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Rode VideoMic HD

A Game Changer In DSLR Audio?

I must admit that since seeing the press release from Rode for the VideoMic HD, I’ve been a tad excited about the product! It’s still at a development stage so I have yet to see or use the VideoMic HD, but on paper and judging by these pictures, I think those who use their DSLRs for video are in for a treat.

Firstly, it uses a microphone based on the technology from my absolute favourite microphone, the Rode NTG3. Not only that, but it has a built in blimp which means it’ll be shielded from wind noise and vibration. The big game changer though is that it marries this amazing microphone to a built in digital recorder, allowing recording of high quality WAVs, and has a headphone socket for monitoring audio. It also has a display for monitoring audio levels. All of this packaged in a metal hosing that sits in your hotshoe. Very neat, tidy and compact.

To make it even more versatile, it also has an input for another microphone via 3.5mm audio jack. This means if you wanted to boom another microphone, say the superb VideoMic Pro, you could. You would get the shielded extension cable back from the boomed VideoMic Pro back to the VideoMic HD, thus being able to fully monitor the audio. Genius!

In operation, as far as I can tell, one would record onto the device (Micro SDHC, up to 32Gb in size) as high quality WAVs or compressed MP3s. The built in 3.5mm jacked cable then plugs into your camera and passes the monitored audio through. By setting a correct level on the camera and on the microphone, one could even just use the camera’s recorded track for quick and dirty edits in the field and later substitute the better quality WAV from the VideoMic HD when back in the office.

I for one can’t wait to get my hands on this and see how it sounds and performs. I think we’re all in for quite a special microphone.

Rode VideoMic Pro Review

The Perfect DSLR Microphone?

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, using a Canon 5D MkII on a Zacuto Striker with the new Rode VideoMic Pro (with a windshield fitted). In the foreground is the original Rode VideoMic. Filming in an operating theatre. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil patience

When I reviewed Canon’s 5D MkII in 2009, I concluded that the easiest way to get good audio on the camera was to use Rode’s VideoMic. I’ve been personally using this microphone since and have been getting pretty good results. However in situations where I need to travel compact or when shooting in news type situations, I did wish the VideoMic was smaller.

Rode seems to have been listening and recently launched the much smaller VideoMic Pro. It’s 10cm shorter in length than the VideoMic, 2.2cm lower in height but 0.7cm wider. It’s also lighter with the new model being 85g compared to the VideoMic’s 176g. It is just the right size now and when mounted, it doesn’t stick out the back.

Price wise, the VideoMic Pro is more expensive. Studiospares have the VideoMic Pro at £124.17 exc VAT compared to the older VideoMic at £65.83 exc VAT.

In Use

I did a set of extensive listening tests comparing the VideoMic and VideoMic Pro, using a Canon 5D MkII with it’s audio gain set on automatic. The subject was in an enclosed area and recorded from a distance of 2 meters as well as one meter. I listened to the results playing back the video on a MacPro using Aperture 3. Initially I used a pair of speakers and then headphones. No matter how hard I tried to find differences between the two, I couldn’t. The larger VideoMic was already a superb microphone, and the VideoMic Pro, although much smaller, was as directional in it’s sound gathering and just as clear in picking up all the detail in the voice. If anything, the VideoMic Pro seemed to make a little less background hiss in the quite times, as the camera turned up the gain automatically.

As a result, it later came as no surprise when comparing the specifications of the two microphones to see that Rode have somehow managed to make them identical, even though the VideoMic Pro is so much smaller.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian filming at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, with the Rode VideoMic Pro. Filming in an operating theatre. May 16, 2011. Photo: Neil patience

In listening tests, although I didn’t do a side by side comparison with it’s closest rival, the more expensive Sennheiser MKE 400 (£136.00 exc VAT), although I had previously tested the Rode VideoMic and in comparative listening tests, the Rode was the clear winner.

The new microphone is a completely different design, with a completely new suspension rig, which ensures camera noise doesn’t vibrate up to and get recoded by the microphone. I’m extremely glad to see that the on switch and all the filter controls are still at the back of the camera, where they are easily seen. There’s nothing worse that making a video recording and not switching on the microphone; with the Rode, an LED clearly shows when it’s on. The Sennheiser has these controls on it’s side where they are easily missed.

The smaller size naturally has it’s conveniences; it’s much harder to snag the microphone and naturally it takes up less room when packed. The shorter size also means that it’s now much easier to use ultra wide angle lenses.

Conclusions

If absolute quality is needed in audio, then currently with the video DSLRs on offer, one’s only answer is to record the audio separately and then sync it up afterwards when editing. I personally use a Zoom H4n audio recorder and Rode’s excellent NTG-3 microphone. However, this is extra equipment and expense, and demands a lot of extra time and expertise when editing. Even when doing dual audio, I still use the VideoMic Pro on a second body when shooting dual cameras (which I often do); this allows for a sound backup but also for a much cleaner audio track to synchronise externally recorded audio with. For the simpler and straight to camera audio recording, Rode’s VideoMic Pro has kept the superb sound of it’s older brother and packed it into a much smaller package. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to use their DSLRs for video.

Want To Know About Audio?

The Mic Tour 2011

Probably the biggest challenge for any photographer trying to shoot video is audio; as visual people, we already have visual literacy and the video stuff is easier to grasp, but audio is a completely new world.

The Rode NTG-2 microphone mounted on a Canon 5D MkII DSLR. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I’m delighted to say that I’ll be speaking at the Mic Tour 2011, along with some real audio experts; John Willett and Alex Joseph.

Photographer and film maker Edmond Terakopian using a Canon 5D MkII, Zacuto Striker and Z-Finder Pro x2.5, Think Tank Photo Wired Up 10 bag, Zoom H4-n and Rode NTG-3 mic The wedding of Sheleen and Ben. August 28, 2010. Photo: Jeff Ascough

My talk is going to be perfect for anyone wanting to learn a little about how I record audio for my DSLR video work. Hope you can make it!

Wednesday 23rd November 2011

SAE Bankstock Studios, 42-44 De Beauvoir Crescent, London, N1 5SB

Go to the Mic Tour 2011 to register and find out more details.