Testing an idea.

This is not a review of the Rode SmartLav+, actually more of a test of many settings. During the test I will talk about an idea I have to use the SmartLav+.

I got another Nebula 4000 Lite in to try out, thanks to Rich over at CMR. I wanted to try a second unit for a couple reasons, one I have a shoot coming up where I really need it, and I wanted to see how different this one was to the last I tested.

Adding a wireless pack on top of my camera/Nebula might cause issues so I wanted to look at another solution, the Rode SmartLav+ to record dual sound.

Observations from the SmartLav+ Tests

  • Curtis Judd is right the iOS processing makes it sound worse, it seems to decrease the level and make it sound a little nasally.
  • The iZotope Mild Compression sounds like it adds a boost around 200Hz to my voice. I does appear to even out the levels pretty well.
  • Drops out when using Rode’s Effect Compression default setting, not sure why this happened.
  • I tried many input levels, 0, 1/4, 1/2, just above 1/2 and 3/4.  0 or all the way down created too much noise and 3/4 was too hot for my voice, so somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2 I think is a good place to start depending on the mic placement and the voice used.
  • 0 level about -51dB noise, I had to boost +30dB in post
  • 1/4 level about -51dB noise, I had to boost +20dB in post
  • 1/2 level about -48dB noise, I had to boost +10dB in post
  • 1/2 level with iZotope Hiss Reducer about -53dB noise, I had to boost +13dB in post.  Cleanest but colored the sound.
  • I think for the most natural sound I would use 1/2 without any processing to color the sound.
  • Bottom line after listening to these tests on multiple speakers and devices, I like it and I am going to buy one!

Observations on the 2nd Nebula Unit:

  1. The battery is now detachable, but with the small screws you may not want to change in the field, but you can get some screws like Jason Wingrove did to make that faster and tool-less.
  2. Many are nervous from buying from FilmPower, with a fake phone number listed on their website I can understand why. You can pick this up from CMR for just a little more, but it comes with some extras like a Allen wrench that will work on more screws than the one FilmPower’s does. They also include a mini tripod.
  3. The cable coming off the roll motor to the tilt motor was rubbing against the sled frame causing issues, I pulled the cable in place and it worked fine.
  4. The unit was taking over two minutes before the roll motor would become level, after I calibrated it using mode 4 and 5 that went down to nice 5 seconds.
  5. It was acting strange until I calibrated it (mode 4 and 5), after that it works well, I spent about an hour fine tuning it last night using my new procedure of zero’ing out the PID setting and slowly building them, I think I have it pretty well balanced however I might have just a little more to do before I get it to the point where I like it.

My Gear Page has been totally updated, 488 edits over the past 5 years. Vast majority of the equipment I own, however a few items I have tested and really like but just can’t afford yet are also listed.

The battery on the Nebula lasted just over 2 hours. It takes over 1:45 to charge it back up again.

I also talk about the thermal image sensor.

7 comments

  • Awesome “non review” review, Dave! I’ve looked at your other Nebula posts, including this one now as well. I know you mention that it’s worth “tweaking” the PID settings depending on what kind of activity you’re doing with the Nebula. If you don’t mind me asking, what are your baseline PID settings for just regular walking around, nothing too fast, just slow and steady forward or side-to-side motion. I feel like my roll axis is solid, but the yaw motor clearly needs some adjusting and I’m not sure exactly what to do. Thanks so much!

  • Sorry, should have mentioned I’m also using the same GH4/Panasonic 12-35 setup. As for the audio, have you tried using the smart lav+ with the Zoom H1 and the necessary adapter to see how that sounds by comparison?

  • Dave, I just purchased a Nebula 4000 direct from Filmpower for my GH4/12-35 2.8. So far, after several evenings of work, I’ve been unable to get it to balance as shown in their video and as shown in your video. In fact, it does not really seem correctly sized for the GH4. When I am closed to balanced, it seems like the sensor hits the bottom as the camera pitches and the eyepiece hits the back as the camera tilts.

  • Hi. I don’t think it’s a ‘fake’ number on the website – more that they just haven’t changed it from the dummy data that was no doubt present in the off-the-shelf theme they put on their website. There’s a real number on there as well – I just can’t remember which page – I spoke to them on it when the Paypal payment went awry when I was paying for my unit.

    I found them very helpful – I’d ordered the accessory battery pack and when I emailed them to tell them they’d forgotten to put it in the package they sent it straight away.

    All in all I think the device itself, for the price, is stunning.

  • Since this is Nebula is a 3D gimbal unit, how to do cope with “up and down” movement when walking or running?
    If you use a Fig Rig or something similar, does the up and down moment become less of a problem.
    Is the unit easy to attach to a fig rig?
    How does this unit compare with the one made for the GoPro..I believe it is called the FeijyuGH4