by Paul Zanders Issue 98 - February 2015
I\'ve been a freelance recordist since 1999. I\'ve been lucky enough to be busy, working with many crews on some major shows like The Apprentice, Masterchef, X Factor, Top Gear, and many documentaries and corporate videos. I\'ve worked with some great cameramen and some fantastic sound recordists. I enjoy what I do very much but for me and fellow recordists there has always been one big problem in that we have to wear the equipment we use.
We wear headphones, we wear a recorder, we wear a mixer, we wear radio mics and batteries and this stuff gets heavy!
We operate out of a bag that carries all this equipment in front of us so that we can mix various inputs and monitor the results on headphones. After you\'ve been wearing this for 10 hours you get, unsurprisingly, backache. It\'s unpleasant, it\'s distracting and, as hard as you may try, you can\'t ignore it. Long days end up being a test of your stamina as well as your skill as a recordist.
I was working on a multicamera show, with just me as the recordist. I was running 6 radio mics, radio links to cameras and had a very full heavy sound bag. I couldn\'t get a boom mic in close enough because a couple of the cameras were on wide shots so the whole show was recorded on radio mics. I found myself standing in one spot for long periods wearing all this stuff and I ended up with a bad back. We had a week\'s break halfway through and my back was still aching badly so I decided to sit down and think of a solution. I came up with Dedleg and spent the next 6 months trying to find someone to make it.
Eventually I found the Manufacturing Advisory Service, or MAS, a service provided by the Government that is very much into promoting manufacturing in the UK.
Very much into new ideas, they have links with factories and designers all over the country. I had a couple of interviews. They didn\'t really know the industry but it seemed obvious, if you\'ve got a heavy bag and you\'re standing still, why not have some sort of support? They understood, and I think because I was so serious about doing it they decided to help me. They offered me a grant, and put me in contact with Burrell Innovation, a design company which could design gear for manufacture.
Burrell completely got the idea. I explained the budget I had in mind, how the product should work, and how I wanted it to look. They produced drawings, put forward suggestions, then we settled on a final design which would work for manufacture as well as for a practical product.
MAS puts you in touch with people who they think can help you. You go to them and they give you a quote for what they think it will cost to do the drawings. You go back to MAS with the quote, and they will make a decision as to whether and how much they can help with a grant towards that cost. It\'s not the full cost, it\'s a percentage. You get three grants a year, decreasing in percentage.
Dedleg might never have happened without this help. Burrell Innovation and MAS have both been terrific in this. When I was looking earlier on line and visiting engineering companies I felt that they were only interested in manufacturing the product, and not really interested in the proper design.
Burrell produced the design and made a mock up of it. With that and the drawings they\'d done I went to a major television industry manufacturer and asked them if they were interested in the idea. They seemed keen, but took a long time to reply, delaying me by almost three months, and eventually said, because they were busy, they couldn\'t look at it until 2015. I didn\'t want anyone else getting there first, so I decided to go for it myself.
I had five prototypes made. The monopod was aluminium, and heavier than I had wanted. I decided to upgrade to carbon fibre, so the price I had in mind at the start had to go up slightly.
I talked to the designers about it, and I also talked to Steffan Hewitt at Polecam Systems. He was very helpful, and put me in touch with carbon fibre manufacturers. They already had the tooling for the size of poles I needed, which made it cheaper. So now I had reduced the weight of Dedleg, making it a better product.
I had taken the first drawings to an IP attorney and applied for a UK patent. I\'ve got a registered design in Europe and the US, and a patent pending in the UK.
I\'m now in preparation for BVE. I did a press release which was well picked up. We\'ve got some journalists coming to see the product, and some overseas distributors. A lot of sound recordists are coming.
Ever since I thought up Dedleg in August 2013, a week hasn\'t gone by when I didn\'t wish that I had one already. I use it a lot now and I love it. I used it on Masterchef a few weeks ago. Four recordists, including me, trialled it throughout the day. We used it in and around a restaurant, each one of us was recording 8 tracks with heavy bags, and at the end of the day, none of us had back ache. Problem solved.