Equipment Review - Rode's Invisilav
Well, for anyone who read my other blogs about recording live sound across 8 different mics for our improvised feature length film, you’ll remember that we used lapel mics on our two actors to capture their unrehearsed dialogue for the duration of the filming.
In order to hide the mics we decided to purchase and try out Rode’s Invisilav mic concealing gadget. Here’s my review of the product and our experience using it on our film.
Out the box
So straight out the tiny box the gear arrived in, it looks like a smart and tidy product. There are instructions, but essentially the product is two things; a silicone mic holder and some double sided sticky tape. Sounds basic doesn’t it? And it is to be fair. Although that’s not meant to sound harsh, it’s been well designed and thought out. There’s even a second lapel mic holder in the silicone for backup lapel mics, which is a neat idea. It came with several of the double sided sticky tape bits for repeated use, and you’ll need these…
Naturally being a guy I decided instruction were for wallys and cracked on with using the kit without looking once at the instructions. After all, it’s some tape and a piece of silicone, how complex could this really be? Well, actually, it was annoyingly fiddly and complex. I’ll admit it, I could not peel the backing off one side of the tape, and it frustrated the hell out of me! But after a look at the instructions I noticed it does clearly say which side to peel off first. I’d not done that. “Ah ha!” I thought. “That’s where I’m going wrong!” So I discarded the now mangled sticky tape and tried on another, this time attempting to peel off the correct side first. Useless, utterly useless. I’m not sure why, but these bits of sticky tape with backing on both sides have for some reason been designed for aliens with special powers as far as I can see. It took forever to peel the first bit of backing off successfully. When you’ve finally done it, the trick is to then attach to the back of the silicone and then peel off the other side and attach to either the inside of clothing or the chest of the person you’re miking up. And to be fair once you’re there that’s all the hassle over and done with. The lapel mic fits snuggly into the silicone, assuming you’re using one that fits. It’s quite small so do make sure you’re using either Rode’s lapel mics or one small enough to fit in. We used the Sennheiser G3 and it squished the silicone out a little but still worked perfectly ok in the field.
So it simply has one job, record the sound of the actor it’s stuck to. And as you’d expect, with good placement it does that perfectly well. Naturally being placed under the clothes it hides the lapel mic perfectly, although we did noice that on very flimsy clothing, the weight of the silicone and mic pulls a little on the clothing which does show up, but it depends just how hidden you need it to be really as to whether this would affect your filming or not.
Where it really comes in handy is not only to hide the mic, but to eliminate the rustle you get from placing lapel mics on or under clothing. I have to say I’m really very impressed with this aspect of the product. When it was first suggested I read a review online written by a friend of ours, Tim Fok (coincidentally he ended up being one of the five camera operators we used on the shoot!) and I have to say I was very wary that something we eliminate the rustle of clothing enough to actually be a useful recording. Well, I was very wrong. Yes, there were moments where the actors moved theirs arms around and sure the Invisilav was not able to stop the sound of clothing movement going in to the mic. But for the main it did an excellent job when the actors weren’t moving around much, and were largely sat still just chatting to each other beside a tree. I have to admit I was impressed, and from this point of view I would certainly recommend the product.
If it could be improved in any way I’d obviously suggest the sticky tape issue was addressed so that it take moments to setup, rather than minutes, which eventually feels like an age given you’re simply trying to peel some tape off something. It does make you look rather incompetent in front of everyone watching. Although when everyone else tried they also all found it difficult, so it really is a flaw in the product. But, a minor one at that.
All in all, a great experience with the Rode Invisilav, we’ve ended up using practically the entire recordings made from each mic using the silicone product (we had one on each actor). And largely the entire film audio is those two mics, so not bad really for a feature length film, especially considering we really didn’t pay much for the product itself. It saved us having to boom the whole thing, which would’ve basically been impossible anyway! So thanks Rode and well done!