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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Best Portable Wireless Microphone Kit For Your Video Production Needs: Robin Recommends

Need a good microphone setup for your video blog interviews? Considering a wireless solution so that your interview may move more freely without any cables following you? Finding few wireless microphones that satisfy your needs? Discovering that prices being asked around for these microphones are a bit too expensive for your wallet? Not finding one that doesn't require AC power?

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Yes, there is a way out.

In this last two years I have been using a wonderful microphone kit for all of my video production, and having just discovered where there is a supplier also for all those living outside of the US, I have decided to share in detail the specs and characteristics of my trusted microphone for video setup.

Hold your orders then, and read on to find out what I think is the must-have microphone solution for anyone wanting to produce quality video clips, live video streaming or news reporting while keeping expenses at the lowest level possible.

Here the technical premises, the video proofs, my personal story and a full video product unpacking of this little technology jewel that does reliably what it promises to:

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Indeed, if you have been looking for an ideal solution to your video and voice recording needs, including video interviews, personal reporting and announcements when producing video, then you may want to look into this wireless microphone setup I have been using with great satisfaction for over two years.

First let me say that I am not a "pro", or at least I am not one that knows everything about video. I have spent many years working with it, but have remained always an outsider, an experimenter, a pioneer in using new technologies to do things that you could not before. So, my choice and judgment is not based on technical specification sheets, but on extended field results and personal evaluation.

Over the years I have gradually abandoned my dreams to work and produce with video as technology costs were always impossibly high and the few venues to keep oneself into the business required more oil than talent.

But believe it or not, since Ourmedia opened its doors three years ago and YouTube has arrived on the scene in 2005 as a truly empowering video reality, I have taken all my gear up again and have started putting my video production skills to good use again.

With over 500 clips uploaded on YouTube, nearly 1,000,000 video views, over 1,000 channel subscribers and the increasing experimentation I am doing on my two online television channels (Robin Good TV and RGTV News), I am feeling again the excitement of producing videos that I enjoy creating and which have a purpose I fully believe in.

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But to create good videos, anyone with some experience will tell you, the first thing you need to worry about is not the video, but the audio.

Yes, worrying early about how your audio is going to be recorded is frequently more important than getting the best framing for your shot or making sure your picture is rock-steady when doing a moving shot.

This is particularly true when you need to interview someone or in any situation where you need to record with clarity the voice of someone talking into your camcorder. Even when it is you yourself who needs to speak right in the front of the video-camera, having an adequate setup instead of using by default your built-in camcorder microphone does make all of the difference in the world.

Here is an example. This is Mike Shea from San Diego during some of our experimental tests with RGTV News. He has a camcorder built-in mike:

And here below hear myself recording the clip while on the road, but with a dedicated external mike, plugged into my camcorder or computer.

You can definitely hear the difference.

The built-in camcorder microphones installed on most camcorders pick up everything. Sound from the camera own mechanics, zoom motor, your fingers and strap moving around, ambient noise, and more get all picked up in full audio democracy. Under these conditions your voice never comes out clear and professional as you have come to expect it after having watched thousands of hours of commercial television and hundreds of films. There is just too much noise around.

And believe me, it is not so much the need to emulate commercial television that makes caring for audio so important in video production. The fact is that without the audio, it is a completely different story. Especially when you have someone talking, the audio is everything. You could even take away the video and still have a valuable content item in the audio only recording. In fact it is not a coincidence that so many video bloggers make an audio-only downloadable .mp3 file available next to their published videos.

For all these reasons, as soon as I started to take up again my humble video gear, I went online looking for a microphone solution to serve my specific video production needs.These were my requirements:

  • Highly portable

  • Battery-powered

  • Integrating a lavalier-type microphone (the very small type that are attached as pins on ties and jackets)

  • Capable of interfacing with my camcorder and/or computer

  • Inexpensive

  • Expandable to multiple units - so that I could have multiple wireless microphones broadcasting back to my portable base station

But the real problem for many non-US-based video-makers online and off, is that suppliers of wireless microphones leverage both international regulations which prohibit use of certain frequencies for such applications (and these vary from country to country) and exclusive distribution deals that make it next to impossible to find or buy a cost-effective wireless mikes outside of the US.

So nonetheless you can go to Amazon.com and find many such products, the good ones can only be ordered it if you live in the US.. Amazon and its partner suppliers will not ship them outside the US.

Worst than this is the fact that if you decide to go down the street and ask your supposedly competent audio-shop specialist about a portable, inexpensive (under 100 € - roughly $ 130) wireless microphone kit for your own video productions, he will likely reply to you by saying that such tools:

a) do not exist

b) do not work in Europe

c) are an old technology

d) do not work very well

e) cost over 500 eu

f) need to be AC-powered

In fact, none of the above statements is true.

But when you do not have enough information on a given topic anyone can make a fool of you. And so they do.

What instead you need to know about inexpensive portable wireless microphones is that:

1) There are good wireless microphones that do not cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can actually buy two or three of these kits while still for less than what your audio-shop would charge for one of their AC-only-powered professional wireless mike.

2) They can be bought from just about anywhere you live around the planet as long as you have a working Internet connection and an eBay account. You need not ask anymore a friend going to NY to get you one.

3) Their quality is good at least relative to consumer standards and it is definitely "good enough" to make quality audio recordings to be used for public distribution online or on DVDs.

4) There are models that work on batteries.

5) Multiple units can be combined together easily, providing you with the ability to record two or more wireless mikes easily and at a very low cost.

6) You need to steer clear of those supercheap Chinese-made wireless microphones. While there may be some good models around, I haven't seen them yet, nor I have read or heard reports about them. These extremely cheap wireless microphones ($5-15 or less) do work, but the range of situations in which they can do so reliably is much more limited. These Chinese-made microphones are very sensitive to radio disturbances from other technologies and from the reports I have had they do bring in a lot of unwanted background noise.




The Solution

The wireless portable microphone kit that I advise you to get is the Audio Technica ATR288W: VHF TwinMic™ System with battery-powered receiver and transmitter.

Audio-Technica-ATR-288W.jpg

This is a professional VHF wireless kit integrating both a clip-mike and a traditional hand-held microphone and capable of transmitting over up to a 300' range. It utilizes two switchable frequencies.:170 MHz and 50Hz-18kHz. As mentioned, the ATR-288 also includes two high-performance microphones (an ATR20 unidirectional dynamic microphone, and an ATR35 lavalier mic with tie-clip), as well as two portable cigarette-pack-sized transmitters and receivers, a monitor earphone and a very useful camcorder mounting shoe.

The ATR288W is fully self-sufficient as it uses one standard 9V battery for each transmitting/receiving unit.

AT-PRO88W-offered-on-Amazon-US.jpg

Watch me unpack my own ATR288W as two new ones I have just ordered, came in yesterday.




Where to Find it

Thanks to a passionate Sharewood supporter Sulay, I have recently discovered that there is an eBay shop that not only has the very same wireless microphone kit I have been happily using for the last two years, but it ships them anywhere around the world at an unbeatable price.

The name of the eBay shop is Digital4Cheap.

This is really good news for video-makers and grassroots video producers outside of North America.

In fact, nonetheless I have my own, which a good friend bought for me in one of his trips to NY (thanks still Ale and Peppe) and of which I have broken a few non-critical parts, I have always wanted to add more wireless broadcasting units to it. Therefore, as soon as I learned from Sulay of this opportunity, not only I went and verified that what offered was indeed the real thing, but as soon that I was convinced, I ordered two more for myself! Here's my video of the unpacking.

For those of you in North America, you may as well check Amazon own offerings on this, while being aware of the differences existing between the various, but similarly labelled models available. Keep this in mind: what changes between a ATR-PRO88W and a 288W is the fact that in the last one you are provided also with a second hand-held microphone. That's the only difference. Other similar models in this family change the type and technical specifications of the microphones provided in the package.

PRO88W-microphone-Amazon-380.jpg




How Much Does it Cost?

Whie Audio-Technica official suggested list price is US$249.95 you can find this unit for just around $100 at Digital4Cheap. That does not include shipping, which may add quite a bit to your cost indeed, but believe me, no matter what the total this a piece of equipment worth every penny you will spend on it.

atr288-at-digitalcheap.jpg

This above is a screenshot of the ATR-288W kit being offered right now at the Digital4Cheap eBay shop. You can click it and be teleported straight to the relevant page.

Recommended.




Disclosure: I, Robin Good, carry no relationship of any kind with the company producing this tool or with any of its resellers officials and non. I derive no income from the sales of this product and I have no interest in writing about it outside the one of promoting a technology I personally value.




Original article written by Robin Good for Master New Media and originally titled: "Best Portable Wireless Microphone Kit For Your Video Production Needs: Robin Recommends"

 
 
 
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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, August 7 2007, updated on Wednesday, August 8 2007


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