Tag Archives: Lectrosonics

My Big Fat Greek 4-Track Setup

OK, so I’m sitting in a hotel room in Nashville, waiting for the client to arrive. It’s 8:51 PM local time. Their plane lands at 9:30, and they possibly want to shoot some tonight… depending on the party that the band has scheduled.

The client is Record Collection Productions from California, and the subject is a band called Jeff The Brotherhood for Red Bull’s Sound And Vision.

It started out simply enough… they requested two lav mics, a boom, and a 4-channel mixer. A straightforward, normal production setup that I’ve done many times before. But yesterday I was told that the post house HAD to have iso tracks, and they HAD to be timecoded. No problem, I’ve got an Edirol R4Pro timecode-capable 4-track. I’ll just bring my cart, and… no, you’ve gotta be very portable and run everything from a bag.

Naturally I thought I could rent my way out of this problem with help from my pals at Trew Audio. But no, their 788 was already out, and their Zaxcom Deva was parked in Glen’s rack for a movie he’s working on. So it’s back to the drawing board. And by the way, they need a wireless timecode slate, too.

The R4 is a great recorder, but it doesn’t handle mixing duties well at all. In fact, about all you can do to monitor is listen to tracks 1 and 3 in the left side of your headphones, and tracks 2 and 4 on the right… no mix outs, no solo monitoring… it’s a recorder, not a mixer.

The solution that I came up with was rather simple. Since the primary deliverables are the iso tracks, I’m running two Lectro receivers into tracks 3 and 4. The boom mic is hardwired to a splitter, with one output going to track 1 of the recorder, and the other output going to a Lectro transmitter. The receiver goes to the camera, so they’ll have a wireless link with the shotgun on one track.

The 4-track capture setup. Sennheiser ME66 shotgun, wireless timecode slate, R4Pro in a Portabrace with a second bag attached to the top containing 2 transmitters and 2 receivers, a Lectro 195 receiver for the camera, and a run bag with batteries, grip tape, extra cables, etc

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t use a setup like this, since a mono mix to camera goes against my grain a little, but this is about the best solution that can be had with the equipment that is available. We’ll see how it actually shakes out.

My First Place & the Ambient EMP Eumel

I was recently in Nashville, TN shooting an episode of HGTV’s My First Place. I was glad to finally get the gig… they’d called me a number of times before, and I was always booked. And because of the way things work out on this show, they don’t usually give their crew much notice (less than 24 hrs on one occasion). Scheduling last-minute shoots is difficult… I try to make them work, but I’m often booked. That’s how it’s been with My First Place in the past, so I was especially pleased that I was able to make this shoot work.

I worked with two Nashville freelancers, producer Laura Douglas and DP Chris Conder. Both have been working in and around Nashville for a number of years, and Laura had worked in news, so we all had similar experiences to share. The show is produced by High Noon Entertainment in Colorado. I’ve worked with them before, but this particular shoot was done with an all-local crew… no one flew in for the show.

One of two Ambient EMP 5s transformers that I recently bought. I've been needing these for a long time, and they work like a charm.

I tried out a new piece of gear on this trip… an Ambient EMP 5s eumel. (a eumal–pronounced “oymal–” is German for widget.) It isn’t a very sexy bit of kit, and it’s pretty pricey (about $118 each from Trew Audio) but it’s extremely handy to have. All they are is a transformer built into a nicely machined Neutrik connector. What they do is convert a wireless lav microphone– in this particular case, my Audio Technica 899– into a hard-wired version. Since these were going to be seated interviews, I figured this would be the perfect application. I’m happy to report they work like a charm. I have several mics that are wired for Lectrosonics transmitters, and now I can use these all as hardwires if the job calls for it. In the past, I have used a Sony ECM55b for my hardwire jobs, and while it works great, I have often wished to use a mic with a smaller head– like my Countryman EMWs or my ATs, since the Sony is a little harder to hide. My Ambient EMPs give me more options, and options are always nice to have on the set!

The guys that were buying their first place had a budget of $140K, and wanted a minimum of 1,000 square feet. Nashville is a nice town, but the real estate prices are pretty steep for most people. (In contrast, we’re looking at a 2,800 square foot house here in Chattanooga, and the selling price is $192K. That’s nearly 3x the house for about $50k more dollars. There’s just no music industry here, unfortunately.)

Producer Laura Douglas interviews first-time homebuyers Bret Marchbanks and Daniel Sircy for HGTV's My First Place. Chris Conder on camera.

The only bad part about the shoot was the drive home. I work as a local in Nashville for one-day shoots, so  had to drive home that night. We finished the interviews at 10PM local time, and since Nashville is in a different time zone than Chattanooga, I pulled into my driveway at 2AM. But I’m looking forward to working with them again soon.

A Nine-Volt Power Solution

Thankfully I’ve been doing a lot of work lately. And as a result, I’ve been going through a lot of 9v batteries. My Lectrosonics wireless units are quite good in terms of their battery life… I can get about six hours from a Duracell Procell alkaline battery. But running three units all day long, plus a pair for my Shure FP33 means that it’s tough to keep enough batteries on hand. I always like to have a spare unopened case with me, just in case… running out of batteries during a shoot is just not an option.

The iPowerUS Lithium-polymer 9v batteries and charger

Unfortunately, most rechargables do not have enough energy density to be very useful on the set. I’ve tried some 9v NiMH, and they would only last 2 hours in the same application.

There is another option that is available from Trew and other dealers. A company called iPowerUS makes a 520 mAh 9v Lithium-Polymer battery. I had heard about these before, but a DP I worked with recently (Roger Herr, shooting Infested for Animal Planet/Darlow Smithson UK) actually had a set and recommended them, so I finally broke down and invested in a set.

I’m pleased to report that these are working great for me. I can get nearly an entire day in my wireless units from a single charge… even a little more by switching the power off between takes, so I’m not constantly changing batteries. iPower says their batteries will get over 200 charge cycles from each battery, and Trew reports this to be accurate… and in some cases, 200 cycles is a conservative estimate.

The downside is the initial cost… these batteries are initially quite expensive at $23 each in sets of four. (About $30 each with a charger.) But if we do a little math, they are really dirt cheap:

iPower- appx $30 each/200 charges = 30/200 = .15 per use
Procells- appx $20/12 (case)= 1.66 per use

These batteries break even after you’ve used six cases of 9-volts. (Or if you prefer, after being recharged about eleven times.) For me, that’s around 9 or 10 shooting days. These make sense if all you consider is dollars and cents. But more than that, it saves me time and grief not having to order a couple of cases of batteries every time I turn around. They charge in about 45 minutes, and the iPower charger comes with a 12-volt option for car charging… really handy. About the only downside I can think of is they don’t have a AA-sized solution for my Sound Devices gear.

So while it was a momentary pain in the wallet at purchase time, I’m really glad I bit the bullet and bought these batteries. So far, they’re quick, dependable, work great, and save quite a bit of cash and hassle over time.