I always love getting calls from the folks over at Roberts Camera here in Indy because either they have something very exciting to talk about that I likely don't understand, or they have a product they want to send with me into the field to either evaluate or break. Despite the fact that the aforementioned breakage has in fact happened, to a point where I was offering to buy the equipment within an hour of having the beta units, this trend still continues because either they like my writing style, they like my opinion, or usually the way the items break is generally entertaining to say the least. That said, this last time they called was because of a new product coming out geared at Newspaper photographers and reporters everywhere named the Que Audio IQ Rig.
(Photo Courtesy of Robert's Camera's Website)
First off I need to say that I am not being paid to do this review (or any of these reviews) so any difficulties I have with an item out of problems with construction or just my sheer stupidity I'll tell you all about. That's what makes these fun. Why is this important for newspapers? Before I left the Indianapolis Star I went through training classes with the editorial staff on conducting interviews and editing the video with the iPhone's iMovie application. The newspaper had several "rigs" for the staff's provided iPhones to record the information usually including some kind of shotgun mic, an obscure wide angle lens adapter and generally shaped to look like an Indycar Steering wheel with a iPhone as most of the display information. This is great for if you are walking around as it gives you a good handhold on your phone, but not a whole lot of stability right? This is where the folks over at Que Audio have decided to come to the rescue with their IQ Rig, which frankly if I still worked at a newspaper I would probably use incredibly frequently.
The rig itself is pretty self explanatory. It's essentially a cell phone holder like you would find in a car except with a base with some rubber feet on it. The base is well thought out as it's got a mount to put the rig on a Tripod for on location when something like a table isn't an option. It's a beautifully simple "well duh" design that just works in that you put the phone on it, back it up to the appropriate distance and rock and roll. The important part of the IQ Rig is the Microphone which is something the iPhone (or Android phones) don't do well for interviewing applications. The iPhone's microphone is Omnidirectional, meaning it just picks up everything it can hear from everywhere. This way if you do an audio interview you can set it down on a desk between two or three people and get ALL of the conversation. This is great for audio interviews, but not for video interviews. To test this out I took the IQ Rig to a restaurant here in Indianapolis and attempted to do an interview with my friend Paul D'Andrea of PDA Photography here in town. My goal was to do a short interview of Paul and his journey of going from web developer to self employed photographer. Attempted is the key word because either the IQ rig is more complicated than I had thought, or something wasn't quite working right with my copy..... I was having a terrible time getting the microphone splitter to work through my headphones and eventually gave up meaning I have no interview of Paul. It was great to catch up with him, but I also wanted to have a bit more of his story on video. As you can see the recorder worked without the headphones working, but I didn't know that at the time. Either way it makes a great sample of a with and without in a busy place. More information after the clip.
So yea the real issue wasn't the noise in fact the Que Audio IQ rig microphone really knocked down a lot of the ambient. I was impressed to say the least. In retrospect it would have been a solid idea to listen to the video at the restaurant and just see, however after several minutes of fumbling we decided just to enjoy lunch. I only learned later that the rig did it's job, and I just gave up early. Live and learn. After this, I tried to use 4 different sets of headphones, and none of them registered with the IQ rig's splitter to let me hear the audio while being recorded. I could hear the tappity tap tap of the phone's controls as I punched them through the headphones while connected to the rig, but when video was recording it was silent as though I was just wearing my headphones to avoid having to talk to folks in a busy place. Always fun, but not always what you're looking for when wearing headphones; especially with a piece of gear like this. Again I did try 4 pairs of headphones, so I'm just assuming that the copy I had was just malfunctioning OR it could be that the jack is only used to listen to audio during playback without having to unplug the rig completely, but why would you not be able to listen to the audio? It is just splitter right? With all of that out of the way, I need to reiterate that the device really did record great audio as you can see of my interview with my friend Brad here in the video below. The interview I did with Brad was basically asking him what he thought of the IQ rig, which he had never seen before and whether or not he though it was viable in his line of work. (UPDATE: I talked with Mark over at Que and he informed me that monitoring audio via the headphone jack is app dependent, and in most cases does not work due to latency issues. Kind of like watching a dubbed movie. He did say that it was easy to test the mic by whispering into it at about an inch away from each side to determine it's effectiveness in every direction would greatly help you understand what it was capable of also.)
I chose to interview a non professional photographer to go with this interview for a few reasons. Pro photographer has certain pre conceived notions about iPhone photography as well as they look at this and immediately think newspaper. Brad, while owner of lot of Nikon lenses and a Nikon D800, also is the general manager of his company Ultrasun USA. Brad stated this would be great for employers to be able to record job interviews as well as folks that go to trade shows often to be able to get testimonials of their customers and clients unobtrusively as lets face it; cell phone's do a pretty decent job with photos and videos these days and the IQ rig isn't all that scary looking. I know I even I don't feel like having my video taken or done by anybody with a scary looking device and I carry scary looking devices!
As you can tell from that image the device can hold almost any sized smart phone even with the case on it assuming that the headphone jack is accessible. Overall I would have to say I was greatly impressed by the Que Audio IQ rig. It really held its own in terms of recording
very useable excellent audio with a device that just about everybody carries in their pocket and has with them every day and everywhere from in the car, to the office to in the bathroom. I think my only complaint as a professional is that there is no way to visually monitor the audio coming in through the microphone on the phone's screen. I'm sure there are video apps out there that do that, however I was just using the standard camera app on the iPhone and as you can tell from the video above Brad's audio is a bit quieter than mine. I left it that way to demonstrate that you do need to be careful when recording your audio that you keep it consistent, because while some things can be fixed in post it's better to not have to do that. The punchline here is that I'm more impressed than I thought I would be. As far as phone accessories go this one is pretty solid. Something I didn't even touch on is that the rig was customizable and that you could even easily pan and tilt the phone and the microphone during recording to maximize your video's audio and visual potential. If you're looking to make the most of your iPhone or Android Phone's video and audio capabilities I think that this is a must have in your kit. It's light weight, and small. It uses a couple of tiny special batteries in the microphone, but they looked like the ones you find in hearing aides that generally come in 20 packs from the local Drugstore. Plus it is relatively small so it can easily fit into a backpack, or messenger bag to take with you as you travel as Brad pointed out. As always if you're looking to buy a Que Audio IQ Rig, do it HERE, or call the folks at Roberts Camera here in Indy. They are very knowledgeable and will even let you come in and play with one before you buy. I promise you, if you shoot a lot of video with your iPhone and you think the audio is lacking? this will solve your problem. More Soon