“… the VideoMic Pro+ has some nice improvements that make it a much better, more usable microphone. But how does it sound? Well, I did some testing and found overall the microphone performs a little better (certainly as good) as the previous model. The VideoMic Pro+ sounds a little warmer to me, but the idea of the VideoMic Pro+ isn’t about an enhancement in the quality of the microphone capsule but rather making it more versatile and giving you better results in a wider range of applications….”
I concur with Erik Naso’s findings and conclusions and note that, when attached to your camera via its hotshoe, the Røde VideoMic Pro+ (VMP+) does make it harder to place your eye up to the viewfinder due to the mic’s detachable 3.5mm TRS or other such cable jutting backwards.
As Mr Naso notes in the article comments section, many moviemakers use cages to mount their accessories, and coldshoe extenders for camera-top hotshoes are available at all price ranges to enable moving the VMP+ sideways or forwards.
Both serve the purpose and there are plenty more of their ilk out there.
While the VMP+’s predecessors are great microphones in their own right and share many features with this latest version, the VMP+ has enough new features to justify recommending it over them.
These include the:
automatic power on and off when camera switches on and off
choice of power and recharging options
curved foam windshield to better deflect wind and wind noise
detachable cable port allowing attachment of 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cables to fit 2.5mm audio port on certain cameras
non-removable, less fiddly battery door making for fast and easy battery replacement
safety channel when run-and-gun documentary situations disallow fine-tuning audio levels
One thing that Mr Naso and I have not yet done is try out the VMP+’s artificial fur windshield as it has yet to be released.
The folks at Røde tell me that:
It will be very similar to our “deluxe” windshields (WS6 and WS7) in the sense that it has a rubber gasket to ensure a secure fit on the mic itself, and it will replace the entire supplied foam windshield.
That sounds like a smart solution for a smart microphone and I look forward to its appearance soon.
I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2 digital rangefinder camera and have no regrets buying it despite its current inability to shoot 4K video, relative lack of other videocentric features and unimpressive electronic viewfinder (EVF).
As a longtime user of rangefinder cameras in all formats from 8mm (movie film) and 35mm (stills) through various 120 roll-film aspect ratios (6×4.5cm to 6x12cm) up to 4″x5″, it has been such a relief to once again have a very capable rangefinder camera in my hands.
I wavered on the somewhat slow XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom and a shortage of funds finally made that decision for me, compounded with the Fujinon X-mount lens series’ current 18mm focal length situation.
A fast medium wide-angle of 18mm in Fujifilm’s APS-C format, equivalent to 14mm in the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format and 28mm in the digital 35mm format (I refuse to use the silly term “full frame”) is my number one choice for immersive documentary photography in combination with a moderate telephoto focal length like 50mm in APS-C, 30mm or so in MFT and 75mm in 35mm format.
Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 f/2.8 ultra wide-angle lens.
I have applied that moderate wide/moderate long combination to almost all formats and aspect ratios in the past, occasionally adding something in-between, preferably on the wide side of “standard” or “normal”.
In other words, 27mm in APS-C, 20mm in MFT and 40mm in 35mm rather than the more usual “normal” focal lengths of 35mm in APS-C, 25mm in MFT and 50mm in the 35mm format, all of which feel like short telephoto to me.
My choices can vary, though, in shooting video when a longer “normal” lens offering clutch focus functionality for repeatable, accurate manual focussing may override my creative preference for a slightly wider focal length.
The X-Pro2’s advanced hybrid optical viewfinder (OVF) was the clincher in buying into APS-C, aided and abetted by the existence of those 23mm and 56mm focal lengths.
Lenses are, for me, key influencers in camera choice, with sensor aspect ratios coming second followed by a myriad of other often interrelated usability and functionality factors.
I shoot documentary and portrait photographs and documentary videos, am self-funded, and the gear I need must be affordable, small, portable, self-contained and capable of the best quality possible.
No single camera system can provide all that so I use APS-C/Super 35 and MFT/Super 16 cameras and lenses.
Right now, the Lumix GH5 has the edge over Fujifilm for video by a long list of remarkable top-end professional moviemaking features, which is little wonder given Panasonic has been working on video since the GH1.
We have yet to see any Fujifilm camera approach the GH5 in terms of its video feature set and its self-contained usability, and one can only wonder what may turn up in the X-T2S or what might have been of the now-abandoned Fujifilm APS-C/Super 35 “super camera” project.
Playing the waiting game wears thin especially when gaps persist in both sensor formats’ lens and camera offerings, and each has its pros and cons.
The 3:4 (vertical) and 4:3 (horizontal) image aspect ratio is optimal for portraiture and I often find 2:3 (vertical) and 3:2 (horizontal) irritating for that purpose while it is much more suited to documentary photography in horizontal aka landscape orientation.
I love the 1:1 image aspect ratio for monochrome portraiture and urban documentary, combined with the tilting EVF built into only one current camera, the Lumix GX8, allowing me to shoot as I used to with my Rolleiflex twin lens reflexes (TLRs).
I prefer rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras for photography and cameras with fully-articulated monitors for video.
The perfect lens set comprising the right focal lengths combined with manual clutch focus, stabilization and fast non-variable maximum apertures with excellent mechanical and optical construction remains something of a pipe dream.
So, I compromise on APS-C/Super 35 mostly for photography with MFT/Super 16 mostly for video with a mix of Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic cameras and lenses.
Right now I am prepping to photograph a human rights rally tomorrow, the sort of event I have often covered at the same time with gear from all three brands and in both sensor formats.
In a DSLR-fixated culture, event participants are effectively rangefinder-blind, allowing me to photograph centimetres away from them without objection.
At this event, I have some constraints imposed by carrying my gear in a small shoulder bag that I have received for review.
The bag is capable of carrying one mirrorless camera plus three lenses in its default internal divider configuration, or up to four small lenses, or two mirrorless cameras-plus-lenses with a minor divider rearrangement.
I don’t currently have the ideal one-plus-three, one-plus-four or two-plus-two set-up in either mirrorless sensor format, so may limit myself to my X-Pro2 with 23mm lens on-camera and 56mm ready to swap should the portrait opportunities for which that lens is best suited arise.
I would much prefer two cameras with an 18mm lens on one and a 50mm lens on the other but that ideal set-up must wait for our self-financing effort to bear fruit.
I could carry an MFT Lumix camera with fast fixed maximum aperture standard zoom lens attached to cover the event with all my desired focal lengths and more, but I relish the discipline of carrying a limited set of fast prime lenses, and this new bag warrants a realistic test according to its default design parameters of one camera and two to four lenses, size dependent.
The coming release of Fujifilm’s X-E3 has me musing on another possibility this bag presents via rearranging its dividers, X-Pro2 with 23mm on one side and X-E3 with 56mm on the other.
A less tight fit might be the 18mm on one and the 50mm on the other but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
What remains to be seen is whether the X-E3 will be a worthy companion to the X-Pro2, filling the gaps that the other camera cannot fill.
Based on its specifications list, I suspect that might be the case, with one exception, Fujifilm’s crazy ongoing failure to add crucial exposure zebras functionality for stills and video to all its cameras’ firmware.
Video on X-E3 and other Fujifilm cameras
Although Fujifilm’s cameras have some way to go until they approach Panasonic’s video feature set, especially that of the GH5, they already possess certain advantages.
I enjoy shooting video via my X-Pro2’s advanced hybrid OVF with ERF in lower right of frame set to show the whole scene as seen through the lens, in close-up or in mid-view as desired.
Fujifilm’s manual clutch focus primes are a joy to use as are their aperture rings when needing to ride constantly changing available light.
Fujifilm’s film simulations that work so well for JPEGs apparently look terrific in video, as demonstrated by Andrew Reid at EOSHD with a still frame from a Fujifilm X-T20 which permits customization not currently possible on the X-Pro2.
The lack of 4K in the X-Pro2 is the only factor against using it more for video given I generally use multi-camera 4K set-ups for editing in 4K and increasingly, release in 4K, Australian fraudband’s lousy upload capabilities permitting.
All Fujifilm cameras have their persistent video annoyances, however, and Fujifilm does not appear inclined to correct them any time soon.
None has an integral headphone jack for audio monitoring.
Each has a non-industry-standard 2.5mm microphone jack, demanding the use of unreliable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapters or microphones with interchangeable audio cables like Røde’s more recent on-camera models like the VideoMic Pro+.
Interchangeable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cables have proven hard to find but I eventually located and ordered several Beachtek SC25 coiled cables.
Fujifilm has proven deaf and blind to the crucial need for customizable exposure zebras for video and stills, instead substituting a blinking highlight overexposure indicator on the X-E3.
Cinematographer/director Paul Leeming explains how to use exposure zebras at his Leeming LUT One webpage.
While the exposure zebras problem can be remedied by a Fujifilm with a firmware update, the best solution right now for effective audio monitoring is by connecting compact audio adapters or field recorders beneath your camera.
Hmmm, looking at all the many themes and variations of acquiring top quality audio as a solo documentary producer/director/cinematographer, perhaps I should do an article on that alone given some cameras provide for audio acquisition and monitoring very well and others much less so.
ALL Fujifilm cameras need grips
One thing that was immediately obvious when I bought my first Fujifilm camera, the X100, is that it desperately needed a hand grip for better grip of the camera in all conditions when shooting on location.
My assessment remains the same for all subsequent Fujifilm cameras that I have tried out or purchased, including the X-T1, X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F.
Fujifilm does not make a hand grip for the X100F, a truly bizarre omission given the camera’s very slight built-in grip and slippery leather-look plastic covering, which has contributed to placing the X100F lower down on my wishlist than it deserves.
Australian recording studio and video production mic company Røde Microphones announced the imminent release of its new self-powered on-camera directional mic the VideoMic Pro+ on July 25 and yesterday a review sample arrived on our doorstep, and what a microphone it is with a list of hardware and software improvements advancing well beyond its immediate predecessor the VideoMic Pro. Røde’s VideoMic Pro+ aka VMP+ is likely to quickly become the go-to top-end video hotshoe-mounted production shotgun microphone.
I took the VideoMic Pro+ out for a quick spin attached to my Panasonic Lumix GX8, a wonderful stills camera and a sadly underestimated 4K UHD video camera now somewhat eclipsed by the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
I threw a third-party TRS 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapter sourced from the local Jaycar store into my bag as the GX8, like many smaller hybrid mirrorless cameras made today, is equipped with a 2.5mm audio jack in order to save space.
I can’t help but wonder if there might be a better solution than adding a non-professional adapter into the audio equation, and whether Røde might be persuaded to make their own 3.5mm-to-2.5mm TRS patch cables in order to eliminate this one particular weakest link.
I often experience problems caused by these third-party 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapters and have yet to find a more professional alternative. I like Røde’s red coiled cables for their quality, convenience and visibility.
I congratulate Røde Microphones for listening to its users and acting on that by replacing permanently attached cables with detachable cables on its newer products including the VideoMic Pro+, and hope that this is now the standard.
Røde Microphones VideoMic Pro+
My partner and I are both enduring one of the worst influenza seasons ever despite having been vaccinated so avoided street crowds and headed off for a coffee at the local high street, set up camera and microphone and pointed the rig in the general direction of our fellow caffeine addicts lined up at the front of the café.
Our test was quick and dirty to say the least as we want to spend time doing a more in-depth one over the coming days, but the results were impressive.
The first new feature
First feature put to the test was the new hinged battery door.
The VideoMic Pro’s battery door often presented a challenge to new users until time and practice taught them how to push it on and off without frustration and battery popping out onto the floor.
The VideoMic Pro+ is a much easier to use proposition and it takes little time to get the hang of two finger on the latches to release its hinged battery door.
Instead of relying on the locally hard-to-find rectangular 9v Lithium batteries required by the VMP and SVMX, the VMP+ allows the choice of two rechargeable AA batteries or Røde’s own LB-1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable.
If using third party AA-size lithium batteries, make sure that the current rating of the batteries will deliver the same or better than the Røde proprietary battery which is rated at 1600mAh (at 3.8 volts).
Røde’s VideoMic Pro+ product page implies that the VMP+ can also be powered by the detachable Micro USB cable so we will give that option a go soon. Meanwhile we chose the LB-1 lithium battery.
The second standout feature we encountered is the VMP+’s automatic on-off power function. We plugged the detachable 3.5mm TRS cable into the VMP+ and then the GX8’s audio jack, switched the camera on and the VMP+ immediately powered up.
Then we powered the GX8 down and watched the VMP+ do the same. Yay! Great way to help save on battery power especially if toting just the one LB-1 battery about with you.
I wonder though if Røde will be making spare LB-1 batteries available in future? I always feel safer carrying at least one spare even if the batteries have well-earned reputations for longevity.
An easier interface
The next standout feature was the ease-of-use of the VideoMic Pro+’s electronic interface via push buttons instead of the VideoMic Pro’s sliders. I have always found sliders less sure than buttons in other devices and often wondered if I had inadvertently slid off-setting when in the field with the VMP.
The VMP+’s buttons makes that less of a concern, especially its power-on/off button which needs a slightly sustained push to to be activated. That is good, thoughtful design.
Also thoughtful and effective is the circular layout of the VMP+’s buttons and indicator LEDs. Although they are similar in functionality to those on the Røde Stereo VideoMic X, the latter’s controls are in a vertical straight line and have always felt just a little counterintuitive in use given their contradiction to the SVMX’s circular design.
My fingers leapt easily over the VideoMic Pro+’s button and LED arrangement and it was a doddle changing the settings while watching the GX8 audio indicators change in response.
The safety channel
Another new feature I am really looking forward to putting into practice soon is the VMP+’s Safety Channel, activated by pushing the Output Gain Control button and Power Button at the same time, lower right and upper middle.
The Safety Channel lowers the output of the dual-mono signal’s right channel by 10dB to account for sudden audio spikes and reduce the likelihood of fatal audio clipping. If the left channel is compromised then the right channel will most likely be okay.
The other major new hardware feature in the Røde VideoMic Pro+ is its optimized windshield, now larger and more rounded than the one in the VideoMic Pro. My BFF was very interested in that aspect of the VMP+ as she spent some time working on similar features for a US-based audio hardware and software corporation.
The curvy bits
Making windshields curvier apparently helps persuade wind to better deflect around the microphone’s sensitive bits with the benefit of less noise. My wording, not hers! Cue animation of wind represented by arrows approaching windshield and sliding off.
Røde Microphones has had an agreement with famous UK audio accessories makers Rycote in place for some time now whereby Røde manufactures its own Rycote Lyre shockmounts and is permitted to integrate them into its microphone designs.
I have been a Rycote customer for some years having observed various Rycote products in heavy use by audio professionals onset so it is pleasing that the Røde team seems to see Rycote in a similar light.
The folks at Røde Microphones tell me that a new DeadCat optional windshield accessory specially tailored to the VideoMic Pro+ is being made and will be available soon. The DeadCat windshield for the VideoMic Pro is unsuitable for use with the VMP+.
Forget adapters, get a Beachtek 3.5mm-to-2.5mm coiled cable
I finally located a suitable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cable and (almost) hit the jackpot with it being short, coiled, with gold-plated contacts and, an unexpected bonus, a different look to the 2.5mm end’s plastic moulding for fast and easy identification.
It appears that Beachtek came up with this cable back in the Lumix GH1 days when Panasonic’s flagship DSLM had a 2.5mm audio minijack. Given it is likely that fewer cameras will be equipped with such jacks in future, I thought it best to get exercise my Rule of Three, two for location and one for the studio in case either or both are lost or damaged.
Coping with the VideoMic Pro+’s rear extension
Early users of the Røde VideoMic Pro+ have reported problems with the way mic with cable attached juts backwards into one’s face when mounting the VMP+ on the camera’s hotshoe.
I compared the way the VMP+ sits on my GX8’s hotshoe with how it works on my GH4’s hotshoe and can confirm these reports. The VideoMic Pro+ is fine with the rangefinder-style GX8 but the back of the microphone gets in the way when placing one’s eye up close to the DSLR-style GH4’s EVF.
I had a similar problem with the very first Røde microphone I bought, the original VideoMic, now replaced with the current red Rycote Lyre shockmount-equipped VideoMic.
The mic came with its hotshoe mount screw-attached to the centre of its rubber-band shockmount so all I had to do was unscrew the hotshoe mount, move it to the back of the shockmount and problem solved.
The Røde VideoMic Pro+ mounted on a Panasonic Lumix GX8 via a Saramonic passive mixer. Mixers like this are made by Beachtek and rebranded by Kopul. They provide a way of mounting up to three microphones and outputting one stereo or two mono signals to the camera’s audio input jack. They also help get the microphones out of the way a little.
The VideoMic Pro+ cannot be modified in this way but there are other solutions. Camera cages are becoming increasingly popular and some of the latest have one or two off-centre coldshoe mounts built-in. All allow you to screw coldshoes onto any 1/4″/20 threaded that you wish.
Another possible solution is to attach a threaded or coldshoe-equipped handle or rail onto the camera’s hotshoe and place the VMP+ where it works best. The choice is yours, and there is a fair amount of choice in how you do it and where you find your ideal solution.
Adapting 3.5mm minijack microphones to XLR devices
While researching the Røde VideoMic Pro+, I came across a new XLR adaptor on the company’s website, the VXLR+.
The data sheet PDF for the VXLR+ lists these compatible microphones for the VXLR+:
RØDELink Filmmaker Kit
smartLav+ (when used with SC3 adapter)
I have been informed that the VXLR+ will replace the VXLR in due course, when the VXLR will be discontinued. In the meantime the VXLR works fine with all the above microphones except for the VideoMicro, VideoMic GO and smartlav+. These three mics require plug-in power, which the VXLR+ can provide when they are plugged into XLR phantom power devices.
There are three short film competitions to watch out for each year and two of them hail from this part of the planet, The Antipodes. Two are current, RØDE Microphones‘ My Røde Reel and Zacuto‘s My Story Film Competition, with the latter closing acceptance of entries on 31st March and the former closing entries acceptance on 30th June.
New Zealand colour grading software maker FilmConvert‘s Color Up Competition is in between seasons right now, as it were, with 2017’s coming later in the year. Time flies so I am sharing details here so you can be ready for when comp time comes around.
RØDE Microphone’s My RØDE Reel
All three competitions come with great lists of attractive movie-industry prizes and sponsors, with RØDE Microphones stating that My RØDE Reel, now in its fourth year, “is the world’s largest short film competition”.
My RØDE Reel is also notable in that it offers a special Female Filmmaker award that is “selected by the judging panel, [and] is designed to encourage and celebrate women in the film community.”
I will leave it up to the three companies to share the details about each competition as only they can so if you wish to know more, please click on the links embedded in the text above or the links below.
Australian audio brand Røde Microphones, part of the Freedman Electronics Group along with Aphex, Event Electronics and SoundField, celebrated its 50th year at the group’s RØDEShow 2017 event in Las Vegas earlier this year. Six new products were announced during RØDEShow 2017 with two specifically of interest to filmmakers, the VideoMic Pro+ and the VideoMic SoundField.
Røde Microphones made a major contribution in turning the then dirt track of audio recording for independent video production into a sealed super highway with its very first on-camera video microphone, the VideoMic, released in 2004.
Since that first innovation the market-leading company has released a series of new and updated video-centric recording products along with top-end microphones for audio studios and live music recording on-location.
It wasn’t so long ago that Røde revised its VideoMic and VideoMic Pro hotshoe-mounted shotgun mic lines with the addition of Rycote Lyre shock mounts, reportedly the best such mounts in the business.
Since then Rycote shock mounts have found their way into all new Røde video microphones with Røde investing in a computer-controlled manufacturing machine to turn out its own Rycote Lyre mounts under licence.
I had the pleasure of a guided tour of the Røde factory over a year ago and it was an impressive facility back then. With its ongoing R&D, recent new Freedman Electronics Group acquisitions, new products, new staff and new computer-controlled manufacturing machinery, the Røde factory is no doubt even more impressive now.
The Røde VideoMic Pro+ Microphone
The new Røde VideoMic Pro+ flagship monaural on-camera directional mic is heir to a tradition begun almost thirteen years ago, before the DSLR moviemaking revolution sparked off by Canon adding Live View video capability to its Canon EOS 5D Mark II at the special request of the Reuters news agency.
The original Røde VideoMic was a child of its time, when camcorders were king and the Sony PMW-EX1 Full HD camcorder was the weapon of choice of independent documentary moviemakers along with Sony wireless lavalier and shotgun microphones.
The EX1 and its stablemates were far too costly to own. You had to rent them day-by-day or on a weekly basis, and indie documentarians could only do that if they succeeded in running the gauntlet of funding bodies, broadcasters and any other organization, or politician, with an interest in the story you were proposing to tell.
The directional microphones of the era matched the size and cost of the cameras they were created to work with. The arrival of Røde’s VideoMic turned all that on its head. At about 25cm in length, the original VideoMic suited the length of the camcorders of its time but it was affordable enough for moviemakers like me to buy, not rent.
The current Rycote-equipped VideoMic Pro is a more compact proposition at 17cm in length and a better fit for the 4K mirrorless stills/video hybrid cameras starting to make a real dent in independent filmmaking.
The Røde VideoMic Pro+ may be same size or a little larger, but its innovations are big, with flocked microfibre replacing former models’ detachable windshields and the same sophisticated circuitry and switches of Røde’s high-end Stereo VideoMic X aka SVMX.
The hinged battery door – no more dropping or fumbling on location especially when in extreme conditions – is so welcome as is the coming lithium ion rechargeable LB1 battery.
I am a fan of removable screwed-in audio cables – I am sure there is a better name for them – from when I owned my own Sony wireless lavaliers. I am looking forward to trying the VideoMic Pro+ out – there is little doubt it will be as popular as the very first VideoMic.
The Røde VideoMic SoundField Microphone
Røde’s VideoMic SoundField may be something of a sleeper amongst those unfamiliar with the world of ambisonics but it is something my research into alternative recording methods touched on several years ago.
Back then the most achievable combination of surround with directional audio miking was the mid/side method which required encoding/decoding with audio plug-ins like Voxengo‘s free Mid-Side Encoder-Decoder aka MSED.
I ruled out mid-side recording due to it being too unwieldy for one-person crew field use, without investing in a whole new M/S-miked field recorder. Røde’s all-in-one VideoMic SoundField microphone is a whole other proposition that could conceivably replace two or three different types of microphones with the common pick-up patterns illustrated below with just one mic that has all three patterns built-in.
Common Microphone Patterns
Or in effect, far more than three audio output patterns. I am still at the start of learning about the ins and outs of ambisonics recording and processing so the best I can do is point you to some online resources, below.
VideoMic SoundField Patterns
Stereo Cardioid-like pattern
Super Cardioid-like pattern.
My hope is that Røde will write their own book, as it were, on ambisonics so that the applications and processing methods of the VideoMic SoundField microphone and its output will be well-known on its arrival. Clearly Røde has the in-house expertise to do so with the Freedman Electronics Groups recent company purchases.
Processing SoundField Audio Files
So far though the book has yet to be written about how to to get the best out of the hardware and how to best process ambisonic audio files. I have begun the research process early, before the microphone is expected to be released, in order to be ready.
It is an ongoing process, but so far I have found two free items of software, the standalone Harpex Player, above, and the SoundField SurroundZone 2 plug-in. Harpex also makes a premium-priced plug-in available for a 30-day free trial or for purchase at €498.00 ex VAT.
Search in any search engine for ambisonics plug-ins or free ambisonics sample audio files with the suffix .amb and you can get a head start on understanding this fascinating audio format and how to process it.