PANASONIC GH4 & RØDE LAVALIER
Q I’m looking for a good wired lavalier for my new Panasonic GH4 camera. Unlike my video cameras, the GH4 doesn’t have XLR connections, and most of the lavaliers I’ve seen that have unbalanced 3.5mm connections aren’t exactly pro-level microphones. This will be for broadcast, and I’ll mostly be working with a sound mixer, but I’ll have to grab occasional interviews on my own. What are my options?
A As the recent recipient of my own Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4, I’ve been experimenting with the audio. For the past few years, most users shooting with DSLRs have opted for outboard recording since the sound quality of most DSLRs ranges from abysmal to mediocre. The Panasonic GH4 audio does have some quirks, but overall, it’s usable for most applications.
If you neglect to record with the noise floor on the GH4 in mind, which seems to be around -62 or -63 dB, you’ll notice that the camera has some nasty operating noise, which sounds like circuit crosstalk. If you work within the noise floor of the camera, the sound is decent, although not as clear and clean as a typical outboard recorder. This means making sure that you record a hot, but not oversaturated/distorted, signal. The better the signal level, the higher the signal-to-noise ratio, and the less you’ll have to raise the audio levels in postproduction to achieve nominal audio levels. If you record with levels too low, when you crank them up in post, you’ll notice noise, and lots of it, much of it undesirable, with clicking that modulates in sync with various camera functions.
That said, many of us would like to avoid having to record separately and then manually sync audio, especially when working on projects with quick turnaround times. The GH4 features a dual mono 3.5mm input jack for audio and also includes a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack for audio monitoring.
I decided to audition the GH4 with the new Røde Lavalier microphone. The Røde Lavalier is a modular omnidirectional lavalier that includes a detachable microphone head (unusual in itself), as well as a 4m cable that terminates in a proprietary MiCon connector. You purchase whichever MiCon adapters are needed to interface the lavalier with your camera or audio devices, including wireless microphones. The system has a wide variety of adapters available, including connections to the most popular wireless systems, XLR and 3.5mm unbalanced connections. It’s actually a pretty slick system. Røde includes a furry windscreen, carrying case, cable, head and lapel clip as a package for $249. The MiCon adapters retail for $22 to $32, depending on which model and connection you need.
The GH4 doesn’t provide phantom power on its 3.5mm microphone input, hence I wasn’t able to plug in my usual Countryman and Tram lavaliers, but it does provide enough power to allow the Røde Lavalier to work—1 volt. Since I just received the Panasonic GH4 and Røde Lavalier at press time, I haven’t yet put the combo through its paces in detail, but quick preliminary tests seem to bear out that this will be an ideal setup for videographers working without a sound mixer doing simple one- or two-person interviews. You should take your GH4 to a local audio retailer and give the Røde Lavalier a try; I found the combination impressive for the cost.