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JOURNAL: Technology Tales-Rode Wireless Go & Saramonic Lav Mic

Submitted by on August 11, 2019 – 9:46 am
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Sunday, August 11, 2019
5:30 a.m. Room 4, Natalia Guest House
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I had a good day yesterday in terms of technology. My goal was to buy a new lavalier microphone to be used with my new Rode Wireless Go. When I left to go to Camera Valley, I thought I would end up having to buy the expensive Rode SmartLav+. The main feature I needed in a lavalier mic was a short cord – perhaps a meter long – yet all the microphones I knew about and could find in the stores had extremely long cords – like the 6-meter cord on my Boya BY-M1. The Rode SmartLav+ is an expensive broadcast-quality microphone, so it probably would have worked well, but I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of buying it. For one thing, it was expensive. For another, it was specifically designed to work with smartphones and tablets, and to use it with a camera would require purchasing a TRS to TRRS adapter for an additional $30. It just didn’t feel right.

But when I got to Camera Valley and had a chance to talk with my favorite sales clerk, I was presented with another option: the Saramonic SR-UM10-M1 for 179 ringgit. That is more than three times as expensive as my Boya, but it was far less than the 350 ringgit I’d have to pay for the SmartLav+. And other than a bit of confusion about whether the Saramonic would work well with a Rode transmitter, it seemed perfect. The cord was the right length. The microphone itself with its little clip was the appropriate size. It came with a wind screen. On the package, it said that it is meant to work with the Saramonic wireless transmitter. I asked if anyone knew what that meant exactly. That’s great that it works well with a Saramonic transmitter, but does that mean that it would work poorly if plugged directly into a camera? And how would it work plugged into a Rode transmitter? As I expected, I could not get answers to these questions, and I could only test it myself and see what happens.

I ended up buying it, and, so far, it seems to be working. I have to say that I wasn’t entirely pleased with the sound quality from my initial video clips. There appeared to be significant distortion. My voice caused a crackling sound. But perhaps that can be fixed by adjusting the levels in the camera. I hope so.

My one problem with my Camera Valley experience (and I should have known better) is that I went there on a Saturday. And that is a busy day. So my favorite sales clerk was busy. In fact, he was super busy. He happened to be dealing with a serious customer when I showed up. This customer was just as intense about his purchases as I usually am about mine, and he had tons of questions and he investigated all possibilities before making up his mind. He was also spending a lot of money. He bought all kinds of equipment, including some expensive Sony lenses. So my favorite sales clerk was busy and he couldn’t help me. I was stuck with a regular sales clerk, and I did not like him at all. He was just typical. He had no interest in me or my needs. He saw his job as taking my money when I decided what I wanted to buy. Pretty much my only reason for returning to Camera Valley so often is that I liked the sales clerk I usually deal with. If I had encountered this other sales clerk on my first visit, I probably never would have returned. In Malaysia, I don’t think my attitude is the norm. People here shop based on price. They don’t care about anything but getting the lowest price. So customer service is not generally considered important. But I’m the opposite.

Monday, August 12, 2019
6:00 a.m. Room 4, Natalia Guest House
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’m not quite sure what to write this morning. Things in general seem to be a weird combination of static and spinning out of control. I am supposed to be focused on making plans for my return to Myanmar and sorting out the gear and technology for doing that. But entire days go by when I do something else, and I don’t make any progress on the Myanmar side of things. I suppose I just have to pull the trigger and apply for the visa and book a flight. Once I do that, things might kick into a higher gear.

My adventures with technology continue, and that is one area where the spinning out of control is kind of taking place. I guess I’m caught between multiple worlds, in particular, the video world and the picture-taking world. I’m slowly working on having better equipment for shooting video. But I still have all of my old Olympus lenses and even my Olympus camera body, and those are of little to no use for video. I should sell them, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I hate selling things. It is so much work. Buying is much easier.

I’m also caught between the worlds of Malaysia and Myanmar. I’m supposed to be preparing for Myanmar, but I’m also doing some things here in Kuala Lumpur and trying to shoot video while I go about my days. But just shooting that video ends up taking so much time (more time than it should, as always) that I end up 100% focused on Malaysia. As I’ve talked about many times, it is a struggle to find a balance between living my life and shooting video of that life. The simple act of shooting video itself becomes so energy- and time-intensive that my life becomes entirely about video. My life becomes just about learning how to shoot video, buying the right gear for shooting video, and editing that video. And then the subject matter of the videos becomes shooting video. There is no more regular life outside of video. It’s a bit of a loop.

Finally, I’m caught between the worlds of cycling and backpacking. I plan to return to Myanmar without my bicycle, and yet I do hope to go cycling eventually. Yesterday, in fact, I finally went upstairs into the storage area of this hostel and checked up on my bike and my gear up there. I was reluctant to do that because I was worried that I’d neglected it for so long that there would be problems. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The bike was quite dusty. I should have covered it in a tarp now that I think about it. But the chain appeared to be in good shape. I re-oiled the chain and the gears and other parts to keep them from getting rusty. I also brought down my boxes of gear so that I could sort through them

It looks like I narrowly avoided a disaster with my boxes. There was some water damage on some of them, but it never got into the contents. It never occurred to me that there could be water leakage or any kind flood up there, but I guess that is always a danger when you store gear for any length of time. Again, I should have covered the boxes with a tarp. I store things a lot in different places, but I never seem to do a good enough job. I think at the time it will be for a short time, and then it stretches into months, and that’s why I don’t pack stuff up as well as I should.

I was worried about the bike, but I was even more worried about my tent. I thought that in the intense heat of Malaysia, my tent would start to break down, but when I got it out, it seemed to be doing okay. I was careful this time, to store the tent very loosely. I didn’t wrap it up tightly in its stuff sack. I just spread it out as lightly and loosely as I could inside my trailer. And so it had room to breathe and stay dry and not begin to degrade.

I was astonished, as always, when I opened up the boxes and started sorting through the gear. I have so much extra stuff it’s crazy. That’s also a result of being between worlds. Right before I began this new project of shooting video, I was deeply into my old project of getting my touring bicycle in shape. So I had recently gotten new wheels. And I’d purchased new pannier bags. And I had installed new fenders. And I had gotten super-crazy (or creative) with my handlebars and added all kinds of bar ends and interesting things there. Go back a bit further in time, and you see when I bought a new sleeping bag, a new stove, a new everything, in fact. And yet, I kept the old versions of everything. I wanted to test out all the new stuff and see how it worked before I got rid of the old ones. So I currently have two tents, two stoves, two sleeping bags, two sets of pannier bags, etc. And my boxes of gear in storage have gotten larger and larger.

When I flew from Mandalay to Kuala Lumpur, my plan was to deal with all of this stuff and get my bike ready. But then I changed my mind and decided to fly back to Myanmar. So I haven’t been coming to grips with all my gear. When I rummage through these boxes, now, it seems insane. Where did all this stuff come from? It seems particularly insane when you factor in all the new camera and microphone gear I now have for shooting video.

Eventually, I will deal with all this stuff, so it’s no big deal. I will likely have to go on a bike ride around Malaysia to truly make up my mind about what gear works and what doesn’t and do a final accounting of all this. At that time, I hope to combine all of my gear into a nice cycling rig suitable for shooting video. I suppose that will mean getting rid of all my old camera gear.

The last big item to think about is the computer. I decided to postpone buying a new computer until after I return from Myanmar. I just don’t have the energy or the time right now to deal with such a monumental purchase and monumental change in my life. But perhaps I should rethink that. A new computer would solve some of the bottlenecks I’m currently facing. For example, I now have two cameras that can both shoot in 4K, but I’m not taking advantage of that because my computer can’t process or play 4K video. That’s kind of silly. So buying a new computer is kind of like getting the bonus of two new 4K video cameras. I paid for expensive cameras that can shoot 4K, so it’s kind of silly to have a computer that won’t allow me to take advantage of that.

The same goes for audio. I currently can’t mix and match footage from my two cameras because I can’t deal with the audio. But a new computer would allow me to fix that problem as well. So a new computer would fix camera bottlenecks and microphone bottlenecks. It might also speed things up and free up more time. I’ll have to think about it.

Finally, I guess I’m also caught between all the various worlds of social media. My main focus is YouTube and video, of course. But I also recently started updating my website a little bit. That was supposed to be a simple project, but it ended up taking much more time than I expected – leaving even less time for video and for my regular life. The goal was to eventually streamline all of this and perhaps even get it automated. The foundation would be video and then it would spread from there to all the other platforms. But things haven’t really smoothed out or gotten more efficient.

Thursday August 15, 2019
5:25 a.m. Room 4, Natalia Guest House
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’m hoping to go on a little day trip today, so I don’t have a lot of time for my morning journal. I just want to mention some things that happened yesterday and the day before.

The main activity continued to surround my new Rode Wireless Go microphone. Basically, I started to have problems with it. The problem started quite a few days ago, maybe as soon as I bought it, but it was intermittent. And then it got worse and worse until yesterday when it got very bad.

To turn either the receiver or the transmitter on and off again, you press the power button and hold it for three seconds. That always worked fine with the receiver. But occasionally, the transmitter wouldn’t respond. I could hold the power button for ten or twenty seconds and nothing would happen. I’d have to let go and try again and then again and again while moving my finger to different positions and trying to hold the button in from different angles and with different pressure until it finally responded. Most of the time when the problem occurred, I would only have to attempt it twice. It would fail the first time and then it would shut down or turn on properly the second time. But even that was enough of a problem to be annoying and worrying. It was annoying because turning the Rode on or off could take up to twenty seconds instead of the usual three seconds. And I would have the sense that I was damaging the mechanism by unconsciously pressing it far too hard as I searched for the right angle and pressure to activate the button. And it was worrying because I thought the problem was getting worse, and if it continued to get worse, it could easily reach the point where the transmitter wouldn’t turn on at all.

So, I took my courage in both hands, gathered up the box and all the packing material and the receipt and I went back to the store. I was hoping to get a new one, and I was worried that they would test it and decide that nothing was wrong with it. The problem was intermittent after all. It didn’t happen every time. I was also worried that instead of giving me a new one, they would say they had to send this one in for repairs, and who knows how long that would take. This would normally just be a worry and not require courage, but the twist was that I had bought the microphone at the dreaded YL Camera Services.

I bought the Rode at YL because on the day I was looking for a Sirui tripod, I happened to go into YL, and I was helped by a fairly friendly and helpful sales clerk. That’s a rarity at YL. But it made me more likely to return there. And when I decided to buy a Rode Wireless Go, I took a chance and went back to YL and I encountered the same sales clerk. Now I was going back with a problem with the Rode, and I really hoped the same sales clerk would be there. Unfortunately, he wasn’t.

My heart sank when I entered YL because I didn’t see the good sales clerk, and the two clerks that were there were both just leaning against the counter, looking bored and grim, and staring at their smartphones. I went into the store and neither of them looked up or acknowledged me in any way. I even stood in front of them for a few seconds, but they did nothing. I was eventually forced to lean down so that I could get in their line of sight and then I said, “Excuse me. Could you help me?”

One of these guys kind of heaved a little sigh and slowly looked up from his phone. I started to explain why I was there. And I got out the Rode Wireless Go and demonstrated the problem with the power button. And while I was talking, the salesclerk turned away and went back to his phone. He wasn’t even listening to me. I wasn’t sure if I should just keep talking or what I should do. And I got upset at this point. I didn’t lose my temper, but it slipped a little bit and I said, “Could you please look at me?” Though there was nothing harsh in my words, a bit of an angry tone was in my voice. The salesclerk said, “I am waiting for you.” That annoyed me even more because there was nothing to wait for. I was talking and showing him the microphone problem. And he was ignoring me.

I don’t know if my angry tone did the trick, but it suddenly appeared like this salesclerk just wanted to get rid of me. He said something to the other salesclerk, and to my relief, this second guy went to the locked display cabinet and removed a brand new Rode Wireless Go. It appeared I was going to be able to exchange my defective Wireless Go for a new one. It was a bit odd because they didn’t even try to test my microphone. They just took me at my word that it wasn’t working. And they didn’t write down anything about what I said was the problem.

Unfortunately, the first time they tried to give me a new unit in exchange, it didn’t happen. They completed the computer work and they printed out four pages of documents. One page was my new receipt, and I had to sign the other three. But when that was done, they suddenly started to look at the box for the new microphone. And there seemed to be a problem with the serial number. I don’t know what the problem was, but they eventually went back to the display cabinet and got yet another Rode Wireless Go and repeated the entire exchange process. I had to sign three more pages and I had to give back the receipt they had given me and take the new one.

I felt quite awkward during this process because the salesclerk that I had snapped at seemed even more unfriendly and grim. He wanted nothing to do with me. And when the whole transaction was over, they pretty much went back to ignoring me. I tried to lighten the mood several times by chatting with them and talking about the microphone and thanking them profusely for giving me a new one. But they didn’t respond with anything. I thanked them again when I left, and one of the salesclerks actually made eye contact this time and said something in return. But the original guy, the really grim one, continued to stay silent.

So that was my new experience with the horrible customer service at YL Camera Services. It’s a curious thing. How can one store with three separate branches consistently have the worst customer service on planet Earth? It has to come from somewhere. Is there an owner or manager who has a knack for hiring unpleasant people? Or is it somehow baked into the YL corporate culture? It’s a puzzle.

So far, the new Wireless Go is working the way it is supposed to. I’ve been enjoying using it, but I have had trouble with the audio signal being too strong when I plug in a lavalier mic. There appears to be some distortion in the sound. It seems to be too loud. It crackles and breaks. But maybe I can figure that out and fix the problem with camera settings.

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