We met Rod Gammons, creator of Rotolight, last year at Cine Gear Expo, and the company develops some pretty ingenious products. Their Anova Bi-Colour V2 LED is one of the more intriguing light fixtures out there, as it’s controllable through a tasty iOS app. It has great color balance and a clean color temperature making it suitable for any professional application. You could even link six of the LEDs together to create an awesome hexagon-shaped ring light. So when the Rotolight Sound and Light Kit showed up at our doorstep, we were excited to see what it could do.
Retailing at around $249, this modest priced product is geared towards the DLSR, ENG crowd who are looking to add a little boost to an out-of-the-box camera. The kit includes a RL48-B LED, a Roto-Mic condenser shotgun microphone, a foam windscreen, a windsock, spare shock-mount rubber bands, mounts, a belt pouch, and a seven pack filter set for the LED.
After testing it for a few days, we found that for close up video work, this kit is outstanding. The Roto-Mic sells separately for $120, about half the kit cost. The casing is molded out of hard plastic and it’s attached to a suspension to discourage any handling noise that might be picked up from touching the camera. The microphone can be either mounted via hot shoe adapter or by a 1/4″- 20 thread. A 9V battery is needed to power the unit and we recommend Duracell Pro Cell. To connect the Roto-Mic to your camera, a stereo 3.5mm coiled cable is hardlined to the unit. It features an on/off switch, a high pass/low cut filter (80Hz), and three level controls (-10b, 0db, +10db). Like other similar mics on the market, this is a condenser microphone with a super-cardioid polar pattern. It carries a frequency response of 35-20,000Hz, has a signal to noise ratio of about 75db, and a -40db sensitivity.
The best application for this microphone is on board a DSLR (or similar) in close proximity to a subject. When capturing dialogue, we wouldn’t go any further than three feet from the source. The rear rejection on the microphone was decent, and the dialogue we recorded was clean and crisp. When we switched between the controlled db levels there was a noticeable difference, but +10db definitely increases the noise floor substantially so be cautious when implementing. We’ve done comparable tests through the years with the Rode VideoMic, the Senneheiser MKE 400, the Shure VP83, Azden’s SGM-1X, and SGM-PII – all cardioid and in the $120-$250 price range – and the Roto-Mic measured up well.
Keep in mind, when using a microphone the most important things are good microphone placement and reducing the signal-to-noise ratio. If your camera has the ability to turn auto gain control (AGC) off, do so, and adjust it manually. You might also consider adding an audio adapter like the Beachtek DXA-SLR Ultra for more control over your recordings. The Roto-Mic’s barrel is 6″ long and the windscreen, or “Dead Kitten” as Rotolight calls it, comes with its own carrying pouch.
The RL48-B LED is small but bright. The 5.5″ diameter “Ringlight” provides an output equivalent to 80w. It’s powered by three AA batteries (Energizer L91 recommended), and the cool thing is it’s able to twist apart in the middle where the seven filters are stored. You get a 3200K, 4100K, 5600K, and 6300K filter along with a diffusion screen, two neutral density filters (0.5, 1 stop), and a 1/8 minus green.
To mount the fixture to the camera, you can use the hot shoe stand or slide the LED directly on the Roto-Mic. This is nice because it eliminates the need to buy a “Y” bracket or rail system for camera mounting. There’s an on/off button on the front of the unit, but the LED doesn’t have a dimmable tuning knob that you’d find on a Litepanels Croma LED or similar. In order to dim the light, you need to use the neutral density filters, which can take a little longer to put on. The filters themselves have a number on them so you know which is which, and if lost, can be bought again. The LED definitely provides a nice fill, and once mounted on the microphone to your camera, it’s still super light-weight.
The Rotolight Sound and Light Kit is a great buy for under $250 and would add a good amount of value to a production in comparison to using a DSLR alone. The LED even makes for a cool coaster, though we don’t recommend it.