Poor audio! While many tout the mantra that sound is half your film or broadcast, budgetary constraints can relegate sound to an afterthought¡ªunfortunately, often to the peril of your project¡¯s quality. While getting your sound captured correctly can be a daunting task, especially to the audio-uninitiated, you fortunately already have a powerful tool right in your pocket. No, not your wallet¡ªyour other pocket.
The iPhone has evolved from a straightforward portable communication device to a powerful, portable computer, capable of much more than texting or swiping left on Tinder. Your iPhone, (and iOS devices as a whole), can provide a litany of uses for film and broadcast. Thanks to a world of third-party manufacturers, almost every conceivable audio application has some form of iOS accessory and accompanying apps. This, along with ever-increasing processing power, can make an iPhone or iPad an invaluable piece of gear for your broadcast or shoot, and chances are, you already have one. Let¡¯s take a look at some common scenarios for film, broadcast, and podcasting, and some accessories and peripherals that allow you to integrate your iOS device.
Capturing a Lecture or Speech
Often, your audio setup is a fairly basic one. You have one person speaking, whether they are giving a lecture, making a speech, or giving dictation. In a case like this, you likely want to close-mic the subject with a lavalier, or clip-on microphone, and what better way to record than with an iPhone or iPod touch that can be discreetly hidden in a pocket?
R?DE¡¯s smartLav+ improves on the design of the original smartLav, with improved sensitivity and a higher signal-to-noise ratio (meaning it is quieter). Construction-wise, its cable is Kevlar reinforced, providing stability when in use. The smartLav+ simply connects to the headphone jack on your iOS device, and will work with just about any app that can record audio from the headset input. If you are looking to record a simple two-person interview, you can pick up an adapter that allows you to connect 2 smartLav+ mics to a single device.
While the smartLav+ relies on the quality of your iOS device¡¯s audio input, you can up the game a bit with the ClipMic Digital, which is a joint venture from Sennheiser and Apogee Electronics. This audio dream team, as it is, sees Sennheiser contribute its popular omnidirectional ME 2 lavalier microphone, while Apogee designed an in-line converter that connects digitally to your iOS device¡¯s Lightning port. The ClipMic Digital can give your audio resolution up to 24-bit/96 kHz when used with the included MetaRecorder and Maestro apps. Sennheiser has also made a version available with the company¡¯s higher-end MKE2 microphone capsule.
Ok, so getting a high-quality recording of a single speaker is a pretty obvious application for using an iOS device. However, they are capable of much more, especially when paired with the appropriate accessory. Podcasting is an audio-based medium, and your iOS device (especially an iPad) is particularly suited to the application.
If you are recording just yourself for your podcast, you could go with one of the above lavalier options, but you are going to have a more comfortable desktop setup by looking at a USB microphone that is iOS compatible. The MiC 96k from Apogee shows the company¡¯s commitment to iOS as a viable recording operating system (many of the company¡¯s products are compatible). This tabletop mic gives you recording resolutions up to 24-bit/96 kHz, as long as the app can handle it, and will work with either old 30-pin devices or Lightning-equipped machines. Unlike many USB mics, the MiC 96k doesn¡¯t require any adapters to work with your device, and includes a tripod stand and a Lightning cable to get you going as soon as you take it out of the box.
If your resolution needs are a little more humble, the Spark Digital from Blue gives you 16-bit/44.1 kHz quality and is also iOS compatible right out of the box. A bonus with the Spark Digital is its built-in headphone amplifier, which means you do not have to rely on the headphone jack of your device, as with the MiC 96k for monitoring.
USB mics are well suited if your podcast is a solo show, but if you have multiple hosts, guests, or frequent interviews, a single mic approach is just not practical. Thankfully, you can up your game to a quality audio interface and still use your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to handle recordings duties. Thankfully, there is no shortage of iOS-compatible interfaces. Apogee once again shows up, with both the Duet and Quartet interfaces, providing 2 and 4 microphone inputs, respectively. The flexibility of using an audio interface also lets you select from just about any mic available, thanks to those devices’ standard XLR inputs.
Broadcast and Film
iOS devices provide a world of use for broadcast and film, running the gamut from being a straightforward audio-tracking device to relying on the built-in camera to be used for filming. A great place to start is with the R?DEGrip from R?DE. This versatile accessory gives you multiple orientations for using your iPhone or iPod touch for filming or purely audio applications, and includes a 3/8″ camera-shoe mount that allows you to attach your device directly to your DSLR.
Now that you have your iPhone mounted (or gripped, as the case may be), your options increase dramatically. Just about any mic option you could need for filming, from shotguns, to stereo XY, or adjustable mid-side are available. While some microphones connect to the headphone jack of your iPhone, many, like the Zoom iQ line, connect via the Lightning port and offer better quality conversion than that on the iPhone. If you want to use your iPhone as simply a recording device with your own mics, there are a number of options from Beachtek, including this 2-channel adapter you can connect right to the phone.
It¡¯s There Anyway, Put it To Work!
Considering how ubiquitous iPhones have become, it makes quite a bit of sense to use these powerful little devices to their full potential. Regardless of your application or rig size, your iOS device can play an important role in your process. Even if you have your audio rig sorted out, the iPhone in your pocket can be a reliable backup or support to your main recording device, with the added benefit of always being on hand.