Varavon Zeus Uni - Universal Camera Cage

What is a camera cage? It is a metal, protective piece of gear which allows you to attach accessories, usually with 1/4-20 screws and cold shoe mounts. The trick with most affordable cages is that they are purpose built for a specific camera model. This gets expensive when you go to upgrade your camera because then you often also have to buy a new cage. The Varavon Zeus Uni solves that problem quite effectively with a design that adapts to your camera. Let’s have a look!

Sound for Video Session: Aiming Mics, Loudness, and Batteries

In this week's sound for video session, we addressed several questions:

  • Should I aim my boom mic at the talent's mouth or at their chest?
  • What are the loudness wars and are they over?
  • Tell us about batteries: Sony NP-F/L Type and Anton Bauer
  • How come when I loudness normalize audio clips, sometimes their peaks hit -3dB and sometimes they hit -6dB? Is this right?

This was our first week trying this on YouTube since Google Hangouts on Air is going away. A few lessons learned. Talk with you again next week!

Sennheiser G3 Wireless Special Pricing

One of the first wireless lavalier systems I ever used was the Sennheiser G3. These kits are everywhere in the independent and documentary filmmaking world. And there's good reason for that: They're solid and reliable. Yes, you'll need to read the manual and learn how to use them and set up them up, but once you've got that down, they work reliably, are well built, and have some nice features like locking 3.5mm plugs.

These transmit an analogue signal. This is what most of the pro-level wireless systems do and there are some advantages to that. First, you're not sharing the rather overwhelmed 1.4GHz band with all the WiFi, Bluetooth, and other consumer electronics enabled devices out there (mobile, cordless phones, etc). Also, there are potentially distance benefits as well. But of course, you do need to buy a device with the right frequency band for your region so if you do look seriously at these, you'll want to research which band is suited for your region of the world. For those in the US, B&H is recommending models which transmit in frequencies below 600MHz. And the FCC has some FAQs here.

B&H has several kits at the regular price but with some bundled items which make for a good deal: a $100 B&H gift certificate and a case similar to a Pelican for the kit. I'm told that these bundle deals last through the end of September.

There's a dizzying array of model numbers, but here's the basic G3 kit with the ME2 lavalier microphone and a coldshoe mount receiver.

And here's the same G3 kit with the ME2 lavalier but which also includes an XLR plugon transmitter for handheld mics.

Orca OR-30 Sound Recorder/Mixer Bag, Zoom F8 & Sound Devices 633

Orca OR-30 Sound Bag and Zoom F8 Recorder. Note the Anton Bauer Digital 90 battery, Sanken COS-11D case, and Tentacle Sync pouch to illustrate what you can fit in the other side of the bag if you put your wireless receivers in the two external pockets.

Orca OR-30 Sound Bag and Zoom F8 Recorder. Note the Anton Bauer Digital 90 battery, Sanken COS-11D case, and Tentacle Sync pouch to illustrate what you can fit in the other side of the bag if you put your wireless receivers in the two external pockets.

A few weeks ago on the Sound for Video Session, I mentioned that when I'm booming microphones for a job, I use Orca sound bags. Orca makes incredibly sturdy and ergonomic bags. I say that knowing that bags are sort of like religion with nearly everyone having a different opinion. But the Orca bags really are nice. They allow you to access your recorder/mixer and other gear from every side with various openings and at the same time keep their shape with a lightweight aluminum frame and honeycomb inserts. All of the zippers can be opened both directions with multi-zips. Handles, shoulder straps, harnesses, and even wireless external pockets are all removable and configurable and, at the same time, incredibly sturdy and secure.

Clearly the guys at Orca have done or have someone on staff who has done some serious sound work for film.

I originally bought the OR-34. My thinking was typical American: A bigger bag like the OR-34 will fit my Zoom F8, an Anton Bauer Digital 90 battery and all the microphones, wireless, and other stuff I need for any job!

Sometimes, bigger is not better.

When you're booming a microphone or even just mixing wireless lavalier microphones, you want to be carrying as little weight as possible. Booming is physically taxing labor. The lesson I quickly learned: Your audio production bag should carry your recorder/mixer, wireless receivers, and as little else as possible. This way when you're actually on location working, you're not carrying any more weight than is necessary.

But wait, you might think, how am I going to carry around all the other stuff I need to bring to the shoot? That's where a "Go Bag" comes in. This is a separate bag that allows you to schlep everything you need to the location, but then once you're set up and camera is rolling, you only carry the minimum required - your mixer/recorder bag. You leave the go bag in some corner where it is out of the way.

I talked with the Orca guys at NAB and they mentioned that they also have smaller bags: The OR-30 for mixers the size of the Sound Devices 633 (my main mixer/recorder) and the OR-28 for recorders the size of the Zoom F8 or Tascam DR recorders (70D, 701D, etc.)

Recently, John Dingo asked:

I am currently looking into purchasing a OR-30 to fit my Zoom F8 as well. Do you have any shots of it fully loaded to share?
Deciding between getting the OR-28 / OR-30 sure is a tough choice.

Before I answer that, for reference, here's the Sound Devices 633 in the OR-30. This is the mixer for which this bag was designed. Note the perfect fit:

Orca OR-30 bag with Sound Devices 633

Orca OR-30 bag with Sound Devices 633

So this question about which bag for the Zoom F8 partly depends on how you're powering your Zoom F8. One of the challenges with the F8 is power. It accommodates 8 AA batteries in a tray in the back but once you're recording three inputs with one of them phantom powering a boom mic, you'll burn through those batteries rather quickly.

So my solution was to get a hirose to d-tap cable and power with one of my Anton Bauer Digital 90 batteries which easily provides enough power for a full production day (15 hours). I'm pretty sure that would fit in the OR-28 but it'll be tight. And remember, tighter is probably better to keep the weight down.

But if you're powering with the AA batteries, the OR-28 is probably a better choice. Smaller, lighter, and less temptation to carry around a bunch of extra stuff that you don't need to carry while booming.

Incidentally, the OR-28 is priced significantly less than the OR-30 at $179 which is a great deal for a bag that is incredibly versatile and is so well made, you should easily get several years mileage with it.

Which Microphones Do I Use?

We’ve done a bunch of microphone reviews over the last few years. One question I get is, “So which microphones do you use these days?” That’s what we’ll look at in this episode!

If you’d like to learn how to record and post process your sound, be sure to have a look at my sound for video courses at the Learn Light and Sound School.  My Dialogue Sound Post Processing with Adobe Audition course will launch in the next few days, so be sure to create a free account at the school now to be notified when it is released and to receive a discount code!

Gear mentioned in or used to record this episode:

RODE VideoMic Pro (my favorite camera-top Shotgun Microphone)

RODE NTG4+ Shotgun Microphone

RODE NTG2 (favorite sub $400 USD XLR shotgun microphone)

Audio Technica AT4053b Hyper-cardioid (My favorite microphone for indoor dialogue)

RODE NT5 (good, less expensive mic for indoor dialogue)

RODE smartLav+ (Most convenient lavalier for recording to phone)

Aputure A.lav (Best sounding budget lavalier for phone or audio recorder)

JK MicJ 044 (Very good budget lavalier for recording to camera or audio recorder)

Sanken COS-11D (My favorite lavalier microphone)

ElectroVoice RE20 Dynamic (My favorite voice-over microphone)

Audio Technica AT2005 (Good budget dynamic mic for voice-over. XLR and USB output)

Shure SM58 Dynamic (Legendary dynamic microphone which sounds rich and works well for voice over)

Ethics statement: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means that if you click on them and buy, I get a small commission. You don't pay more by clicking these links than if you just went to the retailer’s web site on your own. I use the proceeds to buy additional gear to review and help you improve your sound, lighting, and video. Thanks for your support!

Sound for Video Session: Hiding Lavalier Microphones

This week we covered options for hiding lavalier microphones and answered a quick question regarding audio loudness in Premiere Pro CC.

Here are links to some of the items we covered in this session:



Gaffer Tape

Toupee Tape/Topstick

Surgical Tape

Hush Lav

Rycote Undercovers

Sanken COS-11D Lavalier Microphone


And here is the episode on YouTube where we discuss loudness normalization in Premiere Pro CC. 

* Several of these links are affiliate links meaning that if you click on them and purchase, I earn a small commission. You do not pay more using these links, but I use the proceeds to purchase gear for future reviews and tutorials.

Zoom H4n Pro vs H4n (Original)

Zoom recently updated their very popular H4n Handy Recorder with the H4n Pro. So what’s different on the new Pro version? Let’s take a look and a listen!

This entire episode was recorded with the Zoom H4n Pro and RØDE NTG2 Shotgun microphone outdoors on a summer evening. There is some ambient noise. But don’t worry, we also have a few clips in my studio where there is very little ambient noise. All of the audio was normalized to -24 LUFS and no other processing was applied - no noise reduction, EQ, compression, or anything else.

Sound for Video Session: Microphone Polar/Pickup Patterns and Orca Sound Bags

This week we're back with a question and answer session. The questions submitted this week asked about polar/pickup patterns of microphones: When would I use a hypercardioid vs supercardioid? What about microphones with multiple polar patterns?

Then we talked a little about bags for your recorder or mixer. Big lesson I learned: Don't buy a bigger bag than you really need. Instead, buy a bag which fits your recorder snugly but comfortably, and then have a separate bag for all the stuff you don't want to carry with you while you're recording.

Also had a look at my two Orca bags - bags made specifically for sound recorders and mixers which have a ton of ergonomic features which make recording in the field a much more pleasant experience and help ensure you capture the sound like you intended.

Orca OR-34 (huge bag for the Sound Devices 688, Zaxcom Nomad, or similarly sized recorders/mixers)

Orca OR-30 (smaller bag for the Zoom F8, Sound Devices 633, or similarly sized recorders/mixers)

(Affiliate links)

JuicedLink Little DARling Review: Like Wireless Lavalier but Different

Wireless lavalier kits are expensive. And they are sometimes finicky. They drop the audio when the transmitter is too far from the receiver. RF interference can cause problems as well. Wireless has its place, for sure, but sometimes you also need a backup. Or perhaps you don’t have the budget for a wireless system just yet.

This is where the JuicedLink Little DARling comes in. It is a tiny little audio recorder which looks very much like a wireless lavalier microphone transmitter body pack. But instead, it records the audio from the lavalier microphone. Then when you’re done shooting, you sync the audio recorded by the DARling to your video clip in your video editing app.

This entire episode was recorded with the Little DARling and a Sanken COS-11D lavalier microphone hidden under my shirt collar. For this review, B&H lent me the JuicedLink Little DARling DAR123.