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.

LorettaLynn CashCabin2 CashCabinAmps LynnCamp CashCabin1

Loretta Lynn with Shawn Camp

Loretta Lynn with Shawn Camp


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.

Bloomberg Shoot at Sea Islands, GA

Just returned from a two-day shoot at Sea Islands GA. Thanks Kris Carillo(DP), Dave Thompson(Dir), Jon Wang(AC), and Lee Narby(Gaff). Yes, it was hot and buggy, but I love being in the lowcountry!

Shooting for Bloomberg with golf pro Todd Anderson.

Shooting for Bloomberg with golf pro Todd Anderson.

Steve Bailey at On Line Audio, 1992


Much of the audio engineering work that I did at On Line Audio recording studio wasn’t much to write home about. I often think of it as “my studio,” but it really wasn’t mine. Robert Graves was the owner and I was the studio manager, and the way things evolved was that Robert did most of the nighttime sessions, while I ran the audio for the 6 and 11 news at WCBD, and I ran the daytime sessions. Even after I resigned at the station, that’s mostly the way we continued to do things.

Many of the really serious clients preferred to work at night. I mixed everything else. Some of my sessions included folks with amazing talent, but others, well… not so much. This story is from the amazing column.

Once we got a call from a client who was really pressed for time, and only had one day before he had to fly back to California. I think it was a Saturday, and Robert was unable to do the session. I remember him telling me that this Steve Bailey guy (I’d never heard of him) was a phenomenal bassist, and you should have a really good session. So I was assigned to engineer for him.

I met Steve early one morning, and I was immediately impressed. Very personable and down-to-earth, yet clearly the best bassist I’d ever met. He had some reels of 2″ tape with him that contained backing tracks recorded at a studio in California. There was something wrong with his bass tracks, though I can’t remember what it was… either there was something technically wrong, or he was rushed during the session and didn’t like the performance. We were going to re-cut all of the bass parts.

But Steve was having some sort of dispute with the record label over this, and they didn’t want him to re-record the parts. THAT’S why he was recording at a (comparatively) small, out-of-the-way studio in Charleston, SC. If the label got wind of what he was doing, they’d have a fit. So the deal was there were to be NO extra copies of the music made- no cassettes, rough mixes, etc.

Steve set up his pedal board in the control room and we started to work. I believe we set up an amp out in the studio, and also cut a direct box track, but can’t remember exactly. He and I sat in the control room, I ran the recorder while he played. I do remember exactly the length of the session, though… sixteen hours, longest session I’d ever done before or since. The whole time, Steve played like a machine, never slowing down or tiring. I remember feeling exhausted, but the music was so good that I didn’t notice the time as much as I would’ve otherwise. 

Then just like that, it was over. Steve made his flight and we never saw him again. The album was never released… I guess the dispute was never resolved… and I spent years kicking myself for doing the right thing, and not keeping some kind of copy of the songs.

Remember that this all happened around 1992- before the internet. So a few years ago I started doing some web- related research. I spoke with Robert Graves, and I found Steve Bailey’s website and tried sending an email, but never heard anything. Then this came in my inbox:

Brian, sorry for the delay here.. the album you mention is out of print, although it may be re released at some point soon. It is called Dichotomy and you may be able to find it online.. you can certainly use some stuf from it. there were two releases in asia and europe.. the asian release has much more recording details… good luck, steve

Copies of the album are occasionally available on eBay at very high prices… for example this one at $125  


The very elusive Steve Bailey Dichotomy CD

The very elusive Steve Bailey Dichotomy CD

But if you’re patient, you can find one for $45… still really expensive, but I bought one because of the history. It took forever to arrive (it came in from Japan), but it’s every bit as good as I remember. One of the tracks even has the great Dizzy Gillespie playing on it. Be sure to check out Steve Bailey’s website, stevebaileybass.com.

So what does this record sound like? Have a listen:

The tracking and mix on this project is great. Good jazz drums have always impressed me, and the panning and tone here is especially nice… clear and well defined, not “overdone,” and very well played by Joel Taylor. The liner notes don’t say who the mix engineer was, but it was mixed at Slam Shack and Room 335. Guitarist Larry Carlton owned Room 335 in Hollywood, CA, and while he’s not listed in the engineering credits, he probably had a hand in it.

Here’s another snippet from a song called Surf’s Up… reminds me of Weather Report:

I couldn’t close this post without this song called Dizzy’s Tizzy. On trumpet is Dizzie Gillespie (yes, THAT Dizzie Gillespie). Even though I only played a very small role in producing this track, its pretty cool to say that I worked on a song with Dizzie Gillespie on it. If you’re really into jazz bass, check Steve’s website or keep an eye on eBay for this CD. Like I said, it’s crazy expensive, but it’s really good music… enjoy!



Bonnaroo 2015?

I’m booked to shoot at Bonnaroo for Red Bull TV this year… if anyone else that I know is going, be sure to send me a text.

Volkswagen Cycling Preview

Here are two spots that I recently completed for Volkswagen here in Chattanooga:

Capturing Audio in a Race Car

I’ve just wrapped on a commercial for Volkswagen that went outside the usual scope of work. The client needed to capture dialog inside a drift racer operating at speed. The driver was Tanner Faust, formerly of Top Gear America, and his “co-pilot” was cyclist Tim Johnson. This rather lousy iPhone video shows an example of the kinds of speeds we’re talking about:


Getting a Decent Signal

Most race cars these days are equipped with radio comms so the drivers can communicate with the pit crew, but I don’t like to rely on other systems as you never know if they’ll work or what sort of quality you can end up with. Conventional lavs wouldn’t work either because of the noise inside the car. I decided to go with an earwire-type lav, since the only chance of overcoming the background noise would be to get the mic as close as possible to the source. And as this would be such a lousy ambient environment, I decided that an expensive mic like a Countryman B6 would probably be pointless. I found a fairly inexpensive pair of earwires that had a 4-pin connection that would need to be changed over to a 5-pin. This turned out to be a bit trickier than I thought, as the mics came with a microscopic surface-mount circuit board inside the connector which needed to be retained. I managed to cut the old connector out and resolder in the new connector by applying large doses of profanity to the solder job. It worked in the end.

Of course, this style of mic is visible, which is rarely acceptable in a commercial. But in this case, it was either that or nothing… as in recording MOS (without sound) and then looping in some dialogue over car noises. This wasn’t really an issue, though, since all the interior shots would be from GoPros (eight in total) and all these were set to fairly wide angles. Tanner’s mic was hidden by his helmet… only Tim’s was visible, and being flesh colored on a wide lens, it was barely noticeable.

My bag in position inside Tanner Faust's Jetta.

My bag in position inside Tanner Faust’s Jetta.

The next issue was dealing with the distance. I didn’t have time to build a pair of custom antennas for my transmitters… putting the antennas outside of the metal shell of a car will increase transmitter range, but the distances would be too great in this case, and there wouldn’t be a chase car. The only solution was to “drop the bag,” in other words, securing the bag somewhere inside the car, placing it in record, and letting them take off.

The obvious disadvantage is that you can’t properly monitor what is being recorded. I did have a Comtek PR216 monitor transmitter hooked up, and it worked pretty well given the difficulty of the job, but there were lots of dropouts and hits to the signal. But listening to the file after the fact gave a reasonably good result. Tanner’s mic sounds a bit worse than Tim’s… that’s a result of the style of helmet, as Tanner was wearing a closed type, wraparound helmet that pressed the mic close to his mouth, and Tim’s helmet was an open type that allowed the mic to stay in the correct orientation.

I’ll post a link to the finished spot once it gets posted online.

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

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie for NFL Films

While searching for past projects, I finally found a link to a video that I worked on last year… it turned out rather well, I thought!


Fat Hair Commercial

I was asked to do the location sound for a commercial in Atlanta last week for a company called “Fat Hair.” We shot two spots over two days. The camera was a Red Epic Dragon, which is capable of shooting at 6K resolution, but thankfully for the data transfer, we shot the spot at 4K. (If we’d shot at 6k, we’d STILL be waiting on the files to transfer…)

Day one on the Fat Hair set. We had a larger crew than I normally work with, around 30 people. Cold, but thankfully sunny.

Day one on the Fat Hair set. We had a larger crew than I normally work with, around 30 people. Cold, but thankfully sunny.

My big concern was the timecode. A common response when I offer my timecode gear “that would be nice, but we can’t afford it,” so I don’t get to use this stuff on every shoot. But this time they wanted the full monty. Once I got everything set up properly, it all worked without a hitch. The camera department REALLY appreciated the pack-of-gum-sized Q28 lockbox, since the real estate on Red cameras is very tight. We velcroed the lockbox to the batteries, and other than removing it to re-jam after lunch, we pretty much forgot about it.

Inside shooting on Day 2

Inside shooting on Day 2

The basic workflow is fairly simple, actually. My 664 was  the master clock, set to time of day. The Q28 is connected to the 664 then powered on in order to jam. Same thing with the timecode slate. Both the slate and the lockbox were left switched on throughout the day. Six AA batteries (rechargeable) powered the slate for the entire 10-hour day, while a pair of standard AAAs ran the lockbox. At the end of about four hours, I noticed a drift of about a frame or two on the first day, but less than that on the second day. It might have been due to temperature differences, since we were outside on the first day… the slate would have been colder than the lockbox, as the Red’s camera battery would have kept it slightly warmer as it discharged. Other than that, it was a fairly straightforward shoot. There were only a handful of short lines- a few wild tracks (non-sync). I rolled audio during the high-speed takes just so the camera files and audio files would match up, and maybe there would be some quick sounds that post could use.

New Gear- Sync Department

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finally taken delivery on a Denecke TS-3 timecode slate and a Mozegear Q28 timecode lockbox.

For the very highest quality audio, it’s necessary to use the recorded files that are provided by your soundperson… the quality of the digital converters in my Sound Devices 664 just sound better than camera audio files. Yes, it requires more work to sync the audio with the video, but the differences are apparent… especially when you listen to the two files side-by-side

My Denecke TS-3 timecode slate

My Denecke TS-3 timecode slate

There have been a number of workflows proposed for getting timecode on DSLR video, with varying degrees of success. But a timecode slate is still considered an industry standard sync aid, since it gives a visual confirmation of the timecode numbers that can be checked at a glance.

I’ve needed a timecode slate for a long time, especially on DSLR shoots, where dual-system audio recording is a must. The inputs on DSLR cameras rely on a single, unbalanced, non-locking 3.5mm connector, and I refuse to rely on the camera as a recording device. I did a 5d shoot once where the producers assured me that “… it’ll be fine, we always do it this way…” and the audio mysteriously disappeared. Had I not been recording a duplicate signal to my Sony recorder, two days and many, many thousands of dollars would have been wasted on a silent movie.

The only problem with timecode slates is the cost. They aren’t often available used, and the few that I have seen were pretty badly beaten up. New slates are expensive. But I finally bit the bullet this year and purchased a Denecke TS-3EL from Trew Audio in Nashville, my preferred supplier. And yes, it’s the backlit version so you can see it in low light situations.

The Mozegear Tig Q28 lockbox. The camera department loves the small size and light weight, especially with Red cameras where space to mount things is at a premium.

The Mozegear Tig Q28 lockbox. The camera department loves the small size and light weight, especially with Red cameras where space to mount things is at a premium.

To go along with it, I also purchased a Mozegear Q28 sync generator. While most cameras can generate a reasonably reliable timecode signal, a few are notorious for wild drifts, errors, resetting to zero when you change a battery, or other shenanigans. An external sync generator solves these problems, and gives a steady source that is nearly always dependable… with good batteries, of course. The Mozegear Q28 is a Camera Department favorite because it is very small and light… about the size of a thin stack of credit cards. I had to sew up a makeshift case for it so it can be attached with velcro. The only trouble I’ve had so far is the cables. I’ve got the BNC output and 5-pin Lemo… fine for Arri Alexa and Red One, but Red Epic, Scarlet and Dragon uses a 4-pin Lemo. And of course, we were shooting on a Scarlet… some days you just can’t win.

One of the things that I wish Mozegear would include is some sort of protective case or wallet, to keep the gear from getting beat up. I suppose there might be some kind of mini cell phone case that might work, but I couldn't find one so I stitched this one up. Unfortunately that's about the only option... it's so small that there's no profit for a company like PortaBrace to make one.

One of the things that I wish Mozegear would include is some sort of protective case or wallet, to keep the gear from getting beat up. I suppose there might be some kind of mini cell phone case that might work, but I couldn’t find one so I stitched this one up. Unfortunately that’s about the only option… it’s so small that there’s no profit for a company like PortaBrace to make one.

Best Film at the Cannes Short Film Festival

I’ve just been told that a short film that I worked on won the Best Film award at the Cannes Short Film Festival… link is here.

One setup at the house where we shot. I don't have too many images because I was too busy working to shoot stills.

One setup at the house where we shot. I don’t have too many images because I was too busy working to shoot stills.

The Day After Stonewall Died is a short film I worked on back in 2013. I was location A1 for four of the five days that we shot, my good friend John Billings filled in for me for one day while I had to dash off to Nashville to do another job. John Dower was the director, who flew over from the UK to do the shoot. The script was written by Chattanooga’s Anthony Sims.

We shot mostly at a house owned by Jan Bramlett down in Georgia… it turned out to be a great location. The bar scenes were shot in East Ridge. Special thanks go to my boom op Will Taylor, who worked long and hard on this film. We had lots of really great talent on this set, with many people working for a very low rate. It’s great that their hard work and sacrifice is validated by winning at Cannes… not an easy trick to pull. Thanks again to John and Anthony for asking me to do this, and congratulations to them as well as everyone else who worked on this film.

Bar scene in East Ridge

Bar scene in East Ridge

Mike Wolfe’s “Kid Pickers”

I was in Nashville last week shooting for Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers,” a popular reality show on History Channel about finding antiques. Early on, he noticed that American Pickers was popular with kids, so he wrote a book directed to younger readers about discovering local history through artifacts and repurposing old, interesting items. Out of that grew a contest called “Kid Pickers” where kids could show off their finds and submit an essay about it. Three winners were chosen… first place received a $10,000 scholarship.

At Antique Archaeology in Nashville TN (Before the doors were opened!)

At Antique Archaeology in Nashville TN (Before the doors were opened!)

We shot at Antique Archaeology in Nashville, TN. Mike is a TN native and sells his finds at his store there. Most of them, anyway- the ribbon mics that he has weren’t for sale. The store was insanely crowded with people once it opened to the public… it’s apparently quite the tourist destination. It’s located in the old Marathon car factory, a very cool brick and timber building in West Nashville that was purchased for a song in 1981 and is now worth millions. (the owner won’t sell… Mike says he’s tried)

Mike Wolfe deliverse a standup at the N State Fair, September 2014

Mike Wolfe delivers a standup at the N State Fair, September 2014

It was a fun shoot overall… the winning finds were a beaver skin top hat from the late 1800’s, a tramp art bottle vase that was decorated with old cigar bands, and a precursor to the Xerox machine that was found in an alley. The kids, all about 12, were a bit overwhelmed with all the attention, but they had a good time. I enjoyed meeting Mike, he was very personable and fun to work with.

A selfie with Mike Wolfe

A selfie with Mike Wolfe

With Kari Byron from Mythbusters

I had a chance to work with Kari Byron from Mythbusters a few months ago. She was here shooting a special for Discovery in the Smokey Mountains National Park, which is about 3 1/2 hrs away from Chattanooga. It was just a one-day, one-time gig, but it was fun to work with someone who was famous… at least at our house. We started watching Mythbusters not long after it started in 2003, since Kyle would have been 13 at the time- the perfect thing to get a young boy interested in science, or at least in blowing stuff up.

Kari Byron with park ranger Becky Nichols

Kari Byron with park ranger Becky Nichols

The show is about the sychronous fireflies in the area. It only happens in a few places during a short period of the year. They aren’t sure exactly why they do it, but all the fireflies in a given area will light up in waves. VERY cool to see.

The downside was the weather, and right about dusk the sky opened up. I have raingear which protected the gear pretty well, but it was sweaty, wet-footed, unpleasant work. But Kari was a real pro, without the slightest bit of complaint or cross word when she HAD to be feeling about as miserable as the rest of the crew. It was a real pleasure to work with her.

Brian Gilbert with Kari Byron, before all the rain started.

Brian Gilbert with Kari Byron, before all the rain started.


Working In The Production Truck

Way back in the days before the internet (most kids think this was shortly after we tamed fire and invented the wheel), I did a fair amount of audio work in production trucks. It wasn’t a regular thing, just a few times a year… enough to be interesting. But not much since I’ve been a freelancer. That changed, though, when I got a call from Encompass Media (Formerly Crawford Productions in Atlanta) about a shoot in Chattanooga at the new Volkswagen plant. They wanted an audio operator with satellite truck experience. Perfect, that’s me… or so I thought.

Encompass 5 at 4:30 AM

Encompass Five at 4:30 AM

I showed up at the call time of 12:00 for setup- the sat window was for the next day at 8. After talking to the truck producer and getting an idea of the scope of the project, it was clear that this wasn’t your normal broadcast uplink… or a quick day. It was uplink and downlink, with video playback, a mirrored mix in the truck with mic sources split from house audio, plus two different audio feeds from the downlink (English translation and German). Oh, yeah, and we need three different IFB lines… one for the cameras, one German language for communication with the sat operators in Wolfsburg (Germany), and a third “God mic” for the inside producer. The inside two IFB feeds will connect to a wireless system provided by the house sound guys, but it’s a Telex 4-wire that doesn’t work with the RTS system that the truck has. And we need to record the feed in the truck on their recorder and the director’s laptop. Can you make it work it?

I didn’t quite know what to say. I was trying to come up with a response that sounded good but still had a slight basis in truth, while trying hard to fight body language that included cold sweats and crying like a baby. Mercifully, the truck’s engineers Alan Rogers and Shaun Flowers jumped in and said yeah, we could probably make that work. I wasn’t nearly so sure.

By about 11PM that night, we had most everything working the way the client wanted. Getting the signals into and out of the truck involved lots of cryptic patching, imbedding, and interfaces which were very unfamiliar, so I owe both these guys a huge debt of thanks for walking me through the process. I’ve set up production trucks before, but it was awhile back… the trucks were analog and the setups were nothing near this complex. They were able to put it all together while simultaneously putting out several video fires (like weird CCU problems- one just didn’t like the line it was being used on, and mysteriously came to life once moved to a different camera.)

In Encompass Five sat production truck. We're smiling because we're done. Left to right,  engineer Shaun Flowers, Brian Gilbert, and  engineer Alan Rogers.

In Encompass Five sat production truck. We’re smiling because we’re done. Left to right, engineer Shaun Flowers, Brian Gilbert, and engineer Alan Rogers.

Call time for the next day was 4:30AM. The show itself went pretty much as planned. There were some problems on the Wolfsburg end, but our side went fairly smoothly. The director said very little- he didn’t “call” the show the way I’m used to, i.e., “standby one,” “take one,” standby video,” “roll video,” etc. But it was fun to punch a show on a board the way we used to do it, even though it was just a little Mackie 1604.

Producer, Director and Audio positions. TD Susanne Grote

Producer, Director and Audio positions. TD Susanne Grote

More Rechargeable 9v choices

I wrote awhile back about rechargeable 9v batteries, and why they’re an important part of my workflow, There’s a new 9v rechargeable power solution available now, the Beachtek 9v batteries. They are a hair more expensive than iPower, ($24 each in pairs for the BeachTek, $22.95 each for iPower) but they have significantly greater capacity… the iPowers are 520 mAh, but the Beacheks are 700 mAh. I recently bought eight of these batteries for my kit, since my iPowers are two years old now.

First the bad news… the new BeachTeks are just the tiniest bit thicker than iPower batteries or traditional alkalines. As a result, they WILL NOT FIT my Lectrosonics 201 receivers. They do fit in the Lectro 200-series transmitters that I have, as well as the LMA transmitters and the Lectro 211 receivers.

In the bag, this isn’t a problem… I power all my receivers with a NP1 battery using a BDS system. But if I want to use the 201 as a camera link, then I’ll need to use iPower batteries. This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it is something to be aware of. The BeachTek batteries will power a lectro transmitter for a full production day. so they’re great to have in my kit. But they won’t completely replace my iPower batteries.