Keep It Simple

RØDE TO THE RESCUE

Q Like many people this year, I succumbed to the DSLR craze and purchased a new Canon EOS 7D. The built-in mic sounds terrible so I need an on-camera microphone, but I would rather keep it simple and not have to also buy and carry around a mixer or microphone interface. Any recommendations?
Gerald P.
Via e-mail

A One challenge of using a DSLR in a professional setting is that you end up taking a small, light and inconspicuous camera like the Canon EOS 7D and dressing it up with a shoulder mount, rods, matte box, follow-focus and perhaps a shotgun mic and a microphone interface like a BeachTek or juicedLink box. By the time you’re done, your once-small and low-key DSLR ends up looking like a Panavision film camera. I understand the quest for keeping your rig small and light.

RØDE, an Australian manufacturer of microphones and sound gear (rodemic.com), recently introduced an updated version of its existing VideoMic, known as the VideoMic Pro. This is a small, self-contained, high-quality condenser microphone that ships with a built-in power supply fed by a single nine-volt battery, so you won’t need a phantom power supply from an additional interface or mixer. It also includes a hot-shoe shock mount and a 3.5mm stereo gold-plated cable, so it’s ready to plug into the microphone input on the Canon EOS 7D, or any other DSLR or consumer camera, with no additional adapters needed.

The VideoMic Pro is extremely lightweight, weighing only three ounces, and is compact at six inches long, so it’s a perfect size and weight to comfortably interface with the 7D. Another issue that the VideoMic Pro addresses is that many of the existing camera mics on the market have output levels that are very low. This means that the audio preamp in the 7D has to boost the levels considerably in order to record a decent signal. The end result is unwanted hiss, low-dynamic range and unimpressive sound quality. The VideoMic Pro includes a nice +20 dB mode, perfect for DSLR users. The end result is cleaner, clearer sound with more dynamic range. I recently put the VideoMic Pro through its paces with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and I have to say, the sound quality was quite good.

I must insert my caveat here, though, that a camera-mounted microphone is useless for recording anything but ambient sound. If you’re interviewing people or recording any kind of dialogue, you must remove the microphone from the camera and place it as close to the subject as possible, either handheld or at the end of a boompole.

RECORDING LIVE EVENTS

Q I have little experience in shooting events, but I’ve been put in charge of videotaping a live stage event for the company I work for. I have two video cameras, myself and another staffer to operate the cameras, but I have no idea of how to best record high-quality sound in a situation like this. What advice can you offer me?
Bernie V.
Via e-mail

A You’ll need to develop a game plan as far as how to best record the audio. You didn’t mention if the stage event will be just live speakers or if acting, music and drama will be included, but assuming more corporate events would be centered around live speakers, let’s discuss the event from that viewpoint. You’ll discover that, when shooting live events, it always pays to hedge your bets and to record from more than one audio source. The venue will have some sort of sound system and most probably will be using either a microphone at a podium for the speakers or will be using wireless microphones on the speakers as they present.