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Deep Dive Into Production Audio

The last few seasons of KCET’s SoCal Connected were produced on a shoestring budget which is why the show stopped using dedicated location sound guys. We didn’t even get PA’s to help setup so camera operators had to provide their own mics and wire up interviewees. I took this part of the job seriously since I’m pretty anal about audio quality since I got my start doing work for public radio. Over the past few years, I’ve worked as a utility or field mixer for documentaries so have been slowly upgrading my indie budget gear to the Hollywood audio trinity of Lectrosonics, DPA and Sound Devices. I’ve learned how to properly gain stage, swing a boom and hide lav mics which can be tricky. Concealed mics will pick up everything around it including fabric rustling and stubble on a starchy collar. Through trial and error, I’ve learned how to construct effective lav rigs out of moleskin, fur and wire standoffs that are quick to tape underneath clothing and provide isolation. The last location sound job that I did required a bit more rigging than usual.

A friend of mine was hired to direct a commercial for a Japanese suit company. He called me because he wanted to lay some ambient audio beneath a music soundtrack. A pro skater and bmx rider were hired to do park tricks while wearing suits made of high-tech stretchy fabrics. I was surprised to hear that both pros were familiar with the suit brand. Between takes, they raved about how great the cut of Japanese suits were compared to those offered by European designers. Not the conversation that I expected to hear from extreme athletes. 

Of course, all of this stretchy synthetic fabric was incredibly noisy. I ended up running a Countryman B6 lav mic out the bottom of their pant legs and under the laces of their shoes so that it would pick up the sound of their wheels being transmitted through the board. The only problem were the spills and there were many startling crashes. Patches of suit would abrade into nothingness as riders slowly slid down the side of bowls and ramps. My lav cables were literally hanging out of giant holes in their slacks! The B6 mics are not the best sounding but they are tiny enough to be placed in the open. The mics are also waterproof, have pretty durable cables and are a lot cheaper than my DPA lavs so are more affordably expendable. The dozens of suits used cost way more than all of my sound gear put together. Wardrobe was throwing away armloads of damaged suits with vests and shirts between takes. I’m certain that I was the only crew member tempted to dumpster dive. How difficult would it have been to patch holes? 

My audio gear:
Sennheiser 8060 and Schoeps CMC641, Audio Technica 4073a, Audix SCX1 hypercardioid mics (x2), Audix boundary mic.

Lectrosonics 411 (x2) and  LR receivers (x2), Lectrosonics SMQV (x2), SMDA, LT transmitters (x2). DPA 4060 lavs (x4), Sanken Cos-11s (x2), Countryman B6s (x2), Tram TR50 (x2), Sound Devices Mixpre 6 II mixer/recorder, K-Tec booms. Tentacle Sync timecode boxes, Rycote windscreen, Comtek Option P7 transmitter and receiver and  G4 IEMs for audio and video monitoring