When making videos for any purpose, sound is always one of the most important factors. Whether you’re making something for YouTube, or you’re working on a big budget production, sound quality will either make or break your presentation. Ask anyone who has been making videos and they will tell you that the ability to record high quality sound is just as important as the ability to capture the images you’re looking for.
Why use an External Mic with a DSLR?
Why is sound so important? Unless you’re telling a story with no dialogue or sound, voice and audio recording plays a large part in how you convey your message to the audience. Most viewers will not notice seamless sound recording and editing, but nearly all will cringe when levels are off and inconsistent. The last thing you want to do is distract your viewer with technical problems. Not only will they lose interest, but you will lose credibility as a filmmaker.
One company that makes a plethora of products that will help your cause is Rode. Rode has a large and diverse line of microphones, and makes some of the most diverse mics on the market today. For example, the Rode NT1-a is one of the finest choices for musicians doing home recording on a budget. At around $230 USD new, it’s great for vocals, acoustic guitar, and many more applications, without breaking the bank. Sure, you can spend more and get better quality, but many consider the NT1-A to be an ideal multi-purpose mic for budget minded musicians. I was hoping that the Videomic Pro would be similar in terms of quality and versatility. After a few weeks with it, here are my results.
Rode makes four microphones that come with camera mounts integrated into the design. It makes for easy attachment to most camcorders and DSLR cameras. This is extremely helpful if you’re shooting in a simple setup, don’t have a crew dedicated to sound, or just want the ability to point and shoot.
Videomic Pro Specs and Features
The Videomic Pro is a shotgun mic about 6 inches in length. As stated above, it attaches quickly and easily to most cameras, and has an integrated 3.5mm stereo plug that can go directly into your cameras mic input jack. A 9 volt battery powers the 1/2″ capsule and the same signal is sent to the left and right channels. There is a on/off switch that allows you to conserve battery life. It has a native 40Hz-20kHz response, however also offers a built in high-pass option which will cut off all frequencies below 80Hz. This is helpful if you are dealing with a lot of low end outside noise, like traffic. Another useful feature is the -10db pad, and +20db boost. The pad is useful if your audio source is incredibly loud, like a concert. The boost is designed for use with DSLR cameras, more on this below. It has a 3/8″ thread connected to the camera mount for the purpose of using the mic as a boom. It is held in place by elastic bands that keep it suspended, allowing roughly 1/4″ of space on all sides. It weighs 80 grams so it doesn’t really add that much weight to your rig. Full Videomic Pro specs.
How to use the Videomic Pro with a DSLR
My application for this mic is with a Canon T3i DSLR camera. The mic on this camera sounds terrible for nearly all applications, and most reviews will list the mic as the weakest feature. This is the case with nearly all DSLR cameras, not just this model. I have installed Magic Lantern, which offers audio input monitoring, a feature that is a must have if you are not using an external audio recorder. When in use, I have found the best results turning the input volume nearly all the way down (in the cameras menu settings) and then activating the mics +20db boost. By letting the mic do all the work and not having to rely on the cameras digital gain, you end up with a much better sound quality then if you were to turn the -10db pad on, and boost the cameras internal volume. What’s important to understand is that while this may work best for my needs (interviews and events), it may not be ideal for every purpose. It comes down to you liking the sound that is recorded, so you will want to mess around with it yourself.
The fact that it comes boom mount ready is really a great feature. All you need to use it as a boom, is a pole and a headphone extenuation cord. I’ve been using a 50 foot cord that I got on amazon for $5, and can not detect any loss in quality versus having it plugged directly in. The elastics are a little thin, but do a surprisingly good job at keeping the mic suspended above the mount.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the quality and ease of use from the Videomic Pro. I would say that this is the perfect mic for entry level filmmakers who want to up their sound quality without breaking the bank or needing additional sound recording equipment.
The casing is made entirely of plastic, but it weighs far less than a metal counterpart, so it’s fantastic if you want something light on your rig. My only real issue comes in the fact that he 3.5mm connection is hardwired into the mic. The cord is reinforced, but if you are using it on a boom pole, be sure that there’s no way that it can be yanked on. The good news is that if something does happen to it, Rode has excellent customer service and offers a 10 year warranty on all their products.
The value here lies in the plug and play element, and of course ability for numerous applications, as is the standard with so many other Rode mics. With the features it has, it’s a great purchase for anyone looking for a fast and easy way to high quality sound. At $229, it’s well worth it.
Videomic Pro Examples
I did a couple of very brief experiments with the mic. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to show everything I want, but I will revisit this post once I am able to illustrate some more examples of just how versatile it is.