The more video I do (or practice), the more audio comes into play and problems need to be resolved. I’ve already spoken about the issue with low audio volume when using external microphones (mics) with the BMPCC4K and the way I went about trying to get better audio. But the issues didn’t end there, I was now becoming frustrated when using Lav mics and recording to an external recorder, whether the Olympus or the El-Cheapo. The major problem was forgetting to turn on either the external audio recorder, start the audio recording or synchronise the audio with the clicker, or forgetting to do all three. So as I read more articles and watched more videos about wireless mics, especially Lavalier (Lav) mics, it became clear that I would be better of with a wireless mic where the receiver could connect directly to the camera audio input. This meant no synchronising in the video editor, saving time and the need for separate (and expensive) audio synchronising tools.
So after watching all of those videos, I started looking at local prices and availability and came across a great deal on the Rode Wireless GO microphone system. It seemed to have been the Rode Wireless GO month on YouTube, with one review after another. The Wireless GO had some limitations compared to a few of the others that were reviewed, such as actual line of sight range (when the body blocked the mic) and on-body size, even though it was quite small overall. However, the former issue was easily overcome by making certain the transmitter was facing the receiver and, being so adaptable, this wouldn’t be such a problem. Moreover, for what I wanted, this wasn’t going to be an issue. I won’t go (pun intended) into great detail about the Wireless GO, as this is not a review (there are plenty about by people who really understand audio) but an explanation of how I use it and how I’ve adapted it to my camera rig to make the most of its capabilities. One thing the Wireless GO had over the others was that the transmitter had a mic input, meaning that you could clip the transmitter to a discrete part of the body and run a wired Lav mic to the lapel or wherever and make the mic quite discrete. This proved to be much more of an advantage than I initially anticipated.
Despite a number of videos demonstrating that the Wireless GO had terrible range, the first thing that came to mind was that the reviewers weren’t being very innovative in their testing. Innovation has always been a hallmark of film makers (and photographers) and there are numerous videos about showing how to be innovative with film making sets etc, so I was perplexed by this omission. My thought was that if your subject had to be moving away from the camera, then you could use a wired mic connected to the transmitter and place the transmitter on the subject’s side (on a belt or whatever). This would mean that the transmitter would have line of sight to the receiver at all times (unless the subject turned so the transmitter was away from the receiver) and not lose signal. This is what film making is all about, you adapt to the situation and innovate to get what you need. And it’s rare that you’re going to be using a Lav mic where you have no opportunity to adjust anything to accommodate scene changes. So to test my theory, I went out and did exactly what I suggested.
To do this, I went out to my local park and positioned the BMPCC4K at one end of the park and attached a Rode smartLav+ to the transmitter which I then placed on the side of my body at my waist. I then started walking away, stopping 10m (10 paces) at a time, and repeated a short sentence until I’d covered about 160m. I then turned around and walked back, repeating the same sentence at 10m intervals. On reviewing the audio, the Wireless GO lost signal at 130m and then on the way back, resumed the signal again at 130m. My pacing wasn’t exact, but you can see from the video that the Rode worked pretty well over a substantial distance, certainly more than the 70m suggested by Rode. Also, having the transmitter on my side caused no issues during the test. This is what I meant about a bit of innovation. Everyone tests the Wireless GO by placing the transmitter on their chest, turning around and walking away. So the signal gets interrupted, at times quite quickly by the body blocking the signal, and then the reviewer complains that Wireless GO doesn’t have decent range. So why not combine both old and new technology (wireless and wired) to get better results?
Now the other thing that I found very useful with the Wireless GO is the ability to attach an on-camera mic to the transmitter, which I tried out with the on-camera mics I have and it works great. So much so that the Wireless GO has now enabled me to remove the El-Cheapo audio recorder that I was using, which I’ll put to other use. The signal input, while not as strong as that from the El-Cheapo audio recorder, is still quite strong, but of much better quality (no surprises there). What I’ve done is provided a mount for the Wireless GO transmitter and receiver on the camera rig so that the transmitter can be easily removed for Lav work, but left on and attached to the on-camera mics when not using the Lav. This also means that I know exactly where the units are at all times. The transmitter and receiver can be powered via USB, so I don’t have to worry about battery charge when out and about, though on a full charge the transmitter and receiver are supposed to last around seven hours, which is more than enough for a day’s work.
Now I’m not sure if Rode deliberately designed the Wireless GO so that it could be used with other mics, or at least some 3.5mm mics, but this is the sort of versatility that makes some devices much better than others. If you watched the second link that I provided at the very beginning, where Tom Antos compares the Wireless GO with an even smaller Lav, the PicoGear Wireless, you’ll note that the latter is just a Lav system (with two small wireless Lav mics) with a very large receiver. The PicoGear is a great concept, but because it only functions as a wireless Lav mic system, you can’t do anything else with it. This is where the Wireless GO, at least for my use, is so much better as it’s actually far more versatile and, when comparing overall size of the complete system, is much smaller than the PicoGear. The Wireless Go system is also way less expensive and I could buy three Wireless GO kits almost for the price of one PicoGear kit. And with Rode being an Australian company, it doesn’t hurt to support local manufacturers when the products are world class.
Another thing that I discovered about the Wireless GO while writing this article (I’ve been working on it for around a week) is that there is some pronounced interference or background noise coming through with the Saramonic mic when connected to the transmitter (discovered while listening with headphones). This doesn’t happen when it’s just the Rode VideoMicro connected, so I decided to remove the Saramonic mic and use just the VideoMicro, with the in-camera audio levels boosted slightly, which gives me clean audio without the obnoxious noise. This was a bit odd as I didn’t get this sort of noise with the El-Cheapo audio recorder, but I didn’t want to go back to that combination and complicate issues. I’ll have to test things out a bit more to see if the setup without the Saramonic and El-Cheapo works reasonably well before I decide to abandon them completely. I would certainly like to leave things as simple as possible and do away with the extra mic and audio recorder. But at least they are there if needed.
The only minor quibble I had was not knowing when the transmitter and receiver were fully charged and it took quite some investigation to find a definitive answer (blue light stops flashing and green battery indicator fills the battery icon). The manual also doesn’t tell you that if you press the power button on the receiver briefly, you can toggle through screen brightness and save power and save receiver power. That said, the Wireless GO is a great unit and really has solved an issue that’s been troubling me for some time, that being finding a useful and capable audio accessory that’s small, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and is easily adaptable to my camera rig. The fact that it provides additional versatility for use with my on-camera microphones and other audio gear is a welcome bonus, I can also now use it with my Olympus E-M1 MkII as well and it would be simply great if the Olympus TG5 had an audio input. But you can’t have everything, so you make do with what you have.