‘There is no great video without great audio’: Behind the scenes at Rycote

On October 19, Rycote, developer of wind protection solutions for production sound, welcomed Headliner to its midlands HQ for an inside look at its production processes and to meet some of the team responsible for making it one of the most recognisable names in its field…

As one of the audio market’s leading manufacturers of wind protection products for the full spectrum of sound recordists, Rycote is a brand that many exponents operating in the sector will be very familiar with. From entry-level vloggers and influencers, through to the very top end of what it describes as its ‘no compromise’ consumers, it offers solutions to meet all manner of applications. Its reach, however, is set to expand further still; its capabilities and product range to encompass even more customer-driven demands.

This acceleration was kickstarted five years ago in 2018, when the company was acquired by Videndum, a global provider of hardware and software solutions to the content creation market, with, until relatively recently, a core focus on the visual side of the industry. Today, however, it is making significant inroads to the audio sector. Rycote, along with microphone accessories brand Joby and the recently acquired US microphone manufacturer Audix, is forming a three-pronged approach aimed at complementing its video and cine offering. This expansion, along with a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at its manufacturing processes, and the opportunity to meet some of its key executives, is the focus of the company’s press day.

Located in the town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Rycote resides within the Videndum building. It is here that Rycote has doubled down on its commitment to high-quality British manufacturing and innovation, building all of its products on site. Indeed, during the course of our visit, we even get to try our hand at building one of our very own Rycote Classic Softies. But firstly, we are given a welcome address and a detailed introduction to Rycote and its journey with Videndum so far.

Upon arrival, we are met warmly by staff from across the business, who are milling about and greeting members of the media. After taking full advantage of the hot drinks and biscuits on offer, we begin our visit with an enlightening introduction to the brand via a series of talks from senior executives from across the Rycote and Videndum ecosystem. Strong emphasis is placed on the handmade construction of Rycote products right here on UK soil. Context is given to the brand’s place within the Videndum stable, as we learn of group’s history in providing solutions for visual content creators and its long-term ambitions to offer its customers an equally plentiful audio portfolio.

People are becoming more aware of audio quality. Bjorn Rennemo-Henriksen, channel senior director for audio, Videndum

We hear from Bjorn Rennemo-Henriksen, channel senior director for audio at Videndum, who is heading up that three-brand strategy with Joby, Audix and Rycote, about how content creators are paying greater attention to audio quality that ever before. Chris Carr, chief sales and marketing officer for the division, discusses the history of Videndum and its plans to significantly expand the Rycote brand over the next couple of decades, emphasising its unwavering dedication to innovation, R&D, and British manufacturing.

Informative as this portion of the day is, it is the subsequent tour of the manufacturing facility that demonstrates much of what has just been described. Here, we find traditional, handmade methods combine with some of the most cutting-edge technology the industry has to offer.

We see machines cutting vast sheets of fabric into shape. Seamstresses carefully stitch fabric that will eventually form Rycote Classic Softies. At this point, we are told that we will be offered the chance to create a Softie built by our own hand. We are introduced to Dan, a production expert who instructs us on how to build our own protective microphone shell. What takes Dan about three minutes to build takes most of the journalists about 10 times that, as we attempt to glue [somewhat messily] various parts and pieces together.

Next, we are given a demonstration on how to apply the soft, fluffy exterior to the Softie. Again, what looks simple when conducted by a pro appears significantly less so when attempted by the uninitiated.

From sewing machines and gluing parts together by hand, we move onto the most advanced technological end of the manufacturing spectrum. Thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK, we are given first-hand experience of Rycote’s brand new hemi-anechoic chamber complete with a wind tunnel for testing its products across a full range of conditions.

As the day winds down and we break for a generous spread of hot and cold drinks and sweet and savoury snacks, Headliner manages to pin down Rennemo-Henriksen and Carr for an exclusive chat over coffee in one of the site’s meeting rooms. Evidently, their passion for Rycote runs deep, as they elaborate on both their long-term plans for the brand, as well as the consumer trends shaping their strategy.

We want our sound recordists to be able to capture things they haven’t been able to before. Chris Carr, chief sales and marketing officer, Videndum

“There is no great video without great audio,” Carr asserts. “Rycote is a brand we very much love. And we truly believe we can become a one stop shop for all of our customers’ needs. We’ve been talking with engineers and ambassadors to understand what other products they might need, and we’ve brought in a lot more audio talent, so we have a growing wealth of international expertise to push our audio offering further and further."

For Rennemo-Henriksen, the acquisition of Rycote by Videndum is just the start of a long and exciting journey. “For Rycote to be taken into Videndum is a brilliant opportunity to accelerate the Rycote brand,” he adds with palpable enthusiasm. “We are looking into other adjacencies of the same users with Rycote entering the microphone world. We are capable of serving everything from the influencer/vlogger sector, the independent production studios, where quality becomes even more important, and then the top level of no compromise consumers. Rycote stands to embark on a phenomenal journey over the next five, 10, 15 years and beyond.”

“The key is to keep expanding the range,” adds Carr. “We want our sound recordists to be able to capture things they haven’t been able to before, and to do so as efficiently as possible. The closer we get to the end consumer will drive that expansion. We will drive that with investment, but it will very much be consumer led. We have increased this brand substantially since acquisition, and we will continue to do that. We are very ambitious in this area.”

According to the pair, consumer demand for high quality audio solutions has never been stronger.

“Four or five years ago, as YouTube was expanding and people were monetising that platform, it was the uniqueness of the content that grew the audience base for content creators,” Carr explains. “As that’s become more competitive, we find people are looking at quality in both audio and video being the differentiating factor. There was a moment where having a funny joke or video went viral, but now, to stand out from the crowd, people are looking for improved audio and video to make that difference.”

“People are becoming more aware of audio quality,” notes Rennemo-Henriksen. “You want to stand out with your content. For me to spend five seconds of my time with something it needs to stand out - if the audio isn’t good I’m gone immediately. We have seen a spill over from the more professional content creators, because the younger creators are seeking inspiration, and what they realise is that the audio production is a big part of it. Whether that’s background music, noise, or dialogue.”

With that, time is called on our day together and we gather to collect the Softies we made earlier. A nice souvenir and a small reminder of the craft that goes inti each and every product that passes through these doors and out into the world. As has been demonstrated today, the content creation boom is still rapidly expanding, and so too is the requirement for best possible audio.

While Rycote may well be an established force in its field, it appears that a new era for the brand is only just beginning.