Capturing awesome audio


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Paul Sargeant, Director of Operations at Procam discusses the challenges facing sound recordists using the latest broadcast technology

If you look at the industry as a whole, the rapid evolution of camera technology is drifting away from audio, despite the importance of compatibility between the two. Meaning it’s becoming harder to plug straight into camera. For example, we see that inputs are becoming a little less ergonomic and are not all standard XLR input as they once were. Multi-track recording will no doubt continue to grow as Sound Devices (7 series & 664) and Zaxcom (Nomad) are leading the way with over the shoulder timecode recorders. Even Sound Devices mixers have recording functions now (552), albeit simple ones.

In terms of audio equipment here at Procam TV, the new Sony DWX Series Digital Radio Mics have been one of the main choices for audio professionals since we acquired them around a year ago. As a Sony specialised company the DWX series was an easy choice for us, coupled with the fact that Sony has come on leaps and bounds since the last series. The main strength of the DWX Series is its functionality. As a digital system it offers a lot of new functions, such as the ability to tune receivers and transmitters remotely, locking frequencies and being able to use more sets of radios at one time. Sony has also released many variations of receiver adaptors and rack mount receivers so they can cater for most productions. In addition to this, the battery life is great and the range is generally very good.

But, as with all kit, the DWX isn’t perfect. "In the bag adaptors" are generally not very ergonomic due to their height and the wires attached at the bottom. They are also prone to dips in RF quality which can result in audio glitches. In our experience, this problem is not frequent but an issue that should be resolved in future models.

At Procam we use the DWX Series radios for a variety of different productions as versatility is their real strength. The transmitters are very small and easily hidden; the ability to strip the receiver adaptor and use them in a cameras wireless slot is very useful for wireless links. They are also very durable so ideal for shooting reality shows. The rack mount receivers mean they are also a good option for studio set up. The wireless studio software allows you to monitor all transmitters as well as recall frequency set ups.

This is particularly useful for us at Procam TV as we are often involved in filming reality shows such as Made in Chelsea. Recording in uncontrolled environments is the main challenge when filming on location and is generally regarded as a Sound Recordists nightmare! Planes, trains, buses, and sirens can appear from nowhere and have the potential to ruin the most dramatic moment of the shoot. Another challenge we face is that any unexpected reactions from contributors have to be captured first time, as second takes are often not an option. We find that we sometimes end up walking a line between the ideal results we could capture in a recording studio and achieving the best results possible in the environment we’re in.

One advantage is that the rough and ready nature of reality shows adds to the authentic feel of the action which generally means the usual suspects that dirty your sound can become more acceptable and maybe even less noticeable. As a rule, we do all we can to get clean sound but in the end you must also be ready to compromise so that the shoot goes as smoothly as possible.

Looking forward, at Procam we are really interested to see how the other Audio Manufacturers will challenge Sony in the digital radio market. It’s been talked about for years but only Sony has made the jump so far. The DWX series has been a good step towards digital radios becoming standardised but I think there will be dramatic improvements in systems to come.

Procam TV has worked on productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Dynamo: Magician Impossible, Ben Earl: Trick Artist , The Voice UK, The Great British Bake Off, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Country House Sunday and NBA Live in London 2013.

Tags: iss077 | procam | audio | broadcast industry | DWX | sony | radios | made in chelsea | sound recording | [author]
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