Category Archives: On Location with Brian Gilbert

Watts Polyribbon At Work

Here’s a link to a project that I worked on recently. The band is called Spinster… they’re three sisters with classical music training. One lives on the west coast, one in Chattanooga, and one in Costa Rica, so they don’t get to play very often. We recorded a series of three songs this summer, they’ll eventually be posted on YouTube

We set it up as a live multitrack recording with no overdubs, so it’s very much a live performance video.  It’s also the first chance that I got to use the Polyribbon. I used it on lead vocalsfor two songs… very smooth. And just to change things up a bit, we tried it on the upright bass for one song, which gave a teriffic sound. No EQ was used on the Polyribbon signal.

Recorded on the Sound Devices 664. It was mixed using the Harrison Mixbus 32C using Universal’s EMT 140 plate reverb on the vocals. Instruments are pretty much dry. Noise reduction and mastering via Izotope RX Pro and Adobe Soundbooth.

Hopefully I can get them in the studio this summer for an album. Enjoy!

 

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I’m Not Ashamed

Here’s a trailer for a feature that I worked on last spring. I just filled in as a relief mixer on the second unit, but still, it’s a feature… in theaters now. It was a last-minute call… their main mixer woke up one morning with carpal tunnel so bad that he couldn’t move his arm! But after a night off, he was back to work. They called me for another scene, but I was scheduled for something else, unfortunately.

 

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The location for the party scene- a house near Franklin TN

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The Party Scene

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!

With The Alabama Shakes- CBS Sunday

I recently completed a shoot for CBS Sunday Morning in and around Athens and Decatur, Alabama. This is where Brittany Howard and Zac Cockrell grew up, and formed The Alabama Shakes in 2009. They have a new album coming out in a few weeks, and CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on them that will air April 19th.

Bar scene interview

Bar scene interview

Chris Conder and I shot at a couple of locations- first at the bar where they did their first show, and where their single “Hold On” was first performed. Then over to Brittney’s Dad’s place, where spent a lot of time playing in the creek, and where her dog and pet pig roamed the nearby farms. Third location was bassist Zac Cockrell’s house for another quick interview. A few scenics at their school nearby, then it was time to transfer files and wrap for the day… a pretty good shoot overall.

At Brittnay's Dad's place

At Brittnay’s Dad’s place

Their new album, “Sound And Color” goes on sale April 21, 2015.

DP Chris Conder, Point Of View Productions, Sony F800

DP Chris Conder, Point Of View Productions shooting on his Sony F800

BamaCovered Story for NBC Nightly News

I just completed work on a story for NBC Nightly News about an organization called BamaCovered. Daniel Liss is a 25-year old recent graduate of Harvard who was, until recently, working in London as an investment banker. He and a friend Josh Carpenter were dismayed by the state of health care in Alabama and the amount of difficulty (and downright false information) people were receiving navigating the health exchanges to get insurance. So they started a foundation called BamaCovered. This is a group of volunteers, mostly college students, who are canvassing the community, trying to help people get health care coverage.

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NBC Nightly News correspondent Peter Alexander with BamaCovered Organizer Josh Liss in Huntsville, AL

One of their success stories… a woman on a fixed income of $800 a month was told that insurance through the exchange would cost her $700 per month. With the help of Josh’s volunteers, she received a quote of $25 per month.

NBC Nightly News Producer Doug Adams and White House correspondent Peter Alexander flew into Huntsville, AL where DP Roger Herr (In Sight Out Productions) and I met up with them. We shot at several locations around Huntsville- a free health clinic downtown, Peter’s Barbershop, Big Spring Park downtown, and Huntsville radio station WEUP, Alabama’s first black-owned radio station.

It’s a great story that should air sometime late next week… don’t miss it!

UPDATE: Producer Doug Adams sent me a link to this story, which aired on the 30th… http://t.co/QFh8T9S5BK

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Roger Herr on camera, Brian Gilbert location sound, Peter Alexander and Josh Liss. In the WEUP parking lot in Huntsville, AL. Photos by Doug Adams.

664 Media Management

Just in case anyone was wondering, I thought I’d outline my typical 664 workflow as it relates to media management.

The Sound Devices 664 is kinda particular about the media cards that it likes, and  while SD and CF cards are quite common, there are only a handful that work in the 664. For this reason, I never release my cards at the end of a shoot… I wait while the DIT copies them to a hard drive. If there’s no DIT working on the set, I’ll copy the files myself to whatever is available. It’s fairly rare for a photographer or producer to show up without a computer, but I always try to bring mine along, just in case.

My 664 media department... cards, case, and reader

My 664 media department… cards, case, and reader

When I first bought my 664, I went out and bought three of each… three 16GB Delkin CF700x UDMA6 CompactFlash, 105MB/s read, 67MB/s write, and three 16GB Delkin SD163x Class 10 Secure Digital, 24MB/s read, 17MB/s write. I also picked up an inexpensive card reader and a case for the cards. One thing you DON’T want to do is use cards that are not on the list of approved media for use by Sound Devices. Go to their website, the list is updated every so often.

These are the cards that I use in my 664. They work fine and are approved by Sound Devices.

These are the cards that I use in my 664. They work fine and are approved by Sound Devices.

I have my 664 set to record the day’s audio files mirrored, so that each card has identical audio files. I use the SD card to transfer the data. It’s difficult to get my fat fingers around the edges of the CF card, plus the CF slots are a little more delicate… I’ve already bent a pin on my card reader, and if that happens on the 664 then it’s back to the factory for a very expensive repair. So the CF card stays in the machine, and I treat it like an internal drive most of the time unless I get some sort of data error on the other card (hasn’t happened yet, knock on wood!)

Transcription recordings are always the fly in the ointment. These are often requested as MP3 recordings with linear timecode on one channel, and audio on the other. It’s possible to do this internally with the 664, but you’ll need a special cable and an open channel. If you patch the timecode out to, say, ch6 input, then you can assign that signal to whatever card will record the MP3. Because, I’m such an old fart, I’ve always been a bit nervous about doing it this way. Back in the day, we had lots of trouble with linear timecode signals bleeding onto other tracks, as it’s generally very hot. If this happens to the main audio tracks, then you’re screwed.

Alternatively, you can use an entirely separate recorder, and that’s how I did it on a recent shoot. I used my Sony PCM-10, and built a special cable for it. The cable has a 3.5mm stereo plug on one end, and the other has a fanout with a single 3.5mm plug and a BNC connector. The BNC gets the timecode and the 3.5mm goes to the 664 tape out. If the cable is built normally, then the timecode signal will be really hot while the audio signal will be really low. I added a teeny resistor inside the connector shell to drop the level of the timecode signal, and get the levels on each channel to match a little more closely. It worked like a charm.

Grills Gone Wilder

Here are a few photos from a shoot that I worked on a few months ago. Grills Gone Wilder is airing now on The Travel Channel. This shoot was fun because of the subject matter… barbecue… and the fringe benefits. Since everyone else on the crew was flying, they couldn’t accept the “on-camera-Q” that was offered, so I ended up with about five pounds of whole-hog pork from Martin’s Barebecue Joint in Nolansville, TN.

Shooting around the Martin's massive smoker, which can handle multiple whole hogs.

Shooting around the Martin’s massive smoker, which can handle multiple whole hogs.

I’m a bit of a barbecue junkie… I love to try out different Q stands when I travel, so I’ve sampled quite a lot. My top two places are Stanley’s in Tyler, Texas (we hit that one pretty hard when we were shooting on The United Bates of America) and Martin’s.

This shoot wass one of the first I did with my new Sound Devices 664 mixer/recorder, and I can say without reservation that I LOVE this unit. It’s a little intimidating at first, as it has ten times the functions and options of my old 442. But the folks at Sound Devices seem to appreciate the pressures of bag work, and they’ve made all the menus and functions very quick to get to & change. There’s an option to connect a USB keyboard, but I’ve entered the metadata using the rotary encoder & it works fine.

I'm running the risk of getting pig fat on my nice new mixer here, but it was so tasty I had to risk it.

I’m running the risk of getting pig fat on my nice new mixer here, but it was so tasty I had to risk it.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a few small details that I’d like to see changed. It really should ship with an external power supply, since the battery tube just doesn’t really work. I understand that a tube of AAs lasts about a half hour. I’ve never tried it, since that much time isn’t really worth the weight of the batteries, so the tube stays empty. Instead I use a Remote Audio BDS with an NP1 battery cup to power the whole bag. I get around two hours use out of a NP1, depending on the age of the battery.

I’m also using a PortaBrace 664 bag on this photo, which is currently for sale at Trew Audio. I love the company, but they have got to innovate if they are going to stay around. This is the same basic bag design as the FP32, just with bigger dimensions. Thats fine for small mixers, but this one is large and heavy, and the bag flops around and distorts in use, giving me the feeling that things aren’t secure. I’ve since gotten a Petrol bag which is quite a bit better  (though I wish it were more like the Petrol 442 case.)

The Grills Gone Wilder crew, April, Ilsa, and Joe.

The Grills Gone Wilder crew, April, Ilsa, and Joe.

Another change I’d like to see in the 664 Mark 2 is the way that data is transferred. Right now, you need to eject the cards and insert them into a reader in oder to transfer your data at the end of the day. The CF card is very difficult to remove, as I can’t get my fingers around the edges. And fragile… I’ve already experienced a bent pin on my card reader. The SD card is easier, so I write data to both cards but use the SD for transfers. The better solution is to have the data available at the USB port so the cards could stay in place.