After taking time to digest NAB 2014 there really wasn’t much new on the shotgun mic, field mixer, wireless front for location sound operators. But there were a few new offerings by Rycote, K-Tek, and a new company Orca that are worth a mention.
Rycote released a new version of the classic Softie windjammer which looks kinda strange but Rycote’s Morten Stove says they’re a big improvement over the old fuzzy ones. K-Tek also revealed their new mixer bag and harness which after receiving a short demo didn’t impress me at all. But on the second day, I stumbled upon a small booth and met Ofer Menashe developer and owner of Orca Bags and that’s when NAB 2014 got interesting. Orca designs and makes equipment bags and backpacks for camera operators and a mixer bag and harness system for the location sound operator.
Now I know bags, backpacks, and harnesses are by no means industry changing, but If there’s one thing that’ll make your job a whole lot easier it’s a well thought out and easy to customize bag or backpack – nothing says professional like properly maintained equipment that’s organized and protected in an eye catching professional looking bag.
The Orca bags I looked at were beautifully made with some very usable cool features like an aluminium frame to help protect and keep the bags shape from heavy use, they’re really light weight, and some of the bags even had LED lights built into them – I can’t count the times I could’ve used that! All Ofer’s products were well made, have big solid zippers and they look professional. But the rig that caught my eye was the audio mixer bag and shoulder harness.
Now if you were at NAB 2014, K-Tek was getting most of the hype for their new mixer bag and shoulder harness release – I was told it’s a gotta see! K-Tek is known for their boom poles, and last year released an interesting microphone shock mount – I’m still not sold? With this latest foray into audio mixer bags and shoulder harness they appear to want a larger piece of the location audio pie.
So on day three I took a good look at both Orca’s and K-Tek’s mixer bag/harness offerings to do a little comparing. I went to both booths a second time and spent time learning what each company considered improvements over the plethora of mixer bag/harness already available. Well, to be brutally honest, it wasn’t much of a comparison. For the type of shooting I do the Orca rig is hands-down a superior system.
Orca’s harness is the best I’ve ever worn, and I’ve been wearing these things for over 25 years. With a few quick adjustments it fit like a glove. The harness is light weight, very easy to get in and out of (this is huge), and best of all breathable. I was sweating in the K-Tek harness within minutes! It’s way to stiff and incredibly cumbersome and it wasn’t the easiest thing to get out of – the Petrol harness I’m currently using is the same and I’m not a fan at all.
The Orca harness I demoed also had a pouch built into the back that holds a battery with breakout cables that exit on the front of the harness for powering a wireless system even a cell phone – someone’s thinking? If the Orca harness can stand up to the abuse of real world documentary video, I’m sold.
Comparing the field mixer bags, Orca again was the winner. It’s light weight, sits nice and snug to the body when connected to the harness – no flopping forward or tilting side to side, and compact with room for extra batteries and a couple of wireless systems. This system looks great! I really like the detachable carrying handles (those things are always in the way), Orca uses magnets instead of velcro on the clear viewing flap (nothing is more frustrating then trying to make a mixer adjustment while recording and the velcro on the mixer bag starts ripping), and the lift and securing system Ofer designed to keep the mixer solid in the case is excellent. The 663 audio bag I tried out sat in the case perfectly along with a couple of wireless systems.
I like this bag a lot! I’m not one of those operators who carry a ton of gear – you know, mixer, a couple of NP1’s, four wireless systems, loads of gak! It’s nice to find an audio bag that’s a little smaller but sturdy with room for the essentials.
Now, until I give this audio bag a real thorough test this juror is still out, but my interest is definitely peaked! Orca plans to have the bags available for purchase by the middle of July. I’ll be keeping an eye out for their audio bags at my favourite dealer of all things location sound – you might want to do the same.