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So, you've read all of the blogs, watched all of the unboxing and review videos, and now you're flat-out convinced that a brand-new RØDE VideoMic will improve your on-camera audio. You're right, and now you've gone out and actually bought one for yourself. Good on you!
Now, depending on which model you have invested in (don't worry - they are all great!), you're either looking at a microphone with no controls at all, or one that has a few on the back that you aren't entirely sure how to use. What a conundrum...
Never fear! In this article, we're going to take a look at what each of these settings actually do, as well as when and why you'll need to use them.
Is it on or off?
"Surely that's pretty self-explanatory?" I hear you cry? "Everyone knows what an on/off switch does!" Well, things aren't always as simple as they appear. Some RØDE on-camera microphones such as the VideoMicro and VideoMic GO do not actually have an on/off switch, whereas the rest of the VideoMic range does! What gives?
Some RØDE on-camera microphones such as the VideoMicro and VideoMic GO do not actually have an on/off switch.
Well, the VideoMicro and VideoMic GO are powered directly from your camera's 3.5 mm mic input, so as long as everything is plugged in properly and you're recording video, they are switched on automatically. This tidy feature means that you don't have to worry about batteries, which comes in very handy when you want to capture a spur-of-the-moment event!
All you have to do is ensure that your camera's audio input is set to 'external mic' when it's plugged in. This should happen automatically, but it's worth checking anyway.
For the other models in the range, your microphone will only capture that crystal-clear audio once a battery is installed, the mic plugged in, and physically switched on. With this in mind, be sure to look out for the LED power which should shine green when on, and red when the battery is running out of juice.
The high pass filter
The high pass filter is the 'curved line' icon, which is usually found on the same side as the on/off switch of your VideoMic, VideoMic Pro, Stereo VideoMic range, and also our shotgun microphones such as NTG1, NTG2, NTG4 and NTG4+. When activated, the low frequency sounds (bass or low-end) captured by your microphone are 'rolled' off, or taken out of the audio output completely.
This can be useful when looking to reduce the sound of noisy traffic nearby, for example. Other occasions when the high pass filter could be used is to cancel out the rumble of air conditioners, footsteps, or any other noise in close proximity. This feature is named the 'high pass filter' as the high frequencies pass through into your recording, while the lower frequencies do not. Clever!
The high pass filter is the 'curved line' icon, which is usually found on the same side as the on/off switch of your microphone.
For most RØDE on-camera and shotgun microphones, the frequencies rolled off by this filter are set at 80Hz and below. On the Stereo VideoMic X, however, you can choose to roll off all frequencies from either 75Hz and below, or 150Hz and below. This gives you far more control over your audio.
If you're likely to apply some EQ in the post-production stage of your recording, you may choose not to use this filter. You can record the audio in its original form, and make any correctional frequency adjustments in post-production. It's really up to you if you want to apply the filter at the recording stage, directly on the microphone, or later inpost using EQ.
High frequency boost
This feature is only available on the Stereo VideoMic X, NTG4 and NTG4+ microphones. The high frequency boost takes the notion of high frequency to the next level, giving you an extra +6dB of the frequencies that are typically associated with the human voice.
This can increase the presence of anyone speaking directly into the microphone in an otherwise noisy environment, or compensate for any slight high frequency muffling that may be caused by using a heavy-duty outdoor windshield on your microphone.
PAD switch (-10dB, -20dB)
If your RØDE on-camera microphone is equipped with an on/off switch, it's going to have a -10dB switch, too. The RØDE VideoMic will also have a -20dB PAD switch.
PAD is an acronym that stands for 'Passive Attenuation Device', and when activated, the switch will attenuate, or lower the sensitivity of the microphone by the chosen value (either -10dB or -20dB).
This is useful when you're recording something so loud that the audio signal captured by your microphone distorts or clips, for example, a rock concert. By lowering the microphone's sensitivity, you'll be able to send a much cleaner, less-distorted audio track into your camera.
PAD is an acronym that stands for 'Passive Attenuation Device'.
It's a general rule of audio that capturing the strongest possible signal without clipping or distorting it will lend you the best possible results. Therefore, be sure to check and continually monitor levels before using the PAD switch. It's imperative that you do not use it unnecessarily, as this can push audio levels down too far.
However, you also don't want to ruin your audio by recording too loud, so seek out a happy medium to suit your recording situation.
Level boost (+20dB)
First introduced on the Pro series of on-camera microphones (VideoMic Pro, Stereo VideoMic Pro) and also on the Stereo VideoMic X, the +20dB boost does exactly the opposite of the PAD switch. It boosts the overall recorded signal by +20dB (obviously!) and was designed with DSLR cameras in mind.
We all know that filming video on a DSLR and using the standard, built-in microphone is not ideal, as the audio quality is likely to be terrible. A RØDE on-camera microphone will help to rectify this, but the +20dB boost on the Pro and X series microphones takes this improvement to the next level.
By activating the +20dB boost on the microphone and lowering the audio input volume on the camera, you'll be able to capture more of the microphone's crystal-clear audio, and less of the camera's noisy on-board sound.
To use this feature, you'll need to be able to manually set up the audio levels in your camera, so check the instruction book to find out how to do this if you are unsure. You could also check with your camera's manufacturer for any recent firmware updates which can give you manual audio controls.
Again, the ideal audio level is one of a strong signal, with no audio or clipping. Therefore, if you find the +20dB boost gives you too much level, even with the camera's audio lowered, it may be best not to use it. This is because you could potentially capture enough healthy signal on the 0dB setting anyway!
Please be sure to get in touch with the expert team at RØDE Microphones if you ever need any advice on their features - we'd be happy to help!