IBC in Amsterdam is one of the biggest exhibitions on broadcast equipment in the world. Loads of big cameras, studio systems, TV set-top boxes, editing systems, and so on. It’s interesting, funny and strange at the same time because many of the big companies there still invest in ‘old’ technologies (like satellite transmission, bulky radio recorders or even -and I’m not kidding- Teletext).
But if you look good, you will find more and more companies that specialize (or at least develop products) for mobile phones and similar devices. In this blog post, I’ll try to highlight some of the new products I found that are interesting for mobile journalists and smartphone filmmakers.
The good news is: I wrote a similar blog post on IBC two years ago and since then things have gotten better. Within the thousands of stands at IBC it still feels like searching for a needle in a haystack, but the number of companies that focus on (or at least develop for) mobile phones has increased.
2019 is the year of foldable gimbals. After the Snoppa Atom (that came out almost a year ago) almost all gimbal manufacturers copied that look and functionality. Brands like DJI (not present at IBC), Feiyutech, Zhiyun and MOZA now all have folding gimbals that don’t block the phone’s charging port, giving more possibilities to connect an external microphone.
Feiyutech made one of the smallest ones (the VLOG Pocket, which I tested in July).
Zhiyun displayed the Smooth-Q2, which is available for pre-order on Kickstarter right now. It has some quite impressive specs and is really small.
MOZA’s new Mini-S on the contrary, is not mini at all. Even though it’s foldable, it’s still pretty bulky. MOZA also displayed a new version of the non-foldable Mini-M1 gimbal. That’s even bulkier, but they added a cold shoe mount on the top of the gimbal, so that’s a nice addition. I’d love to see that on more gimbals.
Bottom line: we’re coming closer to the perfect gimbal for everyday mojo use. For me, that perfect gimbal is stable, durable, small, easy to connect to external microphones (with cold shoe mount and/or an internal microphone extension cable) and affordable.
Multi-camera streaming with mobile devices has been possible for a long time, with apps like Switcher Studio, Terradek Live:Air and Cinamaker. Now there’s a new competitor: TUBICON from Stryme. Stryme is a company that makes video servers and other broadcast/enterprise solutions. They have a web-based switching panel and accompanying mobile apps. It’s totally cloud-based, so you don’t have to be in the same wifi network (or even on the same continent) to use the TUBICON system.
The quality and delay (almost none) looked pretty great. Functions like lower-third graphics and auto-switching are available. Since the company has a background in video processing, they claim they even get good results with very limited internet speed (and that’s the case at IBC) They have a free version, but that’s watermarked, so only usable for testing purposes. Their paid tiers are pretty expensive (starting at $750 per month) and definitely not targeted at smaller companies. However, they are planning on introducing a much cheaper package.
This will be the most extensive part of this blog post since there’s so much to talk about.
Apparently, the introduction of the RØDE Wireless Go has caused a revolution in the microphone world. Most of the ‘prosumer’ microphone brands at IBC (like Saramonic and Comica) presented their own version of a compact wireless system, designed especially to use with mobile phones and small cameras.
One of the downsides of the RØDE Wireless Go is that you only can connect one microphone at the same time. Luckily, Chinese companies are always there to improve existing ideas. So both Saramonic (for sale since this week) and Comica (for sale in a couple of months) presented a dual-channel solution.
Saramonic’s version is by far the most interesting one. Newsshooter has a quite extensive preview of the system, so you can read all the details there. The Saramonic transmitters are a little bulkier as the RØDE transmitter, so that’s a disadvantage if you want to use them without a separate lavalier mic. They use the same system as RØDE where the mic clip also functions as a cold shoe adapter. Luckily, Saramonic didn’t put their brand name on the mic clip (RØDE did), so in the end, it might look even better on camera (if you wear the transmitter on the inside of your shirt/jacket, not like I did in the test video below). The audio quality, as you can see in the video, is wonderful, especially considering this was recorded on a noisy exhibition floor.
But there’s more. In addition to the ‘normal’ receiver, they also have plug-in versions for Lightning and USB-C-ports. Surprisingly, the Lightning version worked really well on my iPhone. It felt secure, even when using a case. So if use this plug-in transmitter, you can really go cable-free and that’s a huge advantage.
Chinese brand Comica is also working on a dual-channel compact wireless system, the WD02. They only showed a prototype, so it’s difficult to say much about the product. But at the very least it’s good that there’s competition. Because especially in areas like this, competition leads to innovation.
Talking about compact wireless systems: Sennheiser earlier this year released the XSW-D wireless system. That’s not as small as the other systems mentioned, but targets at the same audience. Apart from that, Sennheiser had nothing new to show that’s interesting for the readers of this blog. The same goes for Shure.
Saramonic and Boya (both part of the same parent company) díd have something else to show. New wired handheld microphones to be precise.
The Saramonic SR-HM7 DI and UC models actually were released a couple of months ago, but I totally missed that. It’s the digital version of Saramonic’s SR-HM7 directional XLR handheld microphone. The microphone is not cheap (around €200), but the build quality is good. It’s quite long, which is ideal for interviews, but might not be ideal to carry.
There are versions with USB-C, USB-A and Lightning cables, but those cables are interchangeable. There is a 3.5 mm jack for real time (!) audio monitoring. The smartest thing about this microphone, compared to competitors like the iRig Mic HD2, is the rubber piece you can attach at the bottom. That covers the cable connector. It prevents the cable from disconnecting and from bending. Very cool.
Boya just released a similar microphone, the BY-HM2. It was announced at NAB, but will be for sale soon. I already got a sample unit and I have to say I’m impressed. It looks a bit similar to the iRig Mic HD2. The build quality is pretty good. It comes with Lightning, USB-C and USB-A cables, so the same microphone will work with iPhones and Android devices without a dongle (as long as they support USB OTG). And because the microphone itself has a USB-C connector, other USB-C cables will probably work as well (depending on the wiring). So getting a replacement cable (or for instance a longer cable) should be easy.
The only downside is that the BY-HM2 has an off switch (and I really don’t know why you’d want to have an off switch on a microphone like this, but it can be tricky if it’s triggered by accident). I expect the retail price of this microphone to be somewhere around € 120, which makes it a very interesting competitor to the iRig Mic HD2.
I did some test recordings with both microphones and you can definitely hear that the sound characteristics are totally different. Even though both microphones have a cardioid (directional) recording pattern, the Saramonic microphone does pick up much less ambient noise than the Boya one (which almost sounds like it’s an omnidirectional microphone). So that’s something to keep in mind.
Both audio clips are recorded after each other at the same location, using Ferrite on an iPhone. No windshields or other accessories are used.
And there’s more
There were too many new microphones at IBC to cover them all. So this is a short summary of some other interesting microphones I found:
- Deity’s V-Lav has been around for some months. It’s a wired lavalier microphone with a ‘smart’ TRS/TRRS connector. It automatically recognizes if you plug it into a smartphone or camera and work on both.
- Saramonic released all kinds of wired lavalier microphones with USB-C and Lightning connectors.
- The same goes for Boya (as said, they’re part of the same company, so they can share technology). They also released a model that’s similar to RØDE’s SC6-L dual lavalier microphone system.
- Just like Boya/Sevenoak, Comica also recently has been MFi-certified, which means they can produce Lightning microphones as well. And they do. They introduced all kinds of lavalier and shotgun microphones with Lightning an USB-C connectors.
- Taiwanese company Great Hon showed some MFi-certified wired microphones as well. Not sure about pricing and availability, but it’s good to see that more companies are working on microphones that are designed especially for mobile phones.
Two other products that might be interesting.
- BOLING (a Chinese LED manufacturer) showed a RGB video LED light that’s marketed at vloggers. It has an interesting mounting arm (not sure what to think about that) and it can produce all sorts of colors. Cool, but a bit expensive. It’s for sale at (amongst others) Amazon in Europe and costs around €160.
- Yelangu, also a Chinese company, showed some phone grips (Beastgrip-style) and a small rotating dolly. They have some microphones as well, but I’m not sure about the quality.