RØDE VideoMic Pro vs. Sennheiser MKE 400 – Indoors & Out!

Canon DSLR with Rode and Sennheiser on-camera micsIf you’ve been reading my blog for any stretch of time, you already know that mini-shotgun microphones like the RØDE VideoMic Pro and the Sennheiser MKE 400 are something I’m very interested in. Why am I obsessed with these little mics, even though I own professional shotguns and field mixers? I just love the idea of having the ultimate miniature ENG kit with me every where I go. I’ve got my compact HDSLR camera, now I just need the perfect little mic to go with it. It’s awesome to be able to produce cinĂ©ma vĂ©rité style documentary work at a moments notice. This is 100% possible, and having the ideal little shotgun is a big part of what makes it happen.

I’d been dying to get my hands on the RØDE VideoMic Pro ever since it was announced in January 2011. From the very first time I saw its size and shape, I could only think one thing: I must hear this thing in a shoot out against the Sennheiser MKE 400. I placed an order for one really early on, and I’ve been using it for several months now. I decided not to write a hands-on review until I received the free DeadCat VMP fluffy windscreen in the mail. As soon as the hairy sock arrived, I pitted it in an old fashioned microphone shoot out against the MKE 400 (and the Sennheiser MZW400 windscreen and the Rycote Mini Windjammer). Here’s how it played out:

Which microphone did I like best? Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. But I will be blunt and tell you this: Continue reading RØDE VideoMic Pro vs. Sennheiser MKE 400 – Indoors & Out!

DSLR Mic Shootout: The Rode NTG-3 vs. VideoMic Pro

I finally had the chance to test out some new microphones with my Panasonic GH2 camera. I tested the Rode NTG-3 against the Rode VideoMic Pro. I also included my Audio Technica 4073a in the test, for a little non-Rode competition. Check it out:

I personally felt that the Rode NTG-3 was the best sounding of the three microphones. However, all three sounded good. If you’re not very familiar with professional location sound equipment like the Sound Devices 302 mixer used in this video, I don’t mean for you to come away from this video thinking that a $230 mini-plug microphone is nearly equal to a $700 microphone plugging into a $1300 field mixer. In actuality, comparing these microphones like like comparing apples and bananas. Here’s why…

Continue reading DSLR Mic Shootout: The Rode NTG-3 vs. VideoMic Pro

Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic Part 2

There’s been a lot of interest in a recent post I made on Sescom cables, and how they help you get good audio inside a camera when working with a portable digital recorder. Well, it turns out that Sescom makes another variation of this cable which makes it possible to also monitor your audio on headphones as you record. A company called Markertek was kind enough to send me one of these cables to test out. As usual, I figured I’d share my findings with you.

The problem with using a regular Sescom cable is that it consumes the headphone output on your portable digital recorder, leaving you with no way to listen to the sound. That’s why they make special Sescom cables with a headphone tap. Instead of it just being a straight cable with a -25dB pad, it’s a Y-Cable with a female 3.5mm headphone jack. This enables you to feed the sound from your portable digital recorder directly into your camera’s mic input, while listening on headphones at the same time.

People often worry that if they split an audio signal, it will degrade the quality of the sound. This is a legitimate thing to worry about. Continue reading Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic Part 2

Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic

DSLR and Zoom H4nThe microphones built into portable digital recorders typically sound pretty good, and if you use a recorder to capture the sound for a DSLR video shoot, you may be tempted to mount the recorder directly on top of your camera and use it as an on-camera mic. But here’s the problem…

Plugging the headphone output of the recorder into the mic input on the camera won’t sound good. The mic input on a DSLR needs a mic-level audio signal, and the headphone output on the portable digital recorder is line-level. Mic-level signals are very low, and line-level signals are very loud. If you just used a normal 1/8″ to 1/8″ mini-plug cable to connect the two, you’re likely going to get a nasty sounding distorted recording. What you need is an 1/8″ to 1/8″ cable with a built-in -25dB attenuator. And wouldn’t you know it… such a thing exists. Continue reading Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic

More thoughts on the Sennheiser MKE 400

Which is more valuable:

  1. The Sennheiser MKE 400 mini-shotgun mic
  2. $200 in your pocket?

This is the question that every gear-obsessed dork must ask themselves. There are a few things that the MKE 400 does really well, but it isn’t the silver bullet to all of your audio-for-video needs. Silver bullets do not exist. Don’t let the marketing behind watered-down domestic beer fool you. Continue reading More thoughts on the Sennheiser MKE 400

The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010

I tested out seven different microphones on a Nikon D300s shooting 720p 24p HD video. I pitted consumer microphones with mini-plug connectors against professional location microphones going through a juicedLink DT454 adapter. These are the microphones involved in the test:

Continue reading The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010

Setting Up an Audio Technica Pro-24CM with a Windtech MM1 on an HD DSLR

The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010 post is almost here! In the meantime, here’s a video about setting up the Audio Technica Pro-24Cm stereo microphone on an HD DSLR, using the WindTech MM1 softie:

I wrote about using the Pro-24Cm with the Windtech MM1 extensively in my blog post at B&H Insights entitled Why and When to Use a Stereo Microphone on a Camera. Some people who read that article and went out and bought the Pro-24CM and the Windtech MM1 complained that the windscreen didn’t fit on the microphone very well. So I made this video to show you how easy it is to use these two products together.

Keep an eye out for The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010 post! It should be going online any day now. You’re going to get to hear the Pro24-Cm in action along side several other consumer and professional microphones. Check back often, or better yet, subscribe to my RSS feed.

Setting Up a Rode Stereo VideoMic on an HD DSLR

The following video is the first in a series of videos leading up to The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010. What the heck is that, you ask? Well, I wanted to test out all of the most popular on-camera microphones that are used with DSLR cameras, so I could hear them and decide which one I liked best. I wanted to hear how good they sounded compared to a DSLR with a juicedLink adapter and a professional mic. Welp, that’s exactly what I did! I documented the whole thing so I could share my findings with you.

In this first video, I open up a new Rode Stereo VideoMic. I explain all of the switches on the mic itself, and explain when you should use the Rode Stereo VideoMic — and when it would be better to use the shotgun-style Rode VideoMic. Check it out:

If you have any questions about this mic, I encourage you to post it in the comments section below.

Stay tuned for more posts like this, and then the big momma of them all…. THE GREAT ON-CAMERA MIC SHOOTOUT 2010! It. Will. Blow. Your. Mind.

More Thoughts on Using Stereo Mics on Camcorders and Video-Enabled DSLR’s

I’m going to use this post to go a little deeper into the subject of using a stereo microphone on video cameras, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras.

The first thing to keep in mind is that when I suggest using a stereo mic on a camera, I’m not saying that it’s a better than shooting with an external audio recorder. Using a stereo mic on your camera is just another way to work; another arrow in your quiver.

If you get overwhelmed when operating an external audio recorder and a camera, there are many situations where shooting with good audio can be simplified. That’s what this practice is all about.

For years I used a Sony ECM-MS908 external stereo microphone on my camcorder. It’s an awesome little mic, that seems to be somewhat extinct today. B&H no longer sells it, and I didn’t find any other reputable dealers online that had them in stock. If you can get you hands on this mic somehow, grab it! It sounds great, and it has two pick-up patterns. One pattern is more of a wide stereo spread, and the other is a more direction pattern for dialog.

Sony ECM-MS908
The Sony ECM-MS908 on a small camcorder

Here’s the horrible thing that still keeps me awake at night… I LOST MY ECM-MS908!!! Ouch. It always burns when you lose equipment, but when they discontinue the piece after you lose it, it hurts a lot more. The Sony ECM-MS907 is still around, which is pretty much the exact same mic. But the 907 has a much longer cable, and it doesn’t come with the camera shoe mount. Bummer.

The nice thing about the ECM-MS908 and 907 is that they run on standard AA batteries. Which brings up an important workflow point:

When you use an external microphone, chances are that it runs on batteries, so you must remember to turn the microphone on before you begin shooting.

That’s a big thing to remember here. If you have an external microphone plugged into the 1/8″ mic input on your camera, and you forget to turn it on, you won’t be recording any sound at all. Plugging a microphone into you mic input automatically defeats the internal microphones on your camera. Avoid this at all costs. Get into the habit of turning your mic on every time you power up your camera.

Canon 5D Mark II with Pro-24CM mic

The same rule applies to the Audio-Technica Pro-24CM. It too runs on a battery, and you must remember to turn it on when you work. Equally important is getting into the habit of turning the microphone off when you’re finished. Otherwise it will remain active and burn through its battery when its waiting around in your camera bag. An important factor to keep in mind is that the Pro-24Cm runs on a watch battery (an A76 LR44 to be exact). If you plan on getting this mic, I suggest stocking up on a few of these batteries and keeping them in your bag. It’s a more difficult battery to find in a store, in the event that it dies on you in the field.

Don’t let the odd battery type of the Pro-24CM scare you off. I’ve never owned one, but if I were to buy a video-enabled DSLR today, I would also purchase this microphone with the WindTech MM1 Windshield. Audio-Technica is a name that I trust. There are lots of positive customer reviews of the Pro-24Cm. Without a doubt, this combination was the real star of my article. Many people were under the impression that the Rode Stereo VideoMic was the only way to go for external microphones for a DSLR. To me, the Rode Stereo VideoMic sounds great, but it’s far too bulky. As an old school user of the ultra-compact Sony ECM-MS908, I knew there was a better way.

If you have any further questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!