Wind can easily ruin recordings made with the very best microphones and recorders and as Murphy's Law suggests, will do so at the most inopportune times. The best way to prevent that from happening and ruining your audio is to equip your microphone with some sort of wind-dampening cover. Unfortunately, the best protection, provided by a zeppelin, adds considerable bulk to a microphone making inconvenient, and often impossible to use with a camera-mounted microphone.
Fortunately, today there are a number of alternatives, most notably windsocks, in all sizes, shapes, colors and styles.
There are now windsocks available for virtually any type of microphone from the tiniest lavaliers to the longest shotguns. Finding one that perfectly fits your specific microphone and application can still be a challenge, but a company I stumbled upon at NAB this year simplified the process considerably. That's because Koala Windsocks, of Australia, has made it its business to make a windsock for virtually every type and size of microphone, for a broad range of applications.
(click thumbnail)Koala Windsocks, of Australia, makes windsocks that fit over foam 'softies' as well as zeppelins. The zeppelin covers come in several colors and patterns and feature double zipping at the base so that they can fit over most zeppelins. One of these, "the Koala Max," is especially geared for long microphones, requiring large zeppelins.
It features extra long knap for maximum wind protection-at least 10 to 12 dB worth-according to Koala. Overall, Koala makes half-a-dozen wind covers for zeppelins with "fur" ranging from short to shaggy for protection from wind ranging from light to blustery. They are designed to be fast and easy to change as wind conditions change.
The texture of many of the Koala windsocks I touched emulates that of authentic animal (maybe koala?) fur, albeit glossier. But, fortunately for koalas, wallabies and other Australian marsupials no real animal hides are used in the making of Koala windsocks. All the fur on their windsocks is 'genuine imitation'; animal fur made of a proprietary blend of synthetic materials. As you might expect they don't elaborate on what materials are used to mimic the texture of marsupial fur, other than to insist that "No koalas were harmed in the manufacture of this product."
Koala even has windsocks for lavaliers, the Baby Koala series. These little fuzzballs come in white, tan, black, grey... to blend in better with the speaker's clothing.
As with windsocks for shotgun and handheld mikes, the babies are designed to fit onto standard foam softies or metallic helmet-style windscreens for lavaliers. The softie is essential for a snug fit but with a layer of air around the microphone head for proper operation.
Perhaps their most practical line of windsocks is called the Mini-Max series designed to fit over shotgun-style microphones equipped with simple foam windscreens, or softies.
Sizes range from 120 mm to 190 mm in length, which covers the full gamut of ENG microphones. They come in different lengths of fur for different wind conditions but all include a non-slip Velcro strap at the lower end. This is for securing the windsock to the camera's microphone bracket to prevent it from flopping around and creating noise, or worse yet, from accidentally slipping or blowing off while in use
I tested the 190 mm Koala Mini-Max with the AT897 shotgun microphone by Audio Technica. The AT 897's capsule measures approximately 180 mm with an overall microphone length of 280 mm. The Mini-Max slipped over the AT897 fairly easily yet snugly enough to adhere to the softie without using the Velcro strap. Hence, I was able to use it independent of a camcorder as well as with one.
My first application with the Mini-Max on the AT897 was while shooting in the Nevada desert with the Sony DSR 570W. After strapping the Mini-Max to the microphone bracket, I felt ready for the desert wind, at least to shoot in it without losing the windsock. The wind came soon enough, thanks to the cool nights and hot days of spring time in Nevada.
In fact, the wind blew pretty steadily during the middle of the day, ranging from light to fairly intense-upwards of 30 mph.
Would the Koala Mini-Max enable me to record ambient audio other than the desert wind? I was a bit skeptical.
Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. In winds under 20 mph or so, I was able to clearly distinguish the calls of the birds or burros that I was shooting. As winds gusted above 20 mph or so, the rustling of sagebrush and other vegetation muffled the animal sounds I hoped to record. The good news was that the recorded blend of wind, rustling bushes and muffled animal vocalizations actually sound pretty much like it did without a headset on, basically pretty natural. The Mini-Max did its job of preventing wind distortion while faithfully capturing the sound of the blowing wind. As any soundperson can attest, this is not an easy thing to do without a zeppelin and thick windsock.
I was also pleased with the quality of assorted horse and burro vocalizations recorded during winds ranging from 10 to 20 mph. Once again, the sound of wind was clearly audible, but was replicated much like it sounded in the field, to the unaided ear, i.e. natural. After several days of shooting in the breeze, I was pretty pleased because I captured the target audio-animal vocalizations-in the wind and under varying conditions, and the recordings accurately reflected the relative intensity of the wind, but without drowning them out.
While recording songbirds in western New York, with the Ares PII+ solid-state audio recorder, the ability to handle a moderate breeze proved a godsend. There are few enough pockets in the urbanized East remote enough to record more than a few snatches of bird song at a time without intrusion by some motor vehicle, be it a car, truck, motorcycle, airplane, a distant highway or a train-even at dawn!
Consequently, bit of a breeze can help if it doesn't distort the recording. Once again, with the Mini-Max on the AT897, there was little detectable wind noise at all under 10 mph. Everything from catbirds to cuckoos was recorded without distortion.
Moreover, more distant vehicular noise was muted somewhat by the wind, resulting in a cleaner overall recording. Above 10 to 12 mph, vehicular noise was muted to an even greater extent, but the sound of the wind became increasingly audible in the recording as wind speed increased.
The problem with this is that ideally, ambient audio, whether bird song or a slamming door, should be pristine and without other competing sounds, to maximize its future applications. Nevertheless, a light rustle of wind is much easier to work into a soundtrack than the same sounds punctuated by a screaming Cessna or Harley.
A good windsock is a wonderful thing and can make the difference between capturing clean ambient audio which you can and will want to use versus audio you'll have to replace.
The Koala Mini-Max more than pays for itself the first time it spares you from spending hours hunting for clean audio to replace your wind-damaged audio track. The savings multiply if you have to locate and then purchase replacement audio.
The Mini-Max weighs only a few ounces and adds no hard edges to your camcorder when packed away. It's a worthwhile addition to the kit bag of any videographer or DP who takes audio seriously.
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