Using the SVMX to document travel

As you might have guessed we have a heap of video gear here at RØDE. Our in-house production team is always out shooting content for our different channels, as well as internal communications, and of course we road-test all our microphones rigorously during development. Cameras from Sony, BlackMagic and Canon, heaps of Kessler and RedRock gear, Miller Tripods, SmallHD, Atomos and our sacred Zeiss lens kit are just some of the toys that our guys play with on a daily basis. And then there’s the drone

Being the Marketing Manager I work directly with our video team and a lot of filmmakers of different levels, so while I know a lot of the theory I’ve never felt confident behind the camera. I’ve experimented from time to time but everything comes out uninspired or I just end up with a few gigabytes of ungraded rushes that sit on my computer untouched.

I had a holiday planned around Asia in September, and decided that I would use it as an opportunity to experiment with shooting video and force myself to get better. Fortunately we were launching the Stereo VideoMic X that week and there were some pre-production prototypes available, so I was able to take one along. This was the perfect microphone for me as I wasn’t planning to do any pieces to camera or dialogue, but rather document my travels to allow a viewer (and myself later on) to experience the locations in as rich a way as possible.

My kit was pretty basic as I wanted it to all fit into a backpack when I wasn’t shooting. While the Canon 5DMkII was the golden child for our video team a few years back it’s since been relegated to bottom of the pile, and so was easy for me to borrow for a couple of weeks without anyone missing it. I knew I needed an ND filter if I wanted to shoot with depth of field during the day, so I grabbed our Genus ND filter along with two of the 50 Canon batteries we had from Sam’s recent trip to Iceland. A Velbon tripod that I had at home (for stills) gave me lightweight support for times when I didn’t want to shoot handheld, but as it turned out was woefully inadequate for any kind of panning or camera movement.

The SVMX capped out the kit, and made a pretty standard DSLR kit instantly look more professional. I didn’t worry about packing the standard pop shield for the microphone and went with the furry windshield for all outdoor shots (both are supplied with the microphone).

The SVMX performed flawlessly throughout the trip, and as you can hear in the video below, captures a wide range of sonic detail with ease, taking my simple vacation footage to a whole new level.

Despite some tidy editing by our in-house team this video betrays my amateur shooting skills – I really enjoyed it though and feel more confident in getting out with a camera in hand.

As the 5DMkII has fairly noisy preamps I had the +20dB level boost set on the SVMX almost the entire time, allowing me to turn the camera input level down to its lowest setting and giving me the cleanest possible audio for this camera. The digital switching on the back of the microphone made it really easy to change down to 0dB in louder environments such as the concert at the end of the video. For convenience the Stereo VideoMic X remembers your settings when you power it down, so I could just switch it on and start filming.

I should have packed a new 9V battery before I left on the trip, but I just took whatever was there when I collected the mic. Only two days into the holiday the SVMX power light turned red to tell me that the battery was running low, but despite picking up a spare along the way I was able to run the microphone a few hours every day and record at least three or four hours of footage without having to change it at all.

Most outdoor locations were windy, especially the coastal shots. In these scenarios I enabled the SVMX’s unique high frequency boost setting via the top switch at the back of the camera. This gives a subtle EQ lift to high frequencies that get naturally attenuated by wind protection, counteracting it nicely without over emphasising anything.

I found the Stereo VideoMic X to be the ultimate companion to someone hoping to document their vacations in the highest possible quality. What did you think of the audio? Let me know in the comments below.

Scott Emerton is RØDE's Global Marketing Manager and has been a member of the RØDE team since early 2007.