March 30, 2010

Canon EOS 550D + Rode VideoMic = Problem!

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).
Here you have a sample of just the noise that will come attached to every video you make:

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.
  1. 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)
  2. 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.


  1. There is magic lantern firmware for 5dmk2. As far as i remember it's currently work in progress for 7d.

  2. True - magic lantern was the only way out for 5dmk2 users till update 2.0.4 - now you have the Manual Gain Control

  3. I'm very disappointed about that. I also have a rode videomic and ordered yesterday my 550d. I hope a solution will be found!

  4. I, too, was wondering which external mic worked well with the T2i, since I was among the first to get ahold of one of these cameras, off, when I saw a few went to "in stock" status.

    I love this camera so far, but video recording with the internal mic results in audio that sounds just as "amateur" as what I got out of my mid 1990's Sony DV camcorder. Fine for home movies or YouTube, but little else.

    I had *just* discovered the Rode VideoMic, and it sounded like the perfect solution - until I saw THIS web page. Ugh....

  5. So does anyone have any type of external mic that is reasonably priced (preferably the same price as the Rode shotgun mic) that is compatible and functionable with the Canon 550D?? Someone help me. By the sweet beard of Zeus... somebody help me.

  6. as far as I tested the problem lies with the external mic input of the 550D. Any mic I plug in has the noise. Strange thing is I never saw it mentioned on any of the online test videos

  7. Magic Lantern is coming up for the 550D.

    Today I tried it with a very early version and some custom modifications to disable the AGC. It works and I guess within the next weeks a first version of it with AGC control may be published.


  8. Phil, did you actually get rid of the noise? I'm now running the ML rc1 on my 550D, the AGC is apparently disabled, but there is a very strong noise when using Rode Stereo VideoMic that simply isn't there with the built-in mic. It's really bad... I'm wondering what could it be? Incorrect impedance match perhaps?

  9. I use a BBox which is a square device with two XLR cable inputs that plugs into the mic input on the left of the 550D which then provides a place to plug in any microphone that uses an xlr cable..I have had some problems with lapel mics, but the BBox seems to work with most shotgun mics or any regular mic giving a nice clean professional sound. If any one knows the right settings to make a lapel mic work on a BBox let me know please :)

  10. I'm looking at getting this camera or something very similar. This would be my first SLR so i'm very new to all this. I have my eye on this camera because it fulfills a lot of my needs:

    - Need one the can record video in Full-HD
    - Live view LCD screen.
    - Built-In Flash
    - Integrated Cleaning System

    Only thing i'm not sure about is:
    Does it have an external Mic Input. I want to to make recordings with very good sound quality for recording Music for Youtube. Please pardon my lack of knowledge on this, but can i use a Music microphone with a camera like this, provided i could find something that connects the mic lead to the camera input?