Save The Bros

Here’s another series of spots that I worked on for Fancy Rhino/Humanaut here in Chattanooga. These are from the same folks that brought you “The Natural Effect.” Enjoy!

Loretta Lynn at Cash Cabin Studio

I was lucky enough to be called on a Nashville shoot recently. All I had was an address, didn’t know who or where. It turned out that we were shooting at Cash Cabin studios… as in JOHNNY Cash… shooting IBMA and Grammy winner Shawn Camp with country music legend Loretta Lynn. We recorded not just interviews, but several duets with Loretta and Shawn, and I had the best seat in the house. At 82 years old, her voice is still as strong as ever.

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Loretta Lynn with Shawn Camp

Loretta Lynn with Shawn Camp

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Cash Cabin studio is just rotten with country music history as well. It was originally built in the seventies as a getaway for Johnny Cash. As his health began to decline in the nineties it was converted into a studio to avoid trips into Nashville studios. There are artifacts galore all over the place… like a letter to his 10-year-old son John Carter Cash showing the chords for I Walk The Line, photos, classic amps, mics… about the only thing missing was a nice big old analog console. Like most folks, they do everything on ProTools now, as it’s still a working studio.

While it’s generally frowned upon, I couldn’t resist a few quick photos. Enjoy!

New Gear Upgrades

Thanks to my friends at Trew Audio, I’ve recently made some significant upgrades to the wireless department. I’ve sold my old Lectrosonics 211’s and replaced them with a new SRb dual digital receiver. This one has the optional battery back, making it possible to use this as a wireless camera hop. A single-unit hop is much preferred by camera operators over a dual unit, since there’s one less receiver to mount on the camera and one less battery to worry about.

I’ve also upgraded two of my transmitters to SMQV types, with selectable output power levels. (And since I hold an FCC operator’s license, I can legally use the 200mW power setting if necessary.) One of the neat features of these transmitters is the remote control iPhone app. I can change channels, levels, sleep and wake the transmitters by playing a tone on my iPhone rather than digging into the talent’s pockets all the time.

Oktavia “Movie Set” Microphone

While I dearly love the sound of my Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic, I’ve been wanting to add a hypercardioid to my kit for some time now. These are often used indoors, where a wider pickup pattern can be useful. In the film world, the mic of choice has always been the Schoeps, which is a VERY fine piece of German engineering. I’ve been able to use these on occasion, but two of the four times I’ve used them, there has been problems with electrical noise from the capsule. This could have been a humidity issue, or perhaps age issues. But this experience, combined with a rather significant price tag, has pushed me to look for other alternatives.

The Oktavia MK-012 "movie set"

The Oktavia MK-012 “movie set”

I’d been saving up for a Sennheiser MKH50 when I began to hear some good things from other mixers about the Oktavia MK-012hypercardioid. These are available in what Oktavia calls a “movie set,” containing an MK012 preamp, a hypercardioid capsule, and a low-cut filter. I found a US supplier on eBay and placed an order, and I’ve had it for a few weeks now.

While the mic comes in a nice wooden box, it's necessary to unscrew the filter and the head for storage.

While the mic comes in a nice wooden box, it’s necessary to unscrew the filter and the head for storage.

I just wrapped a short film where we used this mic on all the interior shots, and I’m happy to report that the mic worked beautifully. No perceptible self-noise, good off-axis rejection, and a really nice overall tone. I doubt that this mic sounds as good as a Schoeps, but since I don’t own one, I can’t make any side-by-side comparisons. I did have a Neumann KM184 that I would use in similar situations, and I believe I prefer the Oktavia. The KM184 gave me a bit too much room ambiance, though being a cardioid mic, this is expected and perhaps a little unfair. The cost of a Schoeps is a big issue, roughly five times what Oktavia goes for.

There are other capsules available in this series… most interesting is the dual fig-8 capsule, which could be used with a shotgun mic to make a nice mid-side combo. The other capsules and pads aren’t much use for location sound, with perhaps the exception of the swivel mount.

If you’re into location sound, you might consider giving this mic a test drive. While it’s NOT the same as a Schoeps, it just might fill in the gaps while you save up your nickels for the big purchase.

On Location in Destin FL

So I’m shooting this week on location in Destin, FL. It is nice to be at the beach, even though it’s miserably hot to be carrying around a 40-lb bag and a boompole while everyone around you is on vacation.

Shooting on location in Florida for a TLC show... John Rotan on camera, Matt Martin on sound, and Jesse Beam bringing water before everyone passes out.

Shooting on location in Florida for a TLC show… John Rotan on camera, Matt Martin on sound, and Jesse Beam bringing water before everyone passes out.

And of course, today I get THE call… someone wants me for three days to work on a feature film, their main sound mixer is unavailable. I’ve been trying to break into film work for awhile now, since the physical requirements of reality TV production is starting to show… there’s only so many hours I can haul a bag around, booming at the same time. So it REALLY hurt to have to tell them no, sorry, I’m unavailable. Fortunately, it turns out that the best high-grav beer selection in Destin is at a store just across the street from out hotel, (bonus since I don’t have a car) so I went straight across and grabbed a few to help drown my sorrows at passing up a gig that might’ve made me famous.

A selection of "mixer's oil," some high-gravity beer from the place across the street

A selection of “mixer’s oil,” some high-gravity beer from the place across the street

Galaxy Audio EB6 Earbuds Review

I’d been looking to try some better earbuds for awhile now… a few years back I was working on a job with another mixer (Steve Grider) who was monitoring through earbuds, and I’d never considered that as an option. His were some relatively expensive Sennheisers… I can’t recall the exact model number, but I remember they have a street price of $300. While I’m sure they sound quite nice, I wasn’t sure that mixing through earbuds would be right for me… and I wasn’t ready to drop $300 on an experiment that might not work. And I rather dislike all of the other earbuds that I’d tried, though none had cost more than $20.

Then I found that Galaxy Audio had a pair of earbuds that were within my “experimental” price range. Their EB6 model retails for about $80… not nearly as expensive as the Sennheisers, but expensive enough that one should expect a reasonable increase on performance over a standard pair of iPod earbuds, which most folks are familiar with.

Actually, stock iPod buds aren’t all THAT bad, but you’d be crazy to mix through them. Their response changes dramatically depending on how they’re inserted in your ear, and they have a tendency to shift of fall out of my ears altogether. There’s plenty of room for improvement.

The EB6 come in a nice case with three different size silicone liners, which fit the drivers to most ears In use, the leads go around the backside of your ears, which prevents them from being jerked out of your ears as you move around. They’re marked R and L, which means a better fit and consistent stereo imaging.

How do they sound? Honestly I’m not the best judge. Earbuds are tough to audition. I haven’t tried many other earbuds, certainly no expensive ones, and I’m kinda weird about sharing earbuds or even buying used ones. Regardless, I really like these buds. I use them mainly for listening to music, and these are far better than the standard iPod buds. Bass is full and solid, but (importantly) NOT overemphasized. Mids have a nice presence, and the highs are clean and clear. If we do an admittedly unfair comparison with my most accurate reference… my AKG K271 headphones… I feel like there is more of an “airy” quality to the highs in the K271s, while the EB6 have more of a “direct” quality to them. This seems to me to be more a basic difference between earbuds vs headphones, rather than any sort of shortcoming in one over the other. While I love the way my K271s sound, they become rather distracting to use after about 30 minutes or so because of the way they press on your ears… it starts to hurt a little. The EB6 don’t have that issue, and I will often fall asleep listening to music on my earbuds… I can’t do that very comfortably with headphones.

Isolation is far better with the EB6s, since they are sealed-type buds. They’re also a lot cooler in the summertime, though I do like my 7506 cans in the winter for keeping my ears warm.

Conclusion… all things considered, these were a great buy and seem to give me a good return on investment. My experiment is still ongoing… I’d still like to try some more expensive buds. But these are nice to use in the meantime.

(Review sample courtesy of me and my wallet.)

Nice Camerawork

Here’s a short bit from Freefly about shooting with their Movi M10 stabilizer. Shooting the taxicab on roller skates is a particularly cool move, even though it’s a bit testosterone-ninja-cowboy gimmicky. I mean, what could go wrong? (Maybe the roller skate wipeout with 25K+ of camera gear didn’t make the edit.) Still, the end shot does look nice, and as long as this kind of move fits the storyline and isn’t overdone, then put it in your bag of tricks. But don’t forget that the Movi M10 has a base cost of around eight grand, though there may be less expensive options now… camera support is seeing some great advances these days, and some amazing gear is showing up at all sorts of price points.