Microphones, Windshields, Shockmounts & Bags
There is a universe of pro-quality microphones out there as visits to trade shows prove. As a self-funded independent moviemaker needing to do everything when needed, I must have a collection of good, reliable, above all affordable microphones so have focused on those traits in this list. Luckily, there are several excellent Australian microphone makers and I have been lucky enough to try or own the products of two of them.
I wanted a kinder, gentler case for carrying and protecting a small, camera-mounted shotgun microphone I had on loan and was pleased to discover this case. Much better made than any other manufacturer-supplied with excellent fake fur lining over thick foam padding. With every cent and so affordable. Great for more than just microphones.
A larger and more versatile version of the Auray Zippered Pouch in this list, this is equally well-made. I bought this for carrying several microphones at a time and to does the job beautifully. Like its smaller sibling, it is lined with faux fur over foam, is eminently protective and can be used to carry more than just microphones.
Australian microphone company MyMyk makes one of the best small, lightweight, eminently portable shotgun microphones I have seen so far. It fits into the smallest camera bag and works great with movie cameras large or small. I am a fan of coiled audio cables and the SmartMyk comes with one permanently attached, though I would prefer it be detachable for easy replacement in case of damage. The mic’s hotshoe mount does not have a 1/4-20 screw hole so if you wish to use it on a boom then you will need a third-party boom-mount. Integrated shock mount, AMS construction, commonly-available button battery and durable under all conditions, this is the directional mic to always have with you.
If you use more than one microphone with your camera, perhaps mounting two mics on a camera cage, then seriously consider this small, portable, well-made audio mixer. It will route to your camera’s microphone jack as well as an iPhone or audio recorder for a high quality backup. The SmartLynk can override your camera’s AGC - Automatic Gain Control - and is also a good quality headphone amplifier. It has a quick release cold shoe mechanism for attaching to your camera’s hotshoe or a cold shoe on a cage. The mechanism can be removed altogether, revealing a 1/4-20 tripod screw for mounting on a boom or small ball and socket head. You may need to do that if mounting on some cold shoes as the quick release mechanism does not have enough clearance for mounting on all varieties of cold shoe.
Although the SmartMyk comes with a slip-on foam windshield you will need a synthetic fur windshield if shooting outdoors in a city as windy as Sydney can be. This windshield is made by audio industry-favorite Rycote but there appeared to be a manufacturing fault in the loan unit. The core of the windshield separated slightly from the outer foam and fur. No manufacturing process is failsafe, so if you buy one with this problem, return to the retailer for a replacement.
Whenever possible I carry a directional shotgun microphone and a stereo microphone for immersive ambient sound. This fairly compact microphone combines both types in one, in a switchable configuration. The DMW-MS2 is powered by a GH3 or GH4 and its settings can be controlled via the camera’s menu. While, according to reports, not the least noisy mic out there, the convenience of decent quality stereo or directional audio in a reasonably small package makes this look attractive. I have not tried one yet, but I hope to.
My very first shotgun microphone and still an affordable, lightweight, versatile classic. Its construction is rugged, so much so that it survived a fall onto pavement concrete. The NTG1’s two-step high pass filter, low handling noise and great quality sound makes it a reliable all-rounder. I have used mine as a boom mic and an on-camera mic on professional camcorders.
Although the NTG1, NTG2 and VideoMic come with foam windshields, you will definitely need a Dead Cat slipped over the foam if shooting outdoors especially in a windy city like the one in which I live.
The latest evolution of Røde’s popular battery-powered NTG2, the NTG4+ is the larger shotgun mic I completely rely on now, especially for mounting on a boom pole. It is light enough to use on camera too, especially when mounted via a Rycote Lyre suspension system. I was initially a little wary of the NTG4+’s integrated lithium battery, but it holds a charge far longer than I ever thought possible. The battery level indicator is sophisticated and reliable, and the battery recharges dead fast off a choice of USB sources. The sound quality is better than any other directional mic I have tried or own. As many owners are saying, fantastic mic for the price.
I have lost count of the Røde VideoMic Pro sightings over the years and the recommendations by professional moviemakers. This mic seems to have become an industry standard at all levels of moviemaking and looks set to become more so with a redesign that added an integrated Rycote Lyre suspension system. I standardized on Rycote Lyre shock mounts for all my mics that come without built-in suspension after testing many of the alternatives, so good on Røde for adding the Lyre to this mic. Great broadcast-quality sound, affordable and robust with a 40 Hz to 20 kHz range.
The Røde SVMX is, quite simply, amazing. It is the finest quality stereo microphone I have tried so far and I rely on it for situations when I need ambient sound conveying the feeling of really being in the midst of the action.
I have shot events occurring across a street and this mic seems to reach right out and put you right there. The SVMX’s construction is rugged, the Rycote Lyre shock mounts can handle everything thrown at it, and the pop shield and furry windshield for outdoor use are well-made and effective.
I like the versatility of being able to use the SVMX with phantom power or self-powered via a 9 volt battery. The detachable, replaceable coiled 3.5mm jack cable is a bonus as is the balanced mini XLR output. The LEDs are bright enough to see in light and dark, and really help when selecting from three high-pass settings, three level controls or high frequency boost.
The only downside is the space taken up in your camera bag when carrying the mic and both windshields. Pricey but so worth it.
After having used or owned other costlier wireless microphone systems by other manufacturers, I have decided that the RødeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit is the one for me. Right now I have one Filmmaker Kit but a second one will really come in handy for shooting two-person conversations or interviews. Unlike any other type of wireless mic system, the RødeLink’s transmitter and receiver seal their aerials within their own cases, like cell phones. And, like cell phones, they transmit over the 2.4 GHz band. This is the easiest wireless system I have ever used, fast to set up and with easy-to-see OLED indicators. I could go on but best to read up on its other features at the Røde or retailer websites.
Given we take our cell phones with us everywhere, what better than to always carry a Røde smartLav+ as well in case an interview subject suddenly pops-up? This affordable lavalier mic has also been used by sound designers and audio recordists working on major motion pictures, for effects sound as well as dialog and can be connected to audio recorders and movie cameras via TRRS-to-TRS adapters. Versatile and convenient to carry.
I bought this along with my Røde Podcaster and it does a good job of holding up that rather heavy microphone. Not the most sophisticated engineering but it has been reliable and has lasted quite a few years now. Always reassuring to see this and my Podcaster sitting there when I enter my workroom every morning.
The Podcaster was the very first Røde I bought, for recording voiceovers, sound effects, Skype conversations and interviews and it is permanently set up on my main computer standing desk via a Røde Studio Boom Arm, equipped with a Røde pop filter. So reliable, such great quality sound and so convenient being able to plug it straight into any computer I need to record into. It may be heavier than some other USB-connected mics but it is solid and can take the knocks. Pro quality at an enthusiast price.
Røde’s own soft fluffy windshield for their NTG1, NTG2, NTG4 and NTG4+ directional aka shotgun microphones. Effective at reducing wind noise in average situations outdoors. If the wind is heavier though, I recommend considering other types of windshields made by Røde or Rycote such as blimps or Super Softies.
Quite a few really good, and pricey, boom poles are available for sound recordists and boom pole operators but I needed a lightweight one I could hold in one hand if need be or mount on a tripod with a clamp. This does the job well and at a great price. I store and carry mine in a Røde Boom Pole Bag.
Made of Neoprene, the material used in diving suits and sometimes by cutting edge Parisian fashion designers, this over-the-shoulder bag does great job of storing, carrying and protecting not only my Røde Micro Boom Pole but also a shotgun mic, shock mount and windshield. A coiled XLR cable also fits neatly inside. You can carry your audio recording gear fully assembled or disassembled.
Røde’s version of the classic all-wind-conditions blimp with Rycote’s excellent double Lyre shock mount for isolation from handling noise and vibration. If you are heading off into the unknown and need to record top quality interview audio then best to pack one of these. Suitable for the Røde NTG1, NTG2, NTG3, NTG4 and NTG4+ shotgun microphones. Comes with a Dead Wombat windshield for even more wind protection, brush for the poor wombat’s fur 😉 and Mogami microphone cable. Can be used in the hand via the pistol grip or, of course, attached to a boom pole.
Experience has taught me never to rely on just one of any crucial item, of equipment, especially when heading off into the unknown or even just to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I bought this Rycote Super-Softie as soon as it hit the market due to its increased noise protection compared to the Rycote Softie, its resistance to rain-soaking, durability, washability and ability to take the knocks of heavy use on location. Fits the Røde NTG1, NTG2, NTG4 and NTG4+ directional microphones as well as a number of other brands’ mics.
I was at a trade show researching audio equipment for a possible feature documentary partially set in some very rough tropical terrain when I came across this evolution of the classic blimp windshield. I was impressed by how it can be disassembled into two pieces, reassembled reasonably quickly (faster with practice no doubt), and was well made out of clearly durable materials. I was informed that it well outperforms conventional blimps under some of the worst conditions under which one may wish to shoot. Fits the Røde NTG-2, NTG-3, NTG-4 and NTG-4+ directional shotgun microphones. This is now in the budget for that feature documentary as I don’t want take any risks in some pretty harsh environments.
Fitting the Røde NTG4+ and NTG3 directional microphones as well as shotgun mics made by some other manufacturers, this is Rycote’s classic blimp in a complete modular system including shockproof suspension mount, fluffy windshield, pistol grip for handholding or attaching to a boom pole, and XLR connection box. Top quality and priced to match.
This is the classic Rycote blimp to invest in if you wish to use it with the Røde NTG-1, NTG-3 and NTG-4 (batteryless version of the NTG-4+) directional microphones as well as several other brands of suitable shotgun mics. Essentially the same as the Rycote Windshield Kit 4 but sized for a different set of microphones.