CAS Quarterly

Spring 2018

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MEET THE WINNERS 32 S P R I N G 2 0 1 8 C A S Q U A R T E R L Y Black Mirror "USS Callister" by Peter Kelsey This year's CAS Award for Television Movies and Mini-Series went to an episode of the always intriguing anthology series Black Mirror, which, in stand-alone episodes, explores the intersection of high-tech environments and the human condition. The episode is entitled "USS Callister" and it chronicles the adventures of a Star Trek-like spaceship set in a video game. The designer, a meek software nerd on the outside, is able to put himself and his colleagues (including his boss) into the game. There, he is the captain of USS Callister and takes on a tyrannical role, dealing harshly with his crew who are the aforementioned colleagues. A very enjoyable episode, made more so by the homage to Star Trek. The sound team that created this wonderful work consisted of production mixer John Rodda CAS, ADR mixer Nick Baldock, Foley mixer Sophia Hardman and re-recording mixers Tim Cavagin (dialogue), Dafydd Archard (FX), and William Miller (FX). I reached out to each one and received some informative and entertaining answers. John Rodda CAS: Production Mixer What is your background and what other shows have you worked on? I've been working in film and TV for nearly 40 years. Through news on film in the old days to documentaries, TV drama, and feature films. From the news and documentary background, it was always the responsibility of the sound recordist on location to record a high-quality balanced mix of the microphone sources, so I was used to the pressure of having just one track on my Nagra and capturing the complete performance on the day. This is a very useful skill in the fast-paced production environment we find ourselves in today—as opposed to recording a bunch of ISO's and leaving it to post production to sort out. How did you get involved in this episode of Black Mirror? I know Louise Sutton, the producer who I've worked with in the past, and it was through her my details got passed on to the line producer. Please describe your workflow and any problems you encountered. Upfront on set, we record through Schoeps microphones. CMC 6 preamps with MK40/41's on interiors with the new mini- CMIT's outside, protected in Rycote Cyclone baskets and mounts. Radio mics are exclusively from Audio Ltd. PTX2040 transmitters on the booms completely dispense with the need for cables and match perfectly against the personal 2040 transmitters we fit to the cast along with Sanken COS-11 and Voice Technologies VT506 lavaliere microphones. Not only do Audio Ltd. deliver the most natural sound to my ears, the factory is less than an hour from my home, handy if I need a quick repair and where their customer service is second to none. I mix and record on Zaxcom. The Mix-12 hooked up to my Fusion 12 has served me pretty well over the last nine years despite a few glitches along the way. The intuitive touchscreen interface makes last-moment changes quick and easy. We shot with two cameras and many separate scenes linked together. Ending up with 11 pages to shoot and "rolling resets" to the top without a cut certainly gets the adrenaline flowing. How much time did you have to complete the production and how big was your team? The whole 76-minute episode was shot in just 20 days and I worked with a team of three. My boom operator/1st AS was Kyle Pickford and assistant/2nd AS was Emma Chilton. They're invaluable members of my team with great attitudes on set. They're prepped and ready when it's time to fit radio mics and always on the lookout for wrinkles that may become problematic later, so we can work on finding a solution before it becomes an issue. Have you been surprised by the popularity of Black Mirror internationally and how the sound community is viewing your work on this project? Channel 4 in the UK, who was the original commissioning broadcaster, has always nurtured new talent and ideas. I'd John Rodda at his cart on location for Black Mirror: "USS Callister" Kyle Pickford (boom operator), Emma Chilton (2nd AS), and John Rodda CAS (production sound mixer) on the bridge of the USS Callister.

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