Welcome to the world of noise! That's exactly what you get when you pair up the new Canon EOS 550D (aka Canon EOS T2i aka Canon EOS Kiss X4) with the Rode VideoMic (Mono Shotgun style version).
This is how it sounds when recording a person speaking from 1-2 meters away:
In both files, please ignore the artifacts, as they don't appear in your videos, but are due to the webplayer. Just focus on the noise.
Both device are awesome when separated The DSLR is a revolution in itself (expect a post about this), while the Rode VideoMic is indeed capable of producing high-quality sound. I hooked it up to my keyboard and it worked perfectly.
That being said, connecting the Rode directly to the Canon is a big No-no. The folks over at the 5Dmk2 department had the exact same problem for a long time. It's due to the AGC (Automatic Gain Control) of the camera going crazy. However, the 5D got rid of that problem with firmware update 2.0.4, where the option to manually control and adjust the gain level was added. Unfortunately, Canon did not implement this in neither the 7D nor the 550D.
So which external microphone works? Difficult question. Calls to both Canon USA and Canon Germany were not successful. They were neither able to help me with the noise, nor tell me if as firmware upgrade was in the works, nor which external microphone actually works. The latter is the most crucial to me, because if Canon is going to implement an input for an external stereo microphone (and not give a Manual Gain Control), they should know which mic will actually work. Please do not take this as a vomit on Canon in general, however it was 2 lost hours on the phone, feeling like a ping-pong being bounced from person to person. If anybody can report a working microphone, please do so in the comment section!
So what's the current workaround? There are several options.
- You can use an external sound recording device such as a Zoom H2/H4n and record either on the devices themselves, or plug the Rode into them. (recommended)
- Do a hack like the guys over at Cinema5D to try to trick the AGC. How does it work? It exploits the fact that the Rode VideoMic is a monaural microphone and that the AGC is not very smart: You connect a device (like an iPhone) that outputs a sound, say a permanent 20khz tone, that fools the AGC and eliminates the noise. Thumbs up for the guy who came up with that, nevertheless that whole configuration is very, well, circuitous.