Jerry Ibbotson takes a look at this user-friendly wireless solution for news gathering, reporting and other applications.
Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum, the technology that this product relies upon, is a wonderful bit of tech. It lies behind not just Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but also modern radio control gear. Ever wondered why drones (and RC cars, planes, boats etc.) don’t interfere with each other? It’s because their radio systems are busy hopping around different frequencies – the transmitter and receiver working in unison.
It’s a robust, interference-free and easy-to-use system, which lends itself to something like a wireless mic kit. That’s why it feels so at home on the Newsshooter, RØDE’s wireless all-in-one setup that is designed for DSLR video shooting but which could find a home in many more applications.
I tested the Filmmaker version, which is based around a clip-on personal mic, just over a year ago. The Newsshooter is aimed at handheld news mics and I’ve been testing it with one of RØDE’s own Reporter mics, though it should work with a wide range of other models.
What is it? It’s a two-part kit: a transmitter that plugs into the XLR on a mic and a receiver that sits on the hot shoe of an SLR and feeds audio into the camera’s mic input on a mini-jack lead. And that’s it. The two units are bound together out of the box and hook up the minute you turn on. What they provide is a solution to the perennial weakness of SLR’s when shooting video: audio.
There are various solutions to this, some of which I have tested for AMI. Many are based around separate audio recorders that also feed a secondary output to the camera. The Newsshooter and Filmmaker leave the DSLR to do the actual audio recording, but they do offer something that most other solutions don’t – they get the mic off the damn camera. DSLR video is popular for good reason but a lot of video producers seem content to work with a microphone mounted on the camera.
The Newsshooter has the same receiver unit as the Filmmaker. It’s a rectangular plastic/composite block with a hot shoe attachment. There’s a single rubberised On/Off button and a small LED display that shows the signal strength, synch status and ‘channel’. There’s also a coiled lead running to a 3.5mm minijack plug. There’s precious little to fiddle with and therefore precious little to mess up.
So what’s changed?
What’s different with the Newsshooter is the transmitter unit. This is a small black brick with the XLR connector rising from the top with a knurled locking ring. There’s actually more to this than meets the eye. For a start, close to the XLR is a threaded minijack/TRS input. This means you could use the TX with a personal mic if needed.
On one side of the transmitter is another minijack socket, this time for headphones. A lack of any monitoring was my only criticism of the Filmmaker. The receiver with this version still doesn’t have any way to hook up headphones (being identical to the Filmmaker unit) but at least the reporter wielding the mic can listen to their own interview at source. I still think a headphone input on the receiver would get over the lack of monitoring on most DSLRs though. Next to the headphone jack is a micro USB input, to allow you to power the TX externally. On most occasions, I’d imagine you’d be using two AA cells.
On the main panel of the transmitter is a small LED screen and three rubberised buttons. One is the main On/Off switch while the other two are arrows. Once the unit is powered-up these three work together to allow you to alter certain parameters such as Phantom Power, which input to use, and the gain level applied to the input. These buttons can be hidden from view by a sliding flap.
Once both the TX and RX are powered up, they sync and you’re ready to begin. I tested the kit with RØDE’s own Reporter – an omnidirectional interview mic. This is a solid beast with a flattened edge to its cylindrical shaft, making it easy to grasp. The Newsshooter TX clicked into place and I was good to go.
I put the kit through a number of tests, including conducting an “interview” on one floor while the RX was downstairs. The signal was unbroken and as clear as a bell. There’s no hiss, no dropout and no interference. As well as testing on a Nikon DSLR I also hooked the receiver up to my Roland R-26 portable recorder and it performed just as well.
The RØDELink Newsshooter works. It’s an easy to set up, easy to use and good quality wireless kit that works not only with DSLR video but in any number of situations. The audio quality is excellent and there are a number of applications I can think of where it might come in extremely handy. It’s a great partner to the Filmmaker and will elevate the sound quality on any DSLR video project, as well as being useful in a range of other audio applications.
- Series II, 2.4GHz digital transmission
- 128-bit encryption
- Range of up to 100 metres
- Locking XLR input and headphone output on transmitter
- One-touch pairing
Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro-audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.