Points in Focus Photography

Rode VideoMic Pro Microphone Review

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Audio is 50% of what makes a good movie or video good, and getting that means at the minimum getting some semblance of a decent mic that isn’t buried in the camera. The Rode VideoMic Pro provides users with a solid step up from on camera sound in a solution that’s good enough to last a while as an intermediate step between nothing and serious audio gear.

Unfortunately, the world of audio gear and microphones is as vast and deep as the world of cameras and lenses we’re used to. The Rode Video Mic Pro is one of a number of relatively lower-end microphones that have been brought to market and targeted at the DSLR videographer.

Unlike their higher end cousins, these mics build a lot of the functionality you need to get going right into the package. The Video Mic Pro, for example, has a build in shock mount with a hotshoe mount molded into the bottom, it also doesn’t require external power, has multiple pre amplification modes, and connects directly to the camera with a standard 1/8” TRS/Phone plug. In comparison, your typical shotgun mic uses a balanced XLR cable, and often requires phantom power to be provided by the recorder.

In short, the Video Mic Pro makes a decent first step before going seriously all out with the audio gear.

Features

  • Built in power source
  • 3 gain settings (-10db, 0db, and +20db)
  • Built in low cut filter
  • Built in shock mount
  • Built in hot shoe foot
  • 1/8” TRS connector for easy connection to VDSLRs
Rode VideoMic Pro Controls
Rode VideoMic Pro Controls

Power

Instead of requiring, the camera provide plug-in power on its mic jack, the Video Mic Pro uses an internal 9V battery to power its operation. Rode claims the battery will get over 70 hours of operation. I’ve yet to actually reach this number yet so I cannot yet verify it.

Gain Modes

One of the features differentiating it from the Rode VideoMic, is that the VideoMic Pro has 3 gain settings, -10db, 0db, and +20db. The -10 db mode is designed to be used when recording extremely loud conditions where even reducing the camera’s gain would still cause the audio to clip.

The 0db position does nothing to modify the microphones output, and relies on the camera or audio recorders preamps to do all the amplification. This can be problematic in some cases if the camera has poor quality amps.

The final mode Rode added is the +20db mode. In this mode, the internal electronics amplify the signal by 20db prior to sending it to the camera or audio recorder. I usually have my mic in this mode as it allows me to reduce the amplification being done by my camera or audio recorder, which generally seems to improve the audio quality.

Low Cut Filter

The standard range of the Video Mic Pro is 40Hz to 20KHz, however, many sounds such as fans, AC units and passing traffic can be eliminated by reducing the low end response. When the low cut filter is activated, the mic’s low-end frequency response rises to 80Hz from 40Hz.

Shock Mount and Hotshoe Adapter

If there’s one thing I find somewhat frustrating with the Video Mic Pro, it’s the shock mount. It works well enough if the mic is on camera or at least oriented that way or inverted. However, when the mic is on its side, or an angle close to that, the elastic support bands aren’t able to overcome the weight of the mic and it essentially rests against the side of the shock mount. This isn’t an issue under normal operation on an SLR, but becomes somewhat more problematic if you’re using the mic on a boom where someone is holding it and can cause it to shake.

Sound Quality

I’m the first to admit, I have a very difficult time judging or testing this. The simple reality is that I don’t have a similar style microphone of higher quality to compare it to, nor do I have a suitable way to test the response objectively.

The following 3 demo tracks show the comparative differences in sound quality between the Video MicPro, the Nikon ME-1 and the Canon 5D mark III’s built in microphones. The files have been volume matched and high-pass filtered to remove low frequency noise (lower than 88Hz).

Compared to either the built-in mic or ME-1 the VideoMic Pro has a much better response on the low end.

Rode VideoMic Pro Nikon ME-1 Canon 5D3 Internal
9′ open room distance.
5′ open room distance
Boomed mic scenerio (2′ working distance)

Directionality

The VideoMic Pro is a directional microphone with a super cardioid polar pattern. That said, I’ve found it’s also very sensitive and can pick up reflected sounds and general ambient sounds extraordinarily well. I’ve found in normal use that it’ll easily pick of fan noise and other noises even when placed close to a subject and adjusted appropriately.

Conclusions

In the long run, the Rode VideoMic Pro isn’t going to be your final solution for video sound, well at least not as long as you’re also doing your own sound. Eventually you’re going to want to move up to a proper shotgun microphone and the associated goodies. However, in the short term the VideoMic Pro provides a significant degree of flexibility and a huge boost in sound quality over anything that’s built into the camera.

That said, some consideration also needs to be placed on the type of content you’re intending to shoot. Shotgun style microphones work amazingly well when the objective of the operator is to control who or what are being recorded, but since they’re stereo devices they aren’t ideal for gathering overall ambience.

Put another way, I recently worked on a personal project recording an oral history with my grandmother, for that my focus is on what she’s saying to the exclusion of everything else, and a shotgun mic is ideal for that purpose. On the other hand, if I was going to record sound at a family gathering or birthday party, I would probably opt for a stereo microphone to get a more immersive sonic environment.

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