This week we present Mike and Van Live from the YouTubes. We talk about a bunch of stuff, but mainly about how we don’t really like Blackmagic. At all.
One of the trends we’re seeing in the integration Biz is the meteoric rise of LED video walls. As few as 5-7 years ago, video walls really only made sense for outdoor sports stadiums and really big churches with really big budgets. Here we are in 2016 however, and the calculus has changed.
A question we’re fielding a lot lately is, “When does it make sense to consider a video wall instead of a projector?” I wish there was a hard and fast rule for that, but I’m not sure there is. But here are a few parameters we look at.
Ambient Light Levels
In the past year or so, I’ve worked with churches that are not the modern “black box” style of sanctuary. One had a giant 300 sq. ft. stained glass window right next to their screen. And yeah, it faced south. My first thought was video wall for them for two reasons. First, it would have the punch that no projector ever would making it possible to actually overcome all that ambient lighting. Second, and maybe more importantly for me, the blacks would actually be black. You see, a screen will only ever be as dark as the white screen ever gets. When there is that much ambient light in the room, it’s never going to be darker than light grey.
That destroys contrast which makes the already not bright enough projector seem even more washed out. By contrast (see what I did there?), the background of a video wall—the space between the pixels—is black. And when the LED is off, it’s black. I don’t care what the contrast ratio spec says about a projector, it only matters if the room is very dark. In a full light situation, the screen looses.
This one is a little more subjective, but we’re finding that if a church wants to talk about a projector in the 12-14K lumen range or higher, we should probably start talking about a video wall. Now, I should make it clear that a video wall is not going to be the same initial cost as a 14K lumen projector. It’s going to cost more up front. However, when we do the math, often the delta is low enough that it makes sense to go with a video wall.
Video walls don’t need lamp changes, they can be mounted to the wall or flown and don’t require a clear path from viewing screen to projector. The overall service life of a video wall is likely to be longer, and they generally require less maintenance. At the end of the day the wall may still be more money, but the extra value it brings is often worth it. Not every time, but sometimes.
Some churches want to use a big screen as a backdrop to their stage. Projectors can be problematic because if people get too close to the screen, they’ll cast shadows unless you do rear projection. But rear projection requires a big backstage area. If you want to do a wide screen, you’ll need to blend the projectors, and that can be tricky and may need adjusting from time to time. And the screen will still be competing with stage light.
When we switched from a 16K projector to a video wall at Coast Hills, the biggest thing we all noticed was that the stage lights had no effect on the video image. Whereas before we had to be really careful where we pointed the lights, how much haze we used and even where we hung fixtures, the video wall had enough power to punch through all of it. And the blacks stayed black no matter what.
Like I said, there are no hard and fast rules. Yet. Video wall technology is advancing at breakneck speed and almost every year we’re seeing an increase in pixel density, and a decrease in weight and cost. Brightness isn’t changing much; they’re already bright enough. But we’re also seeing refresh rates go up, and processing quality improve all the time.
All of that to say, if you’re thinking about replacing or upgrading some projectors, especially larger ones, it’s worth looking into video walls. They don’t make sense in every case, but when they do, they’re a big win.
We’ll continue our InfoComm 2016 coverage today, wrapping up video and moving into lighting! Lots and lots of lighting…
Ross Carbonite Black Solo
Speaking of small switchers that pack a punch, we saw the new all-in-one switcher from Ross again at InfoComm. Boasting 6 HD-SDI and 3 HDMI inputs, along with 5 HD-SDI and 1 HDMI output in a compact chassis, the new Solo is a small powerhouse. It has 4 fully functional keyers, a transition keyer, 1 UltraChrome keyer, and 2 MiniMEs with two keyers each. Because the switcher can be controlled from Dashboard, it opens up some exciting opportunities for system building. At NAB, we said, “This is cool; it would be great if there was a rack mounted version with no control panel for just Dashboard control.” They said, “Yes, we have that, too.” Pricing is looking like it will be surprisingly low for this much power in a small package.And, since it’s from Ross, it will actually work. We like this one.
There were so many new products at the Chauvet booth, it’s hard to know where to begin. Maybe we’ll just go in the order we looked at them so I can keep it straight.
The Ovation B-2805FC is a new strip light that features a crazy-bright RGBA-Lime color engine. I know, lime, right? Well, turns out there’s some science going on here. If you look at a color space chart, you’ll see a long line between red and green. Smack dab in the middle of that is lime. When they add lime to an RGBA color engine, it’s possible to get really good colors in between red and green, along with very smooth dimming. It’s almost 6’ long, has a very well thought out stand and can do some pretty cool tricks with it’s 32 possible personalities. I won’t even try to cover all of it here; just go look at it online. It also comes in a shorter version, the B-565FC.
Then there’s the COLORado 3 Solo, which features three 60W quad-color engines for a fully homogenized beam. It zooms from 8° to 40* (and it’s fast) and in addition to being quite bright, looks very good. It’s also IP65 rated, so if you have a need for some bright outdoor lighting, this could be the ticket.
Another cool new product is the Strike 1. It’s a tungsten-looking blinder driven by a powerful 260W warm white LED source. It can act as a blinder, wash or strobe and puts out a smooth, even light. They even built in some red-shift to make it look even more like a tungsten source. The CRI is an impressive 93, and with a 30° beam angle and 51° field angle, it might even make a nice front wash light in the right situations.
Most of you have probably heard me talking about the Ovation E-190WW ellipsoidal fixture; it’s pretty much all we sell any more when we need an ellipsoidal front light. I’ve been impressed with them since I first installed some two years ago, but with an output that mimics a 575x lamp, sometimes they aren’t quite bright enough. That’s about to change with the introduction of the E-260WW. Whereas the 190 was powered by 19 10W LEDs, the 260 is powered by a single 202W warm LED source. I guess E-202WW didn’t sound like enough of a change. While it may not sound like much, some improvements in the lensing bring the output up to the equivalent of a 750W HPL (not long life, a full 750). The output is super-bright, and dead even across the field. They also raised the color temp up from the 190’s 2700K to 3150K, which I think is a welcome change. This one will be the new standard for us, I think.
Now, you might think a white LED ellipsoidal is fine and all, but what about a color one? Welcome the new E-910FC. It houses the same RGBA-Lime engine of the B-2805FC, and I gotta say, it looks great. Color mixing is fantastic, and the output great. It has 91 3W LEDs and can be ordered with a variety of lenses, both zoom and prime from 19°-50°. CRI is said to be “high,” I’ll have to find out what that means. Standard color temp with all LEDs up is 5850K, but they included white presets from 2800-6500K to make matching easier. This is another great option for front light.
That’s pretty much it for the static lights, but InfoComm was the first time we got to see the new Maverick line up close and personal. We’ve been hearing about these for a while and I’m glad they are out and we could see them. The line currently consists of three fixtures; the MK1 Hybrid, the MK2 Spot and MK2 Wash. Let’s take them one at a time.
The MK1 Hybrid fixture is powered by a 440W Osram Sirius reflector lamp and is both a beam and spot fixture. In beam mode, it can do a 1° beam for those cool aerial effects. In spot mode, it offers a 3°-18° zoom range. It offers overlapping prisms, full CMY color mixing and dual rotating gobo wheels. It can also handle Art-Net, DMX, W-DMX, sACN natively. It’s a cool fixture.
The MK2 Spot is similar and features a 13°-37° zoom with variable CMY and CTO color mixing. Like the Hybrid, it has two rotating, indexible gobo wheels and handles all the IP-based protocols. The same lamp as the Hybrid means it’s also crazy-bright.
The MK2 Wash is powered by 12 40W Osram RGBA LEDs and zooms from 7° to 49°, which means you could do some aerial effects one song, and wash the whole stage in color on the next. Because the LEDs can be controlled internally, they built some quasi-gobo effects into it, which is pretty slick. Also built in are a ton of pre-mixed colors for easy and fast programming. Like the other Maverick fixtures, it takes all the IP-based protocols, and adds Kling-net. Like the other Maverick fixtures, the Wash is bright, fast and looks great.
Finally, there was the new Rogue R1 FX-B. This little fixture is so cool it’s hard to describe what it can do. Just go watch the video on their website. It features four pixel mappable 15W RGBA heads with a 5° angle. It’s a continuous movement figure so you can start it spinning and never stop. The programmed dozens of macros into it, and you can combine them into thousands of effects. This one definitely falls into the “flash and trash” category, but it’s some insanely cool flash and trash.
Chauvet just keeps cranking out new stuff. I had dinner with them one night and got the skinny on some new fixtures that are coming out soon that will be just as cool as these. This is a company to watch for sure.
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Back to our InfoComm 2016 coverage today. Probably my favorite show of the year, it has something for everyone. Today, we’ll look at laser-phosphor projectors and some cool new stuff from Marshall.
Frickin’ Laser Beams
Another thing we saw a lot of was laser beams. Or, more accurately, laser phosphor projectors. We may finally be on the cusp of those big, expensive, hot and fragile projector bulbs going the way of the dodo. Christie showed off their new HS series projectors, which pack 13K lumens into a small, quiet package. They have two models, a WU 1920×1200 pixels and HD 1920×1080 pixels. They had them set up in “Christie Arena,” and they looked quite good. Plenty of color, punch and contrast. Being 1 DLP units, they didn’t quite blend as nicely as the 3 DLP units across the booth, but for single screen applications (or if you’re using an external blending unit), they would rock. Pricing is getting better for LP units as well.
Also on the LP (laser phosphor, if you forgot) bandwagon is Hitachi. The new LP-WU9750B sports 8000 lumens of 1920×1200 single DLP power. They’re doing some cool stuff with the blue light, running it through a phosphor rod to get better accuracy. Hard to tell for sure, but they looked good in their booth. Hitachi has become our go-to affordable mid-size projector, and we think these are going to be good options for a lot of churches.
What’s better than a laser driving your projector? How about a laser driving your 4K projector! That’s right, Barco showed off the F90-4K13 projector. 11,800 lumens (not 12K…11,800; I appreciate the accuracy, though maybe it should be called the F90-4K11.8?), 3840×2400 pixels, and an engine that meets the full Rec. 709 color space. I’ll admit, it looked really nice. Now, if you don’t really need that many pixels (or have that large a budget), the F90-W13 also looked very good. It delivers 13,000 lumens in the center of the screen at 1920×1200 pixels. Like most LPs (maybe all) it’s a single chip DLP and delivers somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 hours of light source life. On both those product pages, Barco offers a good white paper on how LP projectors work. Might be worth the read.
Marshall has been coming on strong the last few years with the introduction of their Lynx series of monitors, the small HD POV cameras with HD-SDI out and the mini converters. This year, we saw a 17” engineering monitor that had full color space capability, the ability to be fully calibrated and great metering and signal quality monitoring capabilities. The V-R173-DLW looked very accurate and like many Marshall products offers tremendous value.
One of our favorite little problem solvers is the VSW-2200. It’s a deceptively simple 4 HD-SDI in, 1 out seamless switcher/scaler. What makes it super-cool is that it also incorporates a built-in quad-view display (on a separate HDMI output), and can be set up and controlled via software. It’s a vertical interval switch, but more than that, it scales every input to a common output resolution so you can switch completely seamlessly. If you only need to switch a few sources, this is a cool solution.
More to come next time!
Mike and Van sweat it out on the mean streets of Las Vegas searching InfoComm 2016 for some cool stuff. In this episode, they run down what they find while trying to stay cool.
Last week, some of the CCI Solutions team got to spend the week on the surface of the sun—also known as Las Vegas—checking out this year’s InfoComm show. Since we’re not really doing video coverage of the shows any more (too many others doing it, too much work, not enough time…), I thought I’d share with you some of the stuff we saw that was notable.
Collaboration and Connection
This year, it seemed the themes were getting connected. Quite a few vendors were showing control systems and ways to integrate audio, video, data and control all in a single network. Some of it was quite cool, actually, but as it has limited value for a live production, we didn’t spend much time there. However, if you have multiple campuses with staff spread out all over the place and want ways to bring everyone together into the same virtual room, know that it’s getting easier and cheaper.
Like at NAB, 4K resolution is everywhere. We saw a number of 4K video walls from Absen, Leyard and Sony; more than a few projectors; and tons of displays from just about everyone. There are more 4K cameras and ways to process the content every show as well. However, none of us feel 4K IMAG is something anyone really needs—or wants to pay for—so we won’t spend much time there, either. Now we can see some use cases for 4K acquisition, as you can zoom in and pan around a shot if you just can’t be bothered to frame the shot correctly in the first place (sorry, old guy cynicism coming through there). But overall, a lot of people I talked with at the show think 4K is an answer to a question no one is asking, at least for our world. Cinema, now that’s a different kettle of fish.
Absen N-series Video Walls
We saw these at NAB, but I haven’t written them up until now. Absen has introduced a new series of wall-mounted video walls known as the N series. There is an N2, N3, N4 and N5. These new walls are lightweight, easy to install and have some really cool features such as wireless monitoring for faults and problems. How would you like to get an email before a power module goes out? We really like these. Like all video walls, the number designation doesn’t exactly equal the dot pitch, but these are closer than most. The N2 is 2.4mm, N3 is 3.2mm, the N4 is actually a spot-on 4mm, and the N5 comes in at 5.14mm. This is much closer than some of the other walls called 3 mil that are 3.9. Most of us would call a 3.9mm dot pitch 4, but marketing people gotta market. The N-series also has an impressive 160° viewing angle, and it’s actually true. We stood right next to it and had no trouble reading the text. The cost is also quite aggressive. Walls have been coming down lately, and we’re now telling people that if you’re looking for a screen over 14’ or so wide or a projector above about 14K lumens, you should at least look at a video wall. www.usabsen.com
We talk to a lot of churches that have a desire to stream their services and events online. We recently taught a class on this topic at the North West Ministry Conference, and we thought we would share it with you here.
So, you want to stream your services over the inter-webs?
Before you just jump in, here are some things you should think about.
Determine the Why
It is funny how many people we talk to that have no idea “why” their church wants to stream. Before you move forward, it is good to ask these questions with your team and leaders:
Does It Need To Be Live?
Would posting on YouTube or Vimeo Sunday afternoon or Monday work just as well? Often, a few hours or even a day delay won’t be a big factor for your audience.
Is it because it’s cool or does it advance the vision of your church?
Many churches fall into the trap of thinking they need to stream live because all the big “cool” churches are doing it. Most of those churches see live streaming as integral to their mission. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for every church.
Here are (in our opinion) valid reasons to stream live:
- Keeping services accessible for shut-ins and sick
- Reaching your community
- Reaching a larger audience outside your immediate community
Still going to stream live?
Do it well. Today’s connected generation has high standards and a short attention span. A poor live stream will do a lot more damage for your church’s creditability than no stream at all. Plus, you’re competing with all the big players will full staffs and big budgets.
High quality video is essential. If you’re going for more than archival quality, you’re going to have to spend some money. Quality cameras can range from $5,000-50,000 each. If the camera requires an additional lens, they range from $3,000-50,000 each. If you have more than one camera, you will need a way to switch between them. Switchers range from $2,000-25,000. Keep in mind you will also need capture cards, encoders, IT infrastructure and fast internet. The cost for those can quickly creep into the thousands of dollars. Live streaming is not a low-budget endeavor.
Good execution is essential and that starts with camera shots. For speaking only, you can get away with one camera shot, but we recommend at minimum two. Here are some camera shots that work well and can also serve to feed your iMag and ancillary room video feed:
- 1st front-center shot (above the knee or at waist)
- 2nd Camera additional front-center (head to toe)
- 3rd Camera Slash Shot (usually house left/ right)
- 4th-5th- Cameras POV on Stage
- Additional Slash or roaming
- Audience shot
- Jib shot
- Dedicated Far-Wide Shot
You have to light with video in mind. Proper lighting is more important for video than it is in the room itself. Cameras don’t have the dynamic range our eyes do, so lighting needs to be well-controlled. The great thing about the new high definition cameras is that lighting doesn’t have to be crazy-bright anymore. That being said, color balance is important. The major things are:
- Color balance front light to 4,000K-5,550K
- Even front light
- Good back light
- Color (which helps with depth)
No matter how great the video looks, if it sounds bad, you will drive your audience away. If you are only streaming the speaking portion you can get away with the board mix, but if you are streaming the entire service with music you will want to explore some of these options:
- Dedicated matrix mix from main console
- Broadcast mix of stems from main console
- Broadcast mix of each channel (split)
* A great execution of this can be found here
Adding this kind of video may require a larger crew. Staff/ Volunteer positions may/will include:
- Camera Operators (1-6 or more)
- Video Director
- Shader (depending on the complexity of your system)
- Technical Director
This is a BIG ONE. If you are streaming your services, you must have a good IT infrastructure and bandwidth and up-speed is crucial.
- For SD, minimum 1 Mbps upload, continuous
- For HD, minimum 5 Mbps upload, continuous
- For Multiple Bitrates 8-20 Mbps (don’t recommend)
- QOS (Quality of Service)—prioritizing streaming traffic
Streaming Company Qualifications:
Here are some, but not all, of the services a streaming provider will offer which you should consider:
- Weekend customer service hotline
- Video Player embedded on your site
- Ad free (you will have to pay for this)
- Transcode to multiple bitrates (Receiver’s bandwidth is a potential limiting factor)
- Player DVR function (record while streaming); archive and playlist ability
- Geo Blocking (regional availability)
- Password protection ability for conferences etc.
- Simulated live
- Mobile device compatible
Read the Fine Print
Some plans will charge a monthly fee and then add bandwidth usage fees. Unlimited bandwidth may seem good, but it might ultimately be more expensive, so read the fine print and plan accordingly. One more thing; read the fine print.
Some Streaming Providers you should look at:
LiveStream (use the paid service)
UStream (use the paid service)
You can also “Roll your own” with CDNs like Akamai but this is not for the meek and with all the providers out there, unless you are an uber-nerd with lots of time on your hands, we don’t recommend it.
Here are some other resources for your perusal:
We’re live at NAB! This year, we’re looking at 4K and drones. And a few other things. But mainly 4K and drones.
As I mentioned last time, in honor of my SALT class on getting better audio for video, I’ve dug up some of the very first posts I wrote for ChurchTechaArts, way back in 2007. The previous post focused on the reason for close-mic’ing your talent, and how to use handheld and shotgun mic’s for that purpose. Today, we’ll consider a few other options.
My second favorite way to mic interviews (after a shotgun mic), is the wired lavaliere. I have used these extensively professionally with great results. You don’t have to worry about interference and the sound quality is excellent. For wired mics, I really like Sony’s ECM-77, though the ECM-66 and 55 are pretty good too. The 77 is great because it is tiny, can be hidden almost anywhere and sounds terrific. If you can’t find those, the Countryman B3 or Tram TR50 are great options. DPA also makes some fantastic (and fantastically small) lavs, though they are spendy.
Ideally, you would use a wireless mic that has a camera mount receiver, such as the Shure FP series. The wireless option gives you the most flexibility because you have no wires to connect you to the talent. As long as you stay in range, and choose a clear frequency, things work great. Be wary of cheapo wireless mics, however. If a camera mounted receiver and body pack combo doesn’t cost $400-500 at least, keep looking.
The other big downside to wireless is the simple fact that the RF spectrum is shrinking as the Federal government keeps selling it off. We already lost the entire 700 Mhz band, and it looks like we have about 3 years to vacate the 600 Mhz band. When you use a wireless mic, you’re competing with everything else in the area for clear spectrum, and that’s going to become harder. My rule of thumb is that if the talent isn’t moving, there’s not reason to not wire them.
Another Wireless Option
A final option is to use a wireless mic that you would use in a live sound application. I used to do this a lot at church because we didn’t have a camera mount wireless system. I’d just take one of the Shure ULX-P (back in the day) mics, set the receiver on the floor next to my tripod, and strap the transmitter on the talent. It works great, though it is a bit of a pain every time I move the camera.
Plugging It All In
All of the applications are assuming your camera has XLR inputs to work with (though the camera mounted receivers usually come with an 1/8″ cable). Each of these mics are professional grade solutions for prosumer cameras and above. If your camera has only a 1/8″ mic jack, all is not lost. You might be tempted to make up an adapter to take XLR to 1/8″. Don’t do it. The pre-amps on consumer grade equipment will not function well with these types of microphones.
The better solution is to use an adapter box made just for this purpose, such as the ones from BeachTek. They have a variety of solutions that include phantom power, metering and variable gain. They are well worth the investment (as low as $199).
Now that many people are shooting with DSLRs, a better solution is to buy a small recorder from Zoom or Tascam and capture your audio that way. I’ve shot quite a few trade shows with a Tascam DR-40, and it works great. I have a headphone Y-cable on the headphone output jack and take one side to the mic input on my DSLR (for later audio synchronization) and use the other for monitoring.
Finally, when you are recording, plug some headphones in and listen to what you are recording. I am amazed and confused when I see people recording audio, but not monitoring it (and I’ve seen it with professionals as much as non-professionals!). When you listen in, you can hear trouble before it is too late. Make sure you use good headphones that provide good isolation. I’ve been burned before using cheap “walkman” type headphones and thinking I was hearing clean audio, when what I was really hearing was the person talking in the room.
Hopefully you’ve found this helpful and you will be on your way to making better, more effective videos that will tell the story without being distracting.
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This week, in honor of SALT and my class on getting better audio for your videos, I’ve reach back into the archives—way back to May 2007. This was part of a series on making better videos. I’ve updated it to include some new equipment, but the basic principles are still sound. That’s the great thing about solid fundamentals; they are timeless.
Repeat after me—I will not use my on-camera mic for anything other than general sound. I will not use my on-camera mic for interviews. I will not use my on-camera mic for short films. On-camera mics have one major drawback that simply cannot be overcome—they are too far from the sound source. I don’t care if it’s the cheap built-in mic on your DSLR or a $3,000 Schoeps, too far is too far.
Let’s talk physics for a moment. There is a law in physics known as the “inverse square law.” It has many different uses, but for our purposes in sound reproduction, it applies thusly: As the distance from a sound source is doubled, the acoustic energy is reduced by 75% (or 6 dB).
So, let’s say you have someone speaking on camera, and that person is 8 feet away. A mic right next to their mouth may receive a signal of, say 65 dBA SPL (normal talking). As the mic moves from 3 inches away to 6 inches away, the signal level drops by 75%, or to 59 dB. When we get to 1 foot away, it’s in down 75% again, or 53 dB. At 2 feet it drops by 75% again, to 47 db. By the time we get to 8 feet (where the on-camera mic is), the once strong 65 dB signal is now down to 35 dB. Now, this is all true in free space; but in a room, there are reflections which will minimize the drop. But it’s still significant.
Can an on-camera mic pick this up? Sure, but the problem is the noise floor of everything else in the room is at or above the signal level of the talent, including the sound of the tape transport in the camera! To paraphrase Alton Brown, that is not good sound.
Always Close Mic the Talent
The answer, of course, is to get the mic closer to the sound source. If you can’t get the camera to within 6 inches of the talent’s face (and you probably shouldn’t for other, non-sound reasons), you need a remote mic. You can use something as simple as a hand-held dynamic mic (like an SM 58) and use it like a television reporter. If you are going to do a lot of “reporter” type shots, the hands down way to go is a noise canceling mic like the EV 635 or better yet, its shock mounted cousin, the RE50. Long favorites of ENG news crews, these mics will allow the talent to stand in the middle of a football stadium and will still deliver great sound of just the talent.
If you want to be a little less obtrusive, you can use a shotgun mic (like the Audio Technica AT 8035), and either suspend it from the ceiling, a mic stand or a fish pole. A fish pole is an extendable aluminum or carbon fiber pole that is designed to be held overhead by another person, and allows the mic to be placed just out of the frame above or below the talent.
If you plan on using the shotgun on a fish pole, make sure you use a shock mount.
The purpose of a shock mount is to isolate the mic from the inevitable handling noises that a fish pole will cause. The shotgun on a fish pole gives you a lot of options if you have a second person to hold it. That person had better have strong arms though. I really like this option because the sound quality is generally pretty good, and it doesn’t cost a fortune. I recently purchased a shotgun mic, shock mount and fish pole for our church and spent less than $300.
Of course, you can also put the shotgun mic on a mic stand. We shot more interviews than I can count when I owned my video production company, and we almost always used an AT853a on a boom stand right over the subject. We set it so it was just out of the shot, and got great audio every time. Sometimes, if the shot required it, we would position the mic below frame and point it up; this was key if we were shooting in a room with concrete floors. I still recommend the shock mount, even if you’re using a tripod, though.
Next time, we’ll look at wireless mic options, including one that might surprise you.