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Softie Lyre MHR - reviewed by John D McHugh
2014-05-21


John D McHugh is a photojournalist and filmmaker. He has covered the war in Afghanistan for many years, embedded with US, British, Canadian, and Afghan units, as well as working independently of the military. Working alone, he shoots and produces half hour documentaries for Al Jazeera English, but his films, multimedia and still photographs have also been used by Channel 4 News, ITN, MSNBC, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Guardian, and many more media outlets across the world.


Working in difficult parts of the world, usually with only myself to rely on, I painstakingly plan and consider even the smallest details. That means every single piece of kit I take has a purpose, and has been carefully selected. So when I saw a prototype of the Rycote Lyre MHR microphone mount at a filmmakers’ expo earlier in 2012, I wanted it immediately.


Clambering in and out of armoured vehicles and helicopters whilst wearing body armour is pretty exhausting, so I work with small handheld cameras as much as possible. I currently use a Canon XF100, which is a great little camera, but the microphone clamp is a clumsy affair, working on the old screw down method. This means removing or changing the microphone is a laborious and slow job. And it’s the wrong diameter for my microphone, so I have to use a spacer to hold it in place. I have a Rycote adaptor that bolts into this clamp, but then I have extra weight, and the camera is more unbalanced too.


The MHR is a much slicker design. Simply unscrew the original clamp, and the MHR slots in, with the screws going into the same holes. Then just push the microphone into the hard plastic holder, and that’s it.


On a recent trip to Kabul I was lucky enough to use the new MHR. It has a reassuringly solid grip, which is important to me, as I often find myself running for cover, or towards some fast moving event. The last thing I need is my microphone coming loose, and swinging from an xlr cable, or worse, dropping off. Nobody shot at me this time, so there wasn’t much running, but I did find myself climbing onto a few roofs, and up the side of a mountain one day, and the MHR preformed brilliantly, keeping my microphone solidly in place.


The other feature I really liked was the dual axis locking system. Filming isn’t allowed in many areas in Kabul, and with soldiers and police on every street, being discrete is paramount. Dressed in local shalwar kameez, and sporting a huge beard and Afghan pakool hat, I drew little attention in the passenger seat of my car. But often I would be spotted at checkpoints, and then we’d have to pull over, and hand our ID out through the window. By using the clever locking system I could, with a very quick knob fiddle, fold over the microphone to lie flat along the camera body. This allowed me to hide it beneath my legs, making it almost totally invisible to the guy at the window.


Of course this system will be just as useful in less difficult situations. Simply folding over the microphone will also allow the camera to slip into a much smaller bag than would be required with a fixed in place mic holder. So, all in all, the MHR was a success for me. Small, simple and effective, I couldn’t ask for more.

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