Stumbling Across The Aputure Deity
Introduced to the U.S. market in January of 2017, the Aputure Deity is a condenser shotgun microphone that has been on the market for over a year now. I didn’t set out to review the Deity; I thought I knew what it was. I own two Aputure lights, the excellent-value-for-the-money Light Storm LS-1s LED panels. As far as the lights, they have a ton of output, innovative features, are fairly well made and were inexpensive for the output and features that they include. Applying these characteristics to the Deity didn’t really work for me, as lighting instruments need to have very different qualities than a microphone. Really, the only thing “artistic” about a light is created by the artist who lights with it. Sure, color temp and accuracy are important in a light, but generally, I turn them and light with them. With LEDs, I usually diffuse them with a softbox or through a frame with diffusion to soften the output.
A microphone, on the other hand, to me, is used in a pretty different way in that its intrinsic sound quality is its single most important characteristic. It matters how you use a microphone, but the general rule of thumb in location sound recording is that the closer you can get the microphone to the subject, the better. If a microphone sounds great, it is generally easy to use and a pleasure to listen to. Aputure is new to shotgun microphones, so I was curious to take a listen and look at the Deity, but I hadn’t made that happen yet. I was recently walking around CineGear 2018, and I stumbled upon the Deity at Aputure’s display booth.
The Design Goals
Aputure went over several of the design goals for the Deity with me when I was at CineGear. The Deity was designed to have remarkably low off-axis coloration. It’s capable of a great balance between your primary sound and the surrounding environmental ambience. Sound from off-axis direction won’t be distorted or sound radically different than on-axis. The Deity can more accurately capture off-axis sound, minimizing noise reduction requirements in post.
The Deity utilizes a Super Cardioid pickup pattern, and as you tell from its polar pattern, there is little rear axis noise capture. The Deity has a very low noise floor at 12dB (A-weighted) and 24dB (CCIR 268-3), and the body is constructed out of a piece of machined brass, which gives it a very substantial feel when you pick it up. I was personally struck by the design similarities between the Deity and the venerable Sennheiser MKH-416 microphone.
Listening To The Deity
Unfortunately, I was not able to secure a review copy of the Deity yet, so I was limited to evaluating it at CineGear, a less than ideal testing ground as all I could hear the mic through was an inexpensive portable digital audio recorder. I was able to hear the Deity’s basic characteristics, though, which I would describe as smooth; the bass frequencies sound as if they are enhanced, which gives the sound a warm, smooth quality compared to other microphones in the $400 and less price point.
The craftsmanship on the Deity is beautiful, and the mic is solid and well made, CNC machined out of brass, with the brass then coated in a dark gray anodized/painted rougher finish that should hold up well to normal field recording and usage. I like that Aputure is selling the Deity in a Location kit that includes a nice auto air pressure balanced safe case, a Rycote handheld/boom microphone mount, an Aputure Windscreen, an Aputure foam windscreen and a traditional 5/8” mic mount for mounting the Deity on a normal stage microphone stand. This is mostly support gear that you would have to go out and buy separately, but it’s nice to save time and money and buy it all together in a very reasonably priced kit.
Comparisons To Other Microphones
I found the sound quality of the Deity to be pretty decent, from what I heard. My own favorite sub-$400 shotgun is the Audio-Technica AT875R, which sells for under $200. The Diety sounds better than the Audio-Technica, not by a huge margin, but it is noticeably smoother while still retaining detail. The other sub-$400 microphones, like the Røde NTG2, to my ear, just don’t have the smoothness and bass response that the Deity has. Generally, it’s been my experience that to own a truly uncolored, un-biased microphone that has the least amount of sound coloration, you have to spend many times the cost of under $400 to gain that kind of completely neutral, brutally honest sound. A microphone like the Schoeps CMC-641 offers little of its own characteristic to the sound. Most other microphones, even fairly costly ones like the Sennheiser MKH-50, color the sound quite a bit. I liken the MKH-50 to an action movie. It makes everyone sounds like a “hero.”
The Deity would possibly not work as well with talent who already has a lot of bass in their voice. In that case, I would move the Deity back from the talent a bit to mitigate the proximity effect that tends to amplify and enhance bass frequencies the closer the microphone is to the subject. On the other hand, a talent with a thin or reedy voice sounds pretty improved thorough Deity. Some quick price checking shows the Deity Location Kit seems to retail for about $429, which is a pretty small amount of money for the quality you gain with the microphone. The Deity is well worth your consideration, especially if you are a filmmaker or beginning location sound mixer who has limited funds to work with.
Solving Lavalier Noise Issues In One Fell Swoop
One of the most common challenges in miking talent is how to reduce undesirable sounds from lavalier microphones. What you want is clean, clear and dynamic sound. What you will most often end up with is noise, rustling from the lavalier brushing against skin, clothing, beard whiskers, shirts, blouses or jackets, etc. There is cable noise to try to fix, and a lot of other noise challenges can rear their head as well, usually at the least opportune times. Frankly, there are an art and science in how to effectively place a lavalier on talent so that any noise is mitigated, quickly and simply. I’ve covered some of these mounting tips in past issues of Audio Assist, so this time, I want to cover a simple, easy-to-use and quick solution that tends to work better overall than most of the other methods.
The solution I am excited about has been on the market for quite a while, and many location sound mixers have been using them for years, but if you are not a location sound pro, you may have not ever heard of these. They’re called the Rycote Overcover system. These are quick, simple and very effective for most lavalier placement, especially in narrative shooting situations where the lavalier MUST be hidden from view under wardrobe.
The Overcover system consists of two components, the Stickies, small circular adhesive foam pads that are sticky on both sides, and the Overcovers, which are small fur-covered disks with a sort of stretchy nylon cloth-appearing rear that the fur adheres to. If you’ve spent any time around location sound mixers and or boom operators, you know that the way you reduce wind noise on a shotgun microphone is with a fur-covered windshield, often referred to as a “Dead Cat.” The fur cover magically breaks up and eliminates most wind buffeting, and the Rycote Overcover does basically the same thing on a much smaller size.
Using the Overcover system is faster and easier than vampire clips, tape triangles or most other ways of affixing a lavalier microphone to talent. Say your talent is wearing a crew neck cotton T-shirt. This is normally quite a challenge to rig a lavalier on. You might run the lavalier cable up the T-shirt wearer’s T-shirt, come out the top through the collar, and use a vampire clip to affix the lavalier to the crew neck collar. In this way, you will see the lavalier, which is a minus, and the lavalier will also be putting weight and cable strain on the flimsy cotton T-shirt collar, which can make it look bad on camera.
Setting up the same talent, wearing the same T-shirt, using the Overcover system is a breeze. Peel off a double-side adhesive Sticky, then place the lavalier into the rear pad of one of the fur-covered Overcovers, and press the lavalier and Overcover to onto the sticky. I like to work the sticky around the full outline of the lavalier element itself. Then remove the second paper from the rear of the Sticky and press the little sandwiched Sticky, lavalier and Overcoat to the inside of the T-shirt. You are done. The talent can wear this all day. The fur from the Overcover will insulate and eliminate all of the rustling or rubbing noise, and, from the outside, the lavalier will be invisible. This system also eliminates any plastic clips, the sharp metal teeth from Vampire clips, so as the talent moves, stands up or sits down, nothing from the microphone will stick them or gouge them. The only caveat is that the Overcovers are available with black, gray or white fur. It’s a good idea to have at least two of the three colors on hand. The black or gray fur can show through a thinner white shirt, and vice versa; a white or gray Overcover can also be too visible when placed on a dark navy or black shirt.
I’ve been using the Rycote Overcover system for over a year now, and it has made placing lavalier microphones and ensuring noise-free performance from them a breeze. I highly recommend picking some up to try.