Audio makes or breaks a movie – all the best acting in the world is useless when all the audience can hear is that damned wind, right? But yet, you never hear the sound of wind in your local Hoyts (unless it was put there on purpose by the editor). That's because the pros are out there using the right production equipment, and kiwi filmmakers would be wise to follow in their footsteps.
This is where windjammers come in. Let's go through some of the basics of windjammers, and show off some of the models available for use here in New Zealand.
— Andrew Tasselmyer (@atasselmyer) August 15, 2017
What is a windjammer?
"Windjammer" is the name given to what look like giant fluffy socks for microphones, and the term is most commonly used by brand Rycote. You may also hear soundies in NZ refer to them as windscreens, windshields, deadcats, or even deadkittens (the latter two are colloquial terms, and ones that RØDE uses for its products – hence the common use).
In essence, they are giant fluffy socks, and then some. Windjammers are slipped over the top of microphones during outdoor shooting typically for cutting bassy or fluttery wind gusts, but some of the thicker options are great for reducing the effect of raindrops on the mic, too. They typically come in two styles:
How do windjammers work?
Consider windjammers like giant pop filters – dismantling unwanted noise and letting through what you're hoping to record.
Those unfamiliar with windjammers might be wondering, "But if I cover my mic with a bunch of foam or fur, won't it cut the sound I'm actually trying to record?"
It's true that too much shielding over a mic will start cutting out the higher frequencies, leaving you with a muffled take. However, companies like Rycote have been working on this problem for years, and acoustic transparency is a key component of their products. When turbulent noise strikes the fur or foam, it gets caught and absorbed. But, low-particle velocity noise like actors talking can travel through freely and reach the mic. Consider windjammers like giant pop filters – dismantling unwanted noise (in this case, wind instead of plosives) and letting through what you're hoping to record.
You can expect around 10-20 dB of noise from a light breeze or trees rustling, and 30 dB+ from gusts and gales. Simple foam windshields will work well for the former, and many shotgun mics – such as on-camera variants like the Sennheiser MKE 400 – come built-in with some level of shielding, albeit not brilliant. However, you'll need a blimp and long-fur sock to tackle harsher environments. But if we're honest, it pays to have both options available.
What windjammer should I buy?
Companies like Rycote and RØDE offer a windjammer for just about any occasion, meaning you can get precisely the right equipment to suit the mic that you bought. You'll notice quickly when you're shopping for a windjammer that there are many different lengths – it's worth knowing the dimensions of your mic before looking around for prices.
The heavy-duty Rycote Miniscreen and Rycote Miniscreen Windjammer are good options if you're facing nature's worst.
If you typically shoot in what you might call a 'normal' environment (nothing too harsh), consider investing in something like the Rycote Softie (available in 12-18 cm variants). These are slip-on products that are quick to use and can cut up to around 25 dB of noise, depending on the length of fur you buy (30 mm being the longest).
The heavier-duty blimp-style Rycote Miniscreen and Rycote Miniscreen Windjammer are better options if you're facing nature's worst. The blimp on its own can cut around 12 dB of wind noise from a scene, but you could boost that up to 30 dB by chucking the windjammer sock on top. Using the two in combination gives your sound team a lot of room to play with noise reduction.
You're not out of luck if you don't have big shotgun mics, either. The long-furred Rycote Mini Windjammer fits snug over a Sennheiser MKE 400 to beef up its foam, and the Rycote Reporter Mic Foam works well over hand-held reporter-style mics up to 35 mm wide and 50 mm long.
And we've only just scratched the surface here. There are plenty more options for RØDE lovers, and Sennheiser also stocks options. You can even get foam and fur variants for lapel mics, so if you're not sure what you need, the best thing you can do is pop in to DVT or contact the team today.
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