Ever had a perfectly good shoot ruined by bad audio? I have, and it’s not fun. Sometimes you can tweak it a bit in Soundtrack Pro, and sometimes you’re just hosed.
Nothing will hose your audio more effectively than intrusive wind noise. The booming and crackling of air being pushed against a sensitive microphone element is familiar – and horrifying – to anyone who’s ever used a video camera.
My shotgun mic of choice is the Audio Technica AT897. Since I had a few minutes this afternoon, I decided to do a simple test to see which of the various windscreens I had at hand actually worked the best.
The test was simple: I clamped the microphone’s boom pole in a c-stand, positioned in front of an oscillating fan (so that the wind would be heard across a range of directions), plugged the mic output into my Panasonic AF100, and hit record. I did not adjust the record levels, the fan, or the position of the microphone.
I got some pretty interesting results.
First up was the naked microphone. As expected, wind noise was the loudest and most intrusive. You can see what this looks like in the waveform view at the top of this post, and the spectrum view below.
Next was the basic foam windscreen that came with the mic. This wasn’t much better. While, as you can see in the waveform, the volume of the noise was lower, it generated plenty of it.
The first after-market product I tested was the Rycote Smoothie, which sells for $65. The Smoothie had a nice, snug fit on the microphone – much more secure than the stock windscreen. The idea with this product is that the “2 part foam cavity uses an open acoustic foam base and is covered by a thin foam outer skin … providing an impressive 22db of wind noise reduction.” It did indeed knock out an impressive amount of noise, although there’s still a significant “bump” that you can see in the waveform. However, if you look at the spectrum view, you’ll see that the noise that remained was only in the very low frequency range. In fact, if you listen to the video of this experiment on a laptop, you might not be able to hear it at all.
Finally, I slipped on the Pearstone Fuzzy Windjammer, which is an artificial rabbit fur product that basically diffuses the wind using a vast number of tiny hairs, theoretically preventing it from impacting the diaphragm too directly. It only has a flimsy velcro clasp at the throat, so it didn’t fit tightly to the microphone the way the Smoothie did. On the plus side, it sells for $29, roughly half the price of the Smoothie, but I found that it worked very well. The Windjammer lowered the volume of wind noise more than the Smoothie, and it took out the very deep frequencies that the Smoothie left in. If you listen to the fan through the Windjammer, basically all you hear is the fan.
So, based on this one test, I would definitely reach for the Pearstone Fuzzy Windjammer first, but I wouldn’t mind having the Rycote Smoothie in the bag, just in case there are some real-life situations in which it delivers superior performance.