Zhiyun Tech Smooth II Gimbal for Smartphones

Today’s smartphones can shoot very impressive video with surprisingly good quality. Adding camera movement to your smartphone video can make your video look and feel much more professional. It can also add to the energy of the story. But even with the new generation of premium smartphones with optical image stabilization, most phone video will still look pretty jittery and shaky when you move the phone with your hand. That’s where a gimbal can make a huge difference. The Zhiyun Tech Smooth II is professional quality gimbal for smartphones which does a really nice job smoothing out your video footage, even when you’re walking. And it also works well with the larger phones like the iPhone 7+ or Samsung Note series.

Zhiyun Tech was kind enough to send us the Smooth II for review. Full disclosure: This gimbal was given to me for this review, I did not purchase it with my money. I was not paid to do this review. The link above is an affiliate link. If you use this link to purchase the Smooth II, it will not cost you anything additional and we will receive a small payment which we use to purchase and review additional gear to help you make better video.

Sound for Video Session: ADR, dB, SPL, Cables, and Adverse Conditions

In our Sound for Video Session this week, we discussed several thoughtful questions:

- What are all the different dB scales and how do you just measure how loud sound is?
- Which cables do I need to connect all my microphones, wireless, and recorders?
- What are some tips for when you’re recording in very hot, very cold, or very humid conditions?

And here are the links we discussed in the session:

Tone Benders Podcast

dB Definitions at Wikipedia

Overview of cables, plugs, connectors, power, balanced vs unbalanced

RODE Stereo VideoMic Pro: Redesigned for 2016

RODE first shipped their Stereo VideoMic Pro in 2012. Now in 2016, they have updated the Stereo VideoMic Pro with the Rycote Lyre suspension system, redesigned the microphone capsules, updated the cable with kevlar reinforcement, increased the density of the foam wind cover, and added RF shielding. Let's have a listen and discuss when you might choose the Stereo VideoMic Pro vs the mono VideoMic Pro.

RODE was kind enough to send us the Stereo VideoMic Pro for review. Full disclosure: This microphone was given to me for this review, I did not purchase it with my money. I was not paid to do this review.

RODE Stereo VideoMic Pro with Rycote Suspension - Better for recording ambience

At Amazon

At B&H

RODE (mono) VideoMic Pro with Rycote Suspension - Better for recording dialogue

At Amazon

At B&H

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: USB vs XLR Microphones, Timecode Modes, Wireless Frequencies

In this episode, we covered several sound for video questions:

  • What’s the quality difference between USB and XLR based microphones?
  • Recommended XLR cable brands?
  • What are the different types of timecode?
  • When buying wireless transmitters and receivers, which blocks should I get for my area?
  • What can I do to reduce pickup of reverb and street noise when shooting in a parking garage?
  • Which digital audio workstation app is best?

US FCC wireless information

Remote Audio XLR Cables

Cables at Sweetwater

Explanation of different types of timecode modes (Matt Price)

Hair wraps to hold external cable in place on a boom pole

Audio Technica AT2005 USB/XLR Microphone

Blue Yeti Pro USB/XLR Microphone

(some of these are affiliate links)

Aurora Aperture Variable Neutral Density Filter: Blur the Background in Full Daylight

When shooting outdoors in the sunlight, you’ll often need to use a very small aperture/iris setting to get the right exposure. That is not necessarily an issue unless you want to blur the background to draw the attention of your audience to your main subject. This is where a neutral density filter can help. A neutral density filter is like high quality sunglasses for your camera’s lens. This allows you to use an aperture setting which will blur the background and still allow you to expose properly.

Aurora Aperture was kind enough to send us their Power XND 2000 variable neutral density filter for review.

Sound for Video Session: Boom Operators, Tascam DR-10L, Recording Live Events

This is the weekly Sound for Video Session for those enrolled in my sound for video courses.

Lots of great questions submitted this week including the following:

- When would you want two boom operators?
- What do I need to include in a sound report/notes for the editor or sound post?
- Will you Review the Tascam DR-10L?
- Custom iPad holder for sound bags and Zoom F8 or Sound Devices 633 with Wingman
- Color correction and editing in Final Cut Pro X vs DaVinci Resolve?
- How do I record a live event with panelists? Feed from the sound mixer board?

Boom Pole Holder for Century Stands

Sample Sound Report Template

Tascam DR-10L Distributed Audio Recorder with Lavalier Microphone

Cables for recording feed from Mixer:

RCA to 1/4"

1/4" to 1/4" TRS


(Note that some of the links above are affiliate links which means that if you follow the link and purchase the item, I receive a small commission which I use to support future episodes)

Quickly Correct White Balance in DaVinci Resolve 12 5

Have you ever forgotten to set the white balance on your camera during a shoot only to get back home and find that the color in your video is way off? Here’s a way you can quickly correct the white balance of your video clips using the free version of DaVinci Resolve 12.5. You can download the free version of DaVinci Resolve.

Check out Alex Jordan's free and premium color correction and color grading courses. (Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link. You don't pay more, but if you do buy, I get a small commission to support future episodes).

Sound for Video Session: Timecode, USB Pre2, Tascam DR-70D, Mixing Music with Dx etc.

This is the weekly Sound for Video session for students enrolled in my school.

Lots of great questions submitted this week including the following:

- Timecode on-set workflow
- Sound Devices USB Pre2 noisy headphone amp?
- How to light for webcams
- Tascam DR-70D
- How to mix music and dialogue
- Wireless Hops
- Multiple lavalier mics in post
- Orca OR-30 sound bag

Lifecharge USB Battery for powering Tascam Recorders (and Zoom H6)

How to mix music and voiceover:

Zoom F4: Coming Soon

Zoom has been coming on strongly for the last few years and their pace only seems to be picking up.

I'm a fan of their Zoom F8 recorder which they released in late 2015. The quality of the recorder is top notch both in terms of build and in terms of the audio quality it records. The preamplifiers are powerful and clean with a nice neutral sound. The screen is great. The main encoder/dial is great and the menus are good. Overall ergonomics are good though the overall unit is quite small which makes for very small channel potentiometers/knobs. Since the knobs serve double duty as gain trim and faders and as mentioned, are quite small, mixing can be tricky. There's a bluetooth iOS app which allows you to enter metadata and mix, but the mixing capabilities are still a little rough because the on-screen fader is a little too jumpy. But for the price, the F8 is a GREAT recorder. This is accessible to some enthusiast filmmakers and with it, they can produce sound every bit as good as professional productions.

Once Zoom begins shipping the F4, there will be an even lower cost recorder ($650 vs the F8 at $999) which makes this audio quality even more accessible.

Several have asked and yes, I plan to review this as soon as I am able to get my hands on one. I'm very excited about the F4.

From the specs, it looks like the F4 has the same great preamplifiers as the F8. That's a very good start. Also, the F4 looks to have the same form-factor and solid metal build. Same battery configuration and hirose input for external batteries. Dual SD cards which allow backup or recording to different formats simultaneously.

But there are some changes, some look very good and some which are sacrifices which come with a lower priced unit:

  • Gain/Fader knobs (potentiometers) are larger on the F4 simply because there's more room for them. This is good!
  • The screen looks to be similar to the lower resolution screen on the H4n Pro or perhaps the H5. This is not nearly as nice as the F8, but still potentially workable. It should be viewable in direct sunlight.
  • Main outputs are full size XLR. This is an improvement over the F8's TA3 connectors which will generally need to be adapted for monitors, outs to camera, or wireless hops to camera or director.
  • Bluetooth: F4 does not appear to be Bluetooth enabled so there's no iOS app for metadata entry or mixing
  • SD Card slots have moved from the left side to the battery compartment on the back.

Overall, this looks like it may be a great choice for those who want very good quality audio at a price well under $1000. Should have an initial impressions piece up in October and a final review in November if the units ship on schedule in October.

Sound for Video Session: Line Level Inputs, Zoom F8, Limiters, and Brighter Sound

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

- How do you feed a microphone into the line level inputs on the Sound Devices 633?

- Zoom F8 - file naming issues, limiters

- Which mics can you use outdoors? Sanken CS3e

- Do you blend lav and boom mics?

- How do I make sound "Brighter" in post?

- Recommendations for starter boom mic and recorder kit?

- How do I send audio from my recorder to my camera?

- Can an Orca OR-30 sound bag hold a Zoom F4 or F8 plus three or four microphones?


Small preamps to feed line level inputs on your recorder: http://mozegear.com

RODE NT5 Microphone

My recent meta-review of several audio recorders:

Orca OR-32 sound bag

Orca OR-34 sound bag

Some of the above links are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these links and buy, I receive a small fee which I then use to bring you more reviews and tutorials. Thanks for your support!