So I got a call last week from my friend and accomplished feature film production sound mixer Whit Norris inviting me out to one of his informal sound gatherings to come check out the relatively new Schoeps SuperCmit digital microphone. Not only is Whit one of the top mixers in his career with over twenty years experience but he is also known for his generosity and openness within the film industry often lending a helpful hand to up and comers and other film and TV professionals. So I was enthusiastic over the invite to come see everyone and also the unique opportunity to hear this microphone off the pressure of the typical production day. I admit that the word “digital microphone” usually makes me skeptical and I thought it was about time I took a closer inspection to formulate my own opinion and hear others that I really respect that is free of marketing hype.
The basic design principle of this short shotgun microphone is that it can be used as a problem solver where background noise is an issue and via it’s digital processing. The idea is that it’s able to significantly reduce unwanted noise such as street noise, traffic, or other dynamic sources without altering the color or tone of the direct sound. This processing reduces the unwanted noise source anywhere from 11 to 15db depending upon which of the two preset modes you choose. According to the Schoeps specifications, the built in digital signal processing in the SuperCMIT 2 U recognizes sound energy arriving from various directions, and determines whether that sound has a discrete, persistent direction of arrival or not. It uses this information to suppress diffuse sound and to focus on discrete sound. This allows the “reach” of the shotgun microphone to be increased significantly, without causing the usual sound-coloring artifacts.
So off we went to our first test which was a medium size man made waterfall within walking distance of our meet up location. We parked our group about twenty five yards away from the constant water source. Feature film mixer Chris Durphy was kind enough to bring along the SuperCmit and his sound bag and Whit provided a comtek feed for all so we could all listen in. In the bag we fed a Sound Devices 788 three separate channels, with two different microphones. The first two channels were the SuperCmit in unprocessed mode, and the other digital processing mode. The third was a Neuman KRM82i which is an industry proven highly directional mic for reference. To keep things simple we decided to work mostly with Preset 1. At first listen we were in Preset 2 Super mode and the cancellation of the waterfall was most significant, but not without noticeable artifacts that most of us thought was a bit too extreme.
Our boom angle was positioned to reject the waterfall as much as possible and at first listen feeding the mic’s direct source with some test dialogue it was immediately quite impressive, especially when switching back and forth from the KRM82i. There seemed to be little or no coloration of the direct sound when switching back and forth from unprocessed and digital processed mode of the SuperCmit. Being an audio post guy as well as production mixer, I must say that this often almost never the case when using noise reduction tools in post. So if the camera was facing away from the waterfall, I’d say the SuperCmit would be a nice choice, but of course second best to simply moving the location in a real world situation.
Our second test was leaving a car running less then 10 yards or so from the direct sound source. This was also most impressive, but I couldn’t help but notice the loss in the upper frequencies smoothness when switching back and forth from the KRM82i. But Neumann is of course known for this nice quality in the upper range. But the difference in rejecting the background source was most noticeable probably about 3-5db of difference between the two. I’d say this would have been another good situation for use of this mic.
My overall impression of this mic is it would be a great one to have if I had many more to compliment. I myself typically rotate between the Sennheiser MKH50 indoors, and the industry classic Sennheiser MKH416 for outdoors. I must admit though I’d love to ad a standard Schoeps CMIT 5U to the bag for my tougher interiors and outdoor use. So many gear wishes all in the pursuit of superior sound !