When one thinks about capturing 5.1 surround sound with video, visions of large and expensive mics, with associated cables running wild, come to mind. Yet the Holophone PortaMic 5.1 ($599 list) is a compact and simply employed camera-mounted solution, offering true surround recording when used with a stereo video camera/recorder.
This interesting-looking, half-pound, orb-shaped product couldn’t be any easier to use. Mounted on top of a compact base, it features five small, 20 Hz to 20 kHz omni mic capsules mounted as you would listen to surround: LF (Left Front), C (Center), RF (Right Front), LS (Left Surround), and RS (Right Surround). The sixth capsule is the LFE, and it’s derived from a mic inside the head, where the head itself acts as an acoustic lens to cut off the high frequencies (capturing a frequency range from 20 Hz to 100 Hz). Audio is encoded with the onboard Dolby PLII (Pro Logic II) encoder and sent out the stereo output via 1/8-inch miniplug to the camera or recording source. Decoding is done in post production. Simply attach PortaMic 5.1’s metal mount to the hot shoe on your camera, connect the stereo mini plug, turn on the power switch, dial in the camera volume until you see the LED flicker, and start recording. Powered by a 9v battery or a 12v DC power source, it also features a 12 dB pad if needed for loud environments.
While it can take up to 130 dB of SPL, I highly recommend the PortaMic 5.1’s optional, custom-foam windscreen, and Rycote windjammer. My first experience hooking it up to a camera and recording outside in a light breeze showed how necessary they are. But with them on, it was no problem to capture both ambient nature sound and also dialog in front of the camera. When recording inside, you can obviously take off the windscreen and windjammer.
It’s not until you decode the stereoencoded PLII audio that you realize how good this little mic sounds. Audio can be decoded using any standard PLII decoder or, as I prefer, Minnetonka Audio’s SurCode in my Avid Pro Tools rig. The audio is crisp and clear, and the ambience in the surrounds is quite useful. I tend to prefer loud surrounds, so I turned them up on their own channels in the mix. The PortaMic 5.1 is simply a good mic, with the added bonus that it does 5.1 surround.
Overall, the Holophone PortaMic 5.1 is an impressive product. With the reasonable price point, it’s affordable to a potentially large user base. The plug-and-play sensibility of the unit makes it a smart purchase for anyone looking to capture 5.1 multichannel audio for video.
Rich Tozzoli is a composer, engineer/mixer, and the software editor for Pro Audio Review.
Contact: Holophone | 416-362-7790 | holophone.com