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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…


Hanging Out at the Dohyo of Dreams

Of the many SoCal Connected shows that I’ve worked on, Grappling with Giants is my favorite. It’s a short doc that I produced for KCET about Jim Lowerre, a tech writer from Garden, Grove, Calif. that built an authentic sumo ring (dohyo) in his backyard. Believe me when I say that this is a rare thing since it takes a lot of work to build and maintain a regulation dohyo. Most amateur sumo wrestlers (everybody outside of Japan) practice on canvas.  I’d met Lowerre at a regional sumo tournament while working on a story for Muscle & Fitness. I was there to interview Trent Sabo, a weightlifter from Oceanside that wanted to become a pro sumo wrestler. Sabo’s Oceanside Sumo Kyokai wrestling club regularly drove 60 miles north on weekends to practice at Lowerre’s “Dohyo of…


Covering My First Wildfire

The smoke from the latest crop of wildfires is giving me flashbacks of the Woolsey fire that raged through Southern California in 2018. I remember it vividly because I’d been asked to cover the frontline by Karen Foshay, the executive producer at SoCal Connected who called me at 7 p.m. The New Normal was about how overdevelopment into fire-prone areas and climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires in California. We both donned our flame-resistant turnout coats and drove down the eerily empty 101 freeway past Calabasas and through several police roadblocks. Power throughout the burn areas was turned off so we were either driving in total darkness or bathed in the intense red flare of raging fires that were burning down entire neighborhoods. What struck me most that night…


The Nonpartisan Kindness of Strangers

After eight long days shooting stories in Humboldt County, our tired PBS Suburban gave it up at a gas station in the tiny agricultural hamlet of Maxwell, Calif. Even the minimart attendant heard the tensioner pully bearings seize and shred the serpentine belt that operated the power steering, brake booster, water pump and alternator. We were lucky that our misfortune happened in a safe place since we’d spent that entire morning driving up and down curvy mountain roads. We had been pursuing a story about illegal cannabis growers that had been operating out of the national forest. They were using a banned pesticide that was so toxic that it could kill an adult bear. Cleanup required a special certified disposal crew that we followed into the site. Another customer filling up his…