some distance away. Move the microphone
along the shaft until you get the loudest sound.
3c. Just take my word for it, and position the mic
about 3" from the inside surface of the umbrella.
3. Install the microphone.
Clip the mic to the shaft and thread the cable
through the X hole. Secure the cable with cable ties
You want to place the microphone at the focal
point of the reflector, but realize that this is a plastic
umbrella, not a perfect parabola. So this “point”
will be more of a semifocal blur. Here are 3 ways to
position the mic, in decreasing order of complexity:
4. Take it for a test ride.
Plug your new parabolic mic (Figure F) into a
recorder. Use headphones to monitor your work.
Then point it at something interesting. You’re in for
a pleasant surprise! Now try recording the same
sound without the parabolic setup — forget it.
Hear field recordings of a squirrel and a cardinal
made with the Dollar Store Parabolic Mic at
3a. Point a laser at different points on the inside
of the umbrella from a distance of about 20 feet
directly in front of the unit. Mark where it reflects
onto the shaft to find the general region of focus.
Jim Lee ( bambooturtle.com) is an artist who lives in
Durham, N.C., with hundreds of turtle and tortoise
artworks, plus a few live ones.