Sound Advice: Shotgun The Dead Kitty

audio for video
We’ve spent a fair amount of time on sound, particularly my disasters learning to deal with that undiscovered country. In particular, I’m going to share with you the greatest little external shotgun mic and its most excellently named accessory.

I’m talking about the RØDE VideoMic GO. Not only is this a great little mic, it comes with two covers, a foam one for indoor use and the previously discussed kitty for windy conditions.

The mic in a DSLR does a pretty amazing job, considering all the constraints it has to work under. It has to be stuck inside the camera body, prone to cover-up and muting by fingers, cords and whatever else might be draped across it. Oh, and because it’s actually inside the metal body of your camera, it picks up every bump, grind and mechanical noise, even those coming from inside the house! Er, camera. Noises like that old lens trying ever so hard to focus and grinding its gears whiningly while doing it.

So an easy way to upgrade your video skills is with an external microphone. If you’re shooting mainly interviews, you might want to get a lav. I shoot a lot of rowing regattas, which take place in windy river- and bayside conditions. I want a shotgun to allow me to capture a coach talking to a team or the splash of an oar, not to mention the grunting effort of those striving athletes.

A shotgun microphone is long and skinny, and picks up sound best (not entirely, but mostly) in front of the mic along the long axis. Basically point it at what you’re shooting. The shotgun effect is both to highlight the sound directly along that axis, while suppressing sounds not along that axis. It’s not magic, but it’s close.

And, now, the wind. The foam cover does little to suppress wind noise. That’s where your dead kitty comes in. The Dead Cat is a storied device used in the motion picture industry for decades. It’s about twice the size of a loaf of bread, and it’s called a dead cat because of the hairs covering the blimp-shaped device. The RØDE version is much smaller, hence, “dead kitty.” If that upsets you, I’ll stop using the term, but don’t let it keep you from making a little over a hundred dollars make your videos sound (and, therefore, look) like a million bucks.

Photographer and filmmaker Chris X Carroll has been fired upon by Norwegian whalers north of the Arctic Circle, swum naked with REM, taught Viscount Charles Spencer to sail, and turned to ask Elizabeth Taylor if the melon he was holding was ripe at a grocery store before realizing who she was and nearly passing out. Visit Chris at www.chriscarrollphoto.com, and follow him on Instagram @chrisxcarroll and on Facebook at chrisxcarroll


Required Reading

In case you missed Chris’ last installment of his first foray into filmmaking, get caught up now: Act Like A Director

If you’d like to follow his adventures from the start, begin with The Perfect Debut

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