Review

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f you are like me and a photographer for years, you have now also become a videographer too.  All digital single lens reflex cameras now offer the ability to take HD videos, even my little Nikon Coolpix AW100 offers 1080p HD video.  Many members of IPA  cover trade and consumer shows, concerts, media events, sports, travel and other opportunities that require decent sound quality, especially when interviewing a subject for their video reviews.

We already know that shooting with even the best DSLR cameras still make it difficult to shoot in a noisy or difficult location. If you are not happy with your current videos and the sound is lost or muddy,  then you probably realize that there has to be a better solution.

The RODE VideoMic

I discovered the RODE VideoMic from another IPA member Howie Grapek, when viewing one of his videos. I asked him how he got such great sound on his videos and he told me he uses a RODE VideoMic mounted on his camera. He also told me his camera with the mic mounted in the hot shoe makes the camera look a lot more professional when he is shooting these events.

Fully Loaded-Ready for Video and Still Photography

I use my VideoMic on a little accessory bracket that gives me two additional cold shoes. Now I have nothing mounted on directly on my camera’s hot shoe and can even slip on my flash if I want to take my photos too.  My bracket allows my LED video light and my Mic to sit comfortably on the left side of my camera, which works out perfectly.

The balance of this unit is great and I can walk through the aisles of a trade show simply holding onto the brackets handle. The bracket retails for around $10 and I purchased it on Amazon.com, a must if you not only want to LOOK like a Pro, but operate like a pro.

Now most DSLR cameras have adequate built in mics, but they are Omnidirectional microphones. These mics can pick up sound from virtually any direction. This design can be useful when a device needs to pick up ambient sound or is used in an environment where sound sources are moving and it is not practical to move the microphone along with them.

Understanding A Mic’s Pattern of Coverage

Built In Camera Mic Pattern vs. VideoMic Pattern

Of course using this mic you must remember the pattern of coverage which I forget from time to time. You will see in my video that when I was covering a recent trade show and pan my camera to look at the product, the sound from my subject becomes muted.  So understanding how your VideoMic works will enable you to get the right sound and not have to go through the learning experience I am still experiencing.  After all, with my built in mic, I can move the camera in any direction and still get the same muddy sound quality in a noisy location, but getting clean and clear sound trumps this convenience.

Accessory Handle & Cord

So if you are in a noisy location and want to pick up the speaker on the video and maybe a hint of the ambient sound, then in those cases you should use your VideoMic for the shotgun or unidirectional pattern. You can also purchase their accessories to keep the mic on your subject with either their handle and an extension cord plugged into your camera or if you have an assistant their Boompoles are a great accessories especially outdoors too.

To better understand why I like the RODE VideoMic, you have to understand what this can do for you. From their website, I took their description with my notes added to make it a bit clearer to those of us that have no idea what this all means.

Specs and What They Mean

The RØDE VideoMic is a professional grade 1/2″ condenser shotgun microphone designed for use with consumer video cameras and personal audio recorders.

This means this is a highly directional microphone that must be pointed directly at its target sound source for proper recording. They don’t mention it works great on our DSLR cameras too and maybe that is because of the size.

An in-built shock mounting system isolates the VideoMic capsule and electronics from its standard sized shoe mount, providing isolation from external physical factors that may cause unwanted rumble and vibrations in the microphone.

This means the rubber bands and the design on the mount will float the mic to reduce the rumble and vibrations that the mic would normally pick up.

Its standard sized shoe mount also includes a 3/8″ thread in the base for easy mounting on a boom pole or stand. (note that cameras with proprietary sized mounts require an additional adaptor.)

RODE has a bunch of cool accessories for this and their other mics.  You can even purchase a handle for their mics that enable you to use it as if it were a standard microphone for interviews and other uses.  

Its super cardioid polar pattern is highly directional, focusing on the subject in front of the camera, and minimizing any surrounding sounds.

Now this is great if you are not moving the camera with a shoe mounted videomic attached.  If you do then you will record whatever the camera sees.  Of course a boom pole or stand makes it easier to record sound when you want to pan away from the sound subject you want to record.

Manufactured from rugged and durable ABS, the microphone is designed to withstand being tossed in a camera bag while remaining lightweight and extremely portable.

From my experience over the past few months, I have been surprised the mic hasn’t busted into pieces as I forced it into my camera bag and banged against some objects as I carried my rig around the shows I cover.

In addition to the microphone’s native 40Hz-20kHz response a selectable high-pass filter at 80Hz is available, which will prevent low end noise such as air conditioners and traffic from being recorded.

This is self explanatory, and this high pass filter will enable you to obtain a much cleaner sound, which your built in camera mic simply cannot do.

A -10dB and -20dB level attenuation (or PAD), selectable from inside the battery compartment, allows recording of loud sound sources, such as live music or motorsport.

This becomes useful for a digital photographer who finds himself in a noisy environment as I have when attending many of the shows, concerts and events I cover.  As you will see in my sample video the ambient noise at many trade shows is quite loud and in most cases will simply drown out the speakers voice.  The PAD will help reduce that load noise to give you better sound quality.

The RØDE VideoMic directional on-camera microphone is covered by RØDE Microphones’ industry leading 10 year warranty.

Wow a ten year warranty, this tells me RODE is so sure that their products are made the right way, but the buyer can be assured that this is a company that stands behind their products.

 

RØDE Microphones – VideoMic Pro

Other RODE Video Mics To Consider

Now the RODE VideoMic Pro is out and for $229 Street Price and is smaller then the VideoMic. If you want the compact size and a few other features you may want to go the extra $80, but if you don’t do a lot of video work with your DSLR and budgets are tight you won’t be unhappy with the VideoMic.

 

RODE VideoMic HD Coming Soon

Just announced and will probably cost in the neighborhood of $500+ their new Digital Recorder VideoMic HD.  Yup, it actually records the sound files on its own SD cards…but again this article is meant for photographers, looking to improve sound on their DSLR cameras, so for most of us this is just a pretty new toy for now…but maybe someday…Hmmm!

Be sure to visit the RODE website for a complete line-up of all their fine products and watch the many informative videos. Who knows you may even understand this stuff one day too.

 
Watch Our Mic Comparison Video Now

Video will show the difference in sound quality when using our test Nikon D90 DSLR with its built In mic Vs. our latest test shooting the same subject years later using a Nikon D7000 with a RODE Video Mic.  We also wanted to point out the sound levels on the D7000 test which shows you how to control the sound using a shotgun mic.


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About the Author

Len Rapoport
Len Rapoport
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 40 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.