First off, I’ve written a few time now about my trials and tribulations with audio to accompany my videos and pointed out some things that have worked and other things that have not. As I’ve mentioned previously, you can have a somewhat crappy movie with great audio and it’ll be watchable, but a great movie with crappy audio is completely unwatchable. If you’ve ever come across a YouTube video where the sound quality is just awful, you’ll know what I mean. We’ve watched many an old movie that’s been copied and put up on YouTube where the image quality isn’t the greatest, but the movie has been watchable because the audio has been reasonably decent; you can understand what’s being spoken and the music is fine. Quite the opposite to some others that get switched off in seconds. Audio has such an impact on movies and video in general that it’s one area where you have to get it right as there’s little room for error.
I’ve always been aware that there are limits as to how low a price you can pay and still expect reasonable product quality, especially in today’s world where you can get surprisingly good quality for amazing prices. Just look at some of the latest TVs, 58″ or larger 4K for under $1000. The picture quality on these units can be excellent, but where they can fall down is in the audio quality, which can often be rectified with an additional audio accessory that will never really get old. But when it comes to recording audio, as you must when producing video, there are real limits as to how inexpensive your audio gear can get. Many serious video producers set themselves up with quite expensive (though still not the most expensive) audio recording gear and synchronisation software so that they can get high quality audio recordings. But what all of this does is increases the amount of gear you need to carry around and maintain when you already have enough gear to manage. That’s why I’ve been on the lookout for good quality audio equipment that minimises the amount of gear I need to lug around. With my rig already weighing around 8+kg, the last thing I need is another kilo or so of additional audio gear, including batteries.
So that’s why I’ve been pursuing various options that, over the last year, have provided varying degrees of performance and satisfaction. I initially started with a Rode VideoMicro microphone that I’d bought for my Olympus E-M1, but immediately discovered that because of the BMPCC4K’s very weak audio pre-amplifiers, I was getting almost no audio whatsoever through the VideoMicro. That led me to investigate external audio amplifiers, of which I’ve written about previously, that offered reasonable outcomes but with their own shortfalls. I could never quite find the right solution to good quality audio without lots of fiddling about, wires everywhere and remembering to turn everything on. It was after I bought the Rode Wireless GO that I discovered that I could get high quality audio to meet all my needs without breaking the bank. The Wireless GO unit showed me that even a small unit of sufficiently high quality could provide commensurately high quality audio through a similarly high quality Lav microphone.
That then made me think about the on-camera microphone itself. The Saramonic I had was a reasonable microphone, but not really for recording high quality sound with the BMPCC4K. It was most noticeable when I compared the audio of the VideoMicro through the Wireless GO and repeating with the Saramonic. The former had a much deeper and richer sound that made the Saramonic sound ‘tinny’ and there was also some sort of interference evident. It’s odd that I hadn’t noticed this previously, but maybe I’d attuned myself to the sound and not noticed how it really preformed. So I started pondering another Rode microphone, this time the VideoMic Pro+. Once again I went on YouTube looking for reviews and, after watching a few comparisons with other brands, notably much cheaper ones (up to 10x cheaper), I made my decision. Some well known reviewers insisted that the cheaper microphones were as good, if not better than the Rode, but after listening to their spiel, I couldn’t but wonder where they got that opinion. In every review the Rode sounded much better than the cheap units being proffered and so that’s the way I went.
The VideoMic Pro+ duly arrived and I think that I’m finally happy with my audio setup (famous last words). All the features that the Rode VideoMic Pro+ offers work very well and the quality of sound is just so much better. This way I can remove the Wireless GO transmitter and use it as a Lav for voice and the on-camera VideoMic Pro+ for ambient sound. I could do this with just the Wireless GO and VideoMicro, but the audio levels of the latter (not being a powered mic) were still much lower than what the VideoMic Pro+ provides. Having the ability to now better adjust the audio levels in-camera, the VideoMic Pro+ improves the audio quality dramatically; the cleanliness and depth of the audio is so much better overall. One excellent feature of the VideoMic Pro+ is the ability to record two levels of audio at the same time in case you’re working in environments where the sound levels can change dramatically. That will possibly be the case at the Blessing of the Bikes where the sounds of the motorcycles can go from subtle to very loud in an instant.
Now being able to use two microphone setups at the one time is great, but it’s not so great if the two audio signal interfere with each other in the audio recording. By interfere I simply mean that the two audio signals will compete against each other on the same tracks. To that end, I found the perfect solution via a Hosa YMM-261 3.5mm TRS(M) to Dual 3.5mm TS(F) Stereo Breakout Adaptor Cable. What this cable does is separate the audio signals from two different microphones, or other devices, into left and right mono signals. Now since the Rode Wireless GO and VideoMic Pro+ are both mono microphones anyway, this doesn’t matter, but what it does is it allows each audio signal to be recorded separately on the left and right channel. I do lose the ability to record a high and low signal with the VideoMic Pro+, but I think that’s worth it for what I gain and I can always quickly switch back to regular recording when the situation demands.
The other thing that I want to cover is cable management. I watch a lot of videos on film making and related equipment, and one of the most frustrating things that I often see are camera rigs with cables sprouting out all over the place. I’ve always been one to ensure that cables and wires are all properly routed and tied up no matter what the situation, be it working on my car or my camera. Having cables sticking out all over the place invites accidents and/or damage to connectors, cables or both. There’s really no reason for cables on a camera not to be routed so that they are out of the way and not likely to snag on anything. With a few zip ties or Velcro straps, all cables can be properly secured, out of the way and safe from damage. I still don’t understand why so many YouTube video producers don’t seem to take any care when it comes to cable management.
The last thing I’d like to cover is electronic viewfinders (EVF). I’ve been searching and waiting for someone to make a small EVF suitable for a DSLR/mirrorless camera that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Everything on the market at the moment is, at a minimum, the size of a 375mm beer can and/or costs at least AU$2000 if it’s half decent. These are devices that few, if any, DSLR/mirrorless video camera user will likely buy, but would consider one if it was a lot smaller and say under AU$500. Why no one has realised that there’s a market for such a device that only needs a HDMI and power input, and none of the other paraphernalia associated with cinema EVFs, is beyond me. But each year another EVF is introduced and it’s really more of the same.
As I keep noting, things are coming together quite well now, but I sure can’t wait for Winter to move along. In previous Winters there’s always been a chance to get out and do something, but this year it’s been almost constantly miserable and wet, windy or just downright too awful to even try to get out. I really do hope that Summer is going to make up for this bleak time, though we still have to go through Spring when that comes around and that’s usually the wettest time of year. I’m just going to have to be patient.