Production Sound & Video

Summer 2023

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 46 of 67

Summer 2023 – LOCAL695.COM 45 Wireless overload We had our hands full with our wireless channels: sixteen tracks for talent, three earwig channels, and a couple of comms. Coordinating them all took longer and longer, as we tried to optimize our system. We had reached the practical limits for that location. As the story developed, we saw the need to cover more actors. Dan proposed bringing in additional DBSM's, to be used as recording-only devices, for day players with one or two lines. To distinguish them from the other DBSM's, we marked them with bright red plastic covers on the SMA connectors. We jammed them with timecode in the morning. To ID the file, we would record a verbal ID at the beginning of the clip. Jen would whisper the date, time, and character name into the lav while placing the transmitter in an ankle strap. Can you hear me now? Earwigs would be a key element of the production. The Phonak Roger system became the de facto standard after the original 216MHz Invisity system was discontinued. It broadcasts in the 2.4MHz range, which can be unreliable, because film sets nowadays are full of RF devices using the same frequencies. I knew there were repeaters and other solutions out there, but none felt like a winner. Once again, having Dan in our team proved to be a blessing. He showed me his own earwig setup, adding a 2.5 watt signal booster for the Roger base station, feeding the signal through a CP Beam antenna; all in a small, lightweight sound bag. The range is much better, and more reliable than the stock unit. Since we needed two discreet earwig channels, I shamelessly copied Dan's bag. They looked so much alike, we christened the two bags "Thing 1" and "Thing 2." The Roger earwig system was used by the judge, the defense attorney, and one of the jurors. The judge, played with gusto by Alan Barinholtz, was far enough away from our Hero that we were not concerned the earwig would be visible. The other two cast members were female; their hair covered their ears, so they were safe even at close quarters. The creative team requested earwigs for other cast members, as the plot progressed. Regular earwigs would be noticed up close, however. Jen mentioned some micro earwigs she had worked with in the past, so small that you couldn't see them. I asked her to order a couple of different models for us to test. These units are small because they're fed from an induction loop, so they aren't as simple or quick to deploy as the traditional Roger units. The actor cannot wear a thin top, that would reveal the loop around the neck. These actors had to wear two devices, a single-battery Lectrosonics transmitter for their mic, and a Sennheiser G3 receiver on their ankle, feeding the induction loop. The micro earwigs were a success by virtue of being so small. In fact, they were embedded so deep in the ear, we had to order a couple of rubber-tipped tweezers to pull them out! Jake Szymanski, our Director/EP, guided the talent from a producer's console, which allowed him to address individual earwig wearers by choosing one of three push-to-talk buttons. The earwig channels were routed to my cart before being fed to the transmitters, so I could monitor them. I knew there'd be quite a few "audibles" and unexpected changes, so I wanted to make sure our team would always be one step ahead. Synching sound and picture We shot with twelve cameras of various models and specs. Seven of them had SMPTE timecode ports, while the rest were either DSLR's or GoPro-type cameras. We deployed seven Denecke JB-1 sync boxes. These have been the most reliable and convenient timecode devices I've ever used. They're small and light, they have a clear readout, and their battery life is exceptional. For the cameras that can't take timecode, we had two Microframe Timecode Sync Masters. The camera team called them "pillbox slates," and the name stuck. They're small timecode displays powered by a 9V battery, without a clapper, which can be stored in a pouch or pocket, and flashed in front of cameras at the start of a take. I've tested the Sync Masters and they're pretty accurate but, because I haven't quite tamed my OCD, we kept them jammed with Tentacle Syncs taped to the back, rather than trusting their internal clocks. We installed a 27" video monitor on top of my cart, with a nine-camera split screen. I checked their timecode readouts several times per hour. I'm happy to report that, in three months, I only saw a few scenes in which a camera was out of sync—and it was fixed within minutes. The proof is in the pudding I'm still amazed that Ronald, our Hero, never suspected any foul play, even though there were a couple of moments of utter panic when we thought he'd figured it all out. But, as improbable as it would seem, he never did. I think that's a testament to how professional and dedicated every member of the cast and crew were. A year later, thinking back, I'm very proud of what we were able to achieve. Even when I was frustrated with our results, Dan constantly reassured me that I had unreasonable expectations. He had a mantra, "We'll try it again tomorrow." It's an apt phrase, considering what we were up against, and it helped me relax a bit, and enjoy the ride.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Production Sound & Video - Summer 2023