We recently posted about RØDE's iXY microphone and Rec app for iOS devices. While perhaps not suitable for everyone's needs (or inversely, budget), it marks another step toward a lone multi-purpose tool handy to the crafty filmmaker -- the iOS iPhone/iPad. While I'll never own one, even I have to hand it to the iLeatherman. In a pinch, it's a light meter, it's a GoPro, it's a shot designer, and with iXY and RØDE Rec, it's a dual-system audio recorder, too. Now, RØDE continues its drive to make iOS a viable field sound-rec system with the smartLav lavalier microphone -- as does the Apogee ONE, a like-minded iPad portable 'recording studio' system. RØDE has also upgraded its VideoMic for those run-and-gun shooters unsatisfied with smartphone sound -- check out the details of each below.
RØDE's VideoMic Upgrade with Rycote Shock Protection
RØDE's VideoMic line has traditionally provided something generally more beneficial to videographers or video journalists looking to stay single-system and ultra-mobile but increase sound quality over on-board recording. In the same vein -- but more applicable to filmmakers -- the VideoMic could be used to improve camera-recorded sound for the sake of a more tolerable reference track as well.
As far updates to the system go, RØDE has partner with Rycote to implement its Lyre suspension system into the design. In addition to providing a sturdier mount, and therefore sturdier resistance to shock and movement noise, the Lyre lowers the VideoMic's profile as well. Here's RØDE's promo video for the upgraded model, which includes an 80Hz high-pass filtration and -10/-20 dB padding capabilities:
For those interested, the new VideoMic will be available for ordering at B&H within the day, with availability for shipping expected by March 1.
Apogee ONE iPad Portable Recording Studio
Apogee will also be releasing a pro-spec 'mini-studio' recording solution called the Apogee ONE. The new $350 model has several improvements over the original (still available) $250 version -- Apogee's page for the ONE has a model-to-model comparison under Product Tour.
This product is clearly geared more towards the roaming musician rather than the traveling filmmaker, but I think it could have some useful applications in film as well. Accessorizing properly would allow the Apogee ONE and the iPad recorder to remain with the sound person -- just like a conventional dual system setup. Simply using an XLR extension means you can boom out a shotgun (or mic or your choice) just as you normally would -- except you'd be recording through the ONE system using an iPad as your recorder. ONE can integrate into GarageBand or other audio studio apps, including Apogee's own Maestro. With a newer device you may also need a 30-pin to Thunderbolt adaptor -- Apogee stopped by Engadget to clear up the adapter situation:
Apogee has passed along the info via the comments below that a Lightning cable is on the way in Q2 and that users shouldn't experience any difference in performance with the adapter that they'll need in the meantime.
This solution and the more field-shooting oriented RØDE iXY both allow for iOS recording up to 96kHz at 24-bit -- though the Apogee system seems a lot more customizable. The iXY solution trades off such options and extensibility for simplicity and total portability (the ONE needs out-board juice). Both companies are claiming top-of-the-line internal pre-amplification and A/D conversion, which may be the deal breaker for some iOS-wielding shooters -- I would love to get a chance to play the gear against each other in recording situations -- anyone with experience with either (or all) of these products, let us know your thoughts! The new ONE should be available this March.
RØDE smartLav iOS Lavalier Microphone
On the other hand, RØDE is already announcing ways to tap the iOS family for recording options more extensible than the hard-mounted iXY: enter the new smartLav.
I've never been huge on the use of lavaliers except on the most brutally corporate-style interviews, but that doesn't mean lavs don't perform very effectively for close-mic'ing individual subjects. The benefit here is mainly that the usual caveat in the use of lavs -- either a wire that can quickly become ridiculously long, or the wireless alternative -- is circumvented altogether, because the subject is wired into a recorder he or she is actually carrying themselves. Here's RØDE on the smartLav, which is going to run you $60:
A foam pop shield is included to minimize wind noise and vocal plosives (hard ‘b’, ‘t’ and ‘p’ sounds), as well as a durable mounting clip with in-built cable management. The smartLav has been designed to pair perfectly with the RØDE Rec app for Apple iOS devices, and is also compatible with any iOS audio app that accepts input from the headset connection. RØDE Rec turns the user’s iOS device into a fully-featured field recorder, with a wide range of equalisation pre-sets to suit various recording situations, in addition to professional editing functions and the ability to publish to SoundCloud and Dropbox directly from the app.
Whatever you think of the usefulness, practicality, or price-to-performance value of devices such as these, it's clear that the 'mobile mic'ing' market is getting competitive -- which is great for shorter-budget shooters looking for the solution just right for them. If it hasn't been released or announced yet, you can bet that manufacturers like Apogee and RØDE are already hard at work on it. This type of gear will never replace dedicated, stand-alone pro-audio devices, of course -- but in a pinch, these mics/apps have the specs it takes to get the job done. As for the SNR you get out of mic'ing directly through a iPhone/iPad's 1/8th inch jack (with the smartLav or, I suppose, even the VideoMic) the more audio-savvy readers out there will have to leave us their thoughts until I can do some testing myself. Either way, I wouldn't mind having one (or all) of these for some backup in my audio arsenal.
- RØDE VideoMic -- B&H
- RØDE VideoMic -- Website
- RØDE smartLav -- Website
- RØDE iXY Microphone — B&H
- RØDE Rec — iTunes
- RØDE Rec LE — iTunes
- RØDE iXY — Website
- Apogee ONE (original model) -- B&H
- Apogee ONE -- Website
- Apogee Maestro -- Website
[Disclosure: RØDE is a No Film School advertiser]