Reaching Out with Rode’!
Douglas Spotted Eagle/VASST Trainer ©2005 Sundance Media Group

HDV:What You NEED to Know

 

Rode’ microphones, perhaps best known for their NT-Series studio microphones, is jumping into the videographer’s arena with their first mic designed for use with a video camcorder in mind. Considering that the video market is much larger than the studio/musician market, this is a wise and timely move for Rode.
There shouldn’t be any confusion as to the use of this mic, Rode’ has dubbed it “VideoMic” and it is designed to mount on a camcorder hotshoe. In fact, it has a shoe mount built directly into the bottom of the mic, which is a little unconventional, but will keep users from having to hunt down the ever elusive shoe mount adaptors that always seem to disappear just when you need one.
 
 
ROUGH CUT:
The VideoMic is extremely lightweight at slightly more than half a pound complete with battery and shock mount. Made entirely of ABS plastic, this mic won’t be bouncing around due to front end weight, and won’t be providing drag for those whip-style panning movements.

Nearly 10 inches in length, like most shotgun-type microphones it functions as a line plus gradient mic, using the barrel to cancel side audio.

Conveniently attached to the mic is a 3.5mm stereo plug that will feed both inputs of the standard DV or HDV camcorder with mono sound. The 3.5mm plug cable is coiled, allowing for some stretch to make the difficult to reach camcorder input more accessible. The coiled cord is kept in check by tie-downs on the side of the shock mount.

Of course, the 3.5mm plug means that the condenser microphone won’t be able to access phantom power via XLR connectors, so Rode’ has included a battery compartment on the microphone to hold a 9 volt battery. Battery life suggested to be 100 hours. I haven’t had opportunity to wear out the battery yet, but suffice it to say that the battery wasn’t significantly worn out after 2 full days of being attached to a Canon ZR 40 camcorder running on AC, recording all movement in a reasonably busy office space. Obviously, if you’ll be in a “condition critical” shoot like the average run n’ gun, you’ll want to keep a fresh battery on hand at all times, changing out at least every other day. Changing out the battery is as easy as sliding the battery cover off the body of the mic, removing and replacing the battery, and sliding the cover back on. No screwdriver or nickels needed to change this one out.

The shock mount is integral to the microphone. In other words, it’s part of the microphone and may not be removed. The shock mount is fairly typical in it’s design, except that rather than the barrel of the mic running through the shock mounts, there is a mounting pylon that is attached to the power compartment of the mic, and the pylon is suspended in the air by eight rubber “O” rings, four rubber rings on each end of the shock mount. The rubber rings attach to a fairly sturdy flat plat with small hooks, making it easy to replace the rubber “O” rings when they wear out. (And they will wear out, based on previous experiences with several shock mounts over the years)

Building the shock mount into the mic assembly isn’t an entirely new concept, but at this price point it certainly is. We’ll revisit this later in the review.

A foam windscreen rounds out the physical appearance of the VideoMic. The foam windscreen is attached to the mic barrel with Velcro™ but is fairly easily removed if one is careful. You’ll want to leave this on for nearly all shooting.

MAKING THE CONNECTION:
After putting a new battery in the VideoMic (battery not included) I then mounted and connected the mic to a Sony XX20 palmcorder. I monitored the audio through my trusty Etymotic ER 6 headphones. These headphones because not only are they very flat, but I’m also very used to them with a wide variety of microphones. I then took the microphone and camcorder around my barnyard, recording horses, barking dogs, and later, a conversation with my neighbor. I then took a similar mic of a different brand but similar price point around to record the same sources. I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised. The Rode’ mic significantly outperformed the other microphone, even though it’s not quite as impressive looking as the other budget line microphone.

Like most shotgun microphones, the directional pickup is somewhat broad in the lower frequencies. In other words, it’s most directional at the higher frequencies, ignoring crisp sounds that are not directly in the axis of the VideoMic. Below 300Hz, this mic is fairly rounded in it’s pickup pattern; this is typical of lower cost shotguns mics. Above 1K or so, this mic is very directional as one might expect it to be. Expect reasonably narrow pickup patterns in the 3K and above range.

This could be confusing for entry-level users, as many people see shotgun mics and immediately think “zoom microphone” or “super directional microphone” because Hollywood movies have portrayed shotgun microphones as being used to listen in on conversations 10 stories high and a city block away. Sorry to disappoint, but that’s not what this mic is designed to do and it will not work for eavesdropping on the neighbors. It will reach out and “touch someone” if the user is reasonably close, dependent on ambient noise and environment. Distances of greater than 5’ are not recommended unless the audio source is relatively loud compared to a noisy background. (This is true for most shotgun/super-cardiod mics)

This mic has reasonably low self noise, which is surprising for a microphone constructed entirely of ABS plastic. In fact, this was the one turn-off I experienced when opening the box and taking out the mic. It’s likely a personal prejudice as I know I expect mics to be heavy and beefy. But heavy and beefy mics don’t sit on most smaller DV camcorders, and this is what Rode’ had in mind when they designed this product. As the plastic housing doesn’t seem to affect the overall sound of the mic significantly, it’s a tremendous benefit to the videographer with a lighter weight camera rig.

THE HOOK:
One place this mic really shines vs the competition in its price class? Indoor recording. Shotguns by nature, are not designed to be used in most indoor settings, and certainly not in small rooms due to reflection and other issues. However, the sound of this mic wasn’t significantly different indoors compared to outdoors, but with a signal to noise ratio of 74dB, I’d not expect it to be. So, while I’d still not use this mic in a square, gypsum-board covered room that was only 12 x12, I’d have no problem using it in a standard reception or gathering room of reasonable size, and expect to get a good quality out of it.

The Videomic has a fairly definite bump in the lower frequencies at around 200 Hz. Knowing this, you’ll want to use an EQ in your NLE with this microphone, most microphones will require some EQ to tweak up the sound anyway. The mic is reasonably sweet in the 4K area, not nearly as harsh as it’s competition in the same price range, and definitely smoother than any sub 300.00 shotgun microphone.

You’ll definitely get a closer, more sweet sound with this mic than the typical camcorder’s built in microphone offers.

Another uncommon use for the VideoMic is voice-overs. . Pointed at the lower corner of the mouth, this mic allows for a rich and clear V/O. Lots of professional V/O’s are cut on shotguns, and if you’ve never tried it, you should. However, due to the integral shoe-mount design of this mic, you’ll need to have your camcorder on a desktop or tripod to easily mount the mic at mouth level.

Knowing that rumble in the jungle is a big issue for microphones, shock mounted or not, Rode also provides users with a high pass filter (HPF) that kicks in at 80Hz. This is handy for recording in windy environments, on motorized decks, in vehicles, or on older, VHS or BetaCam cameras that have a high level of rumble. Enabling the HPF is as simple as pushing up the power switch to it’s uppermost position. Keep in mind that this will impact the lower frequencies, so only use it when it’s necessary. (You do monitor through headphones, right?)

Another sweet (and unusual) feature of this product is the battery indicator. Rode designed the mic so that when the battery runs low, the LED on the mic changes from green to red, letting the user know that there is approximately one hour of battery life left.

Overall, I’m impressed with the VideoMic from Rode. It’s important to take this mic into perspective; it’s not a high end shotgun/hypercardiod mic, and it’s not marketed nor sold as such. What it is though, is a very nice, well thought out entry level shotgun mic aimed perfectly at budding videographers, video hobbyists, serious home-moviemakers, corporate/in-house video producers, and any other cost-conscious video recordist.

At first, having the shock mount built in seemed a little strange to me, but after working with the mic for a while, it’s apparent why Rode built the VideoMic the way they did. I didn’t use the same kind of shock mount on the competitors mic that I tested, and it was considerably noisier. By including the shockmount as an integral part of the VideoMic body, Rode assured users of the lowest noise possible while saving them the expense and trouble of locating a shock mount that would be complementary to the microphone. (it’s rare a shotgun doesn’t require a shock mount) The same could be said for the built in battery; most lower cost DV camcorders don’t provide phantom power options, and so Rode’ assures users that they enjoy the benefit of a condenser mic while offering the price of a dynamic mic.

THE B SIDE:
Things I didn’t find attractive about the VideoMic would include the plastic construction of the entire assembly. The fact that the mic can only be camcorder mounted is a small detriment to those wanting to use the mic for purposes other than what it was intended for. The coiled cord could be just a smidge longer, or maybe less tensed, as the mic barely could reach the mic input on the Sony FX 1 camcorder, but if I disconnected the coil from the cable catch, it reached fine. Both are minor issues, but worthy of mention.
 
FINAL MIX:
If you’re looking into low cost shotguns, or simply have realized that your on-camera mic isn’t cutting it and you don’t want to drop a lot of cash on a super-specialized mic, the Rode VideoMic deserves a second and third look. Compared to the other sub $300.00 microphones, it’s a serious value, not withstanding the built in shockmount. If you were to pick up a $200.00 shotgun, you’d then need to buy a $50.00-$100.00 shockmount, plus a device to provide power to the mic, if it doesn’t have power built in. The VideoMic saves all that cost and just as importantly, the hassle. It’s all pre-matched for you.

Congratulations to Rode’, they’ve reached out to an important and ever growing niche with their new VideoMic, and hit the target dead on.

 
 
Happy Editing,

 

Rode VideoMic Rode Microphones $249.00 MSRP
Street price around $149.00
www.rodemic.com
 
 
 
View other VASST training tools, FREE! Click the link below to be transported to the VASST resources pages.
VegFiles
Plugins
Scripts
Hardware
Tutorials
Themes
Forums/Groups
HDVPortal

 

Books/DVDs
Reviews
FreeStuff
VegasFAQ's