When sound mixer Jon Tendrich of Tiger Sound, was called upon to handle audio for the film Black Tulip
, he knew he needed reliable equipment for his journey to Afghanistan. An experienced user of Sound Devices
products (NAB Booth C1354), Tendrich opted fortwoSound Devices 442 Mixers,
a 788T Digital Recorder
and a CL-8 Controller
for the project. This versatile rig also helped him lighten his load for the film, as the CL-8 Controller
features eight large, rotary faders to control the eight inputs of the 788T, with the 442s serving as backups.
Black Tulip, based on real events, follows the Dakka family as it struggles to live in peace and safety amid the violence of post-911 Afghanistan. Farishta and Haidar Dakka celebrate their country's robust spirit by opening a boutique restaurant, Dakka's Poet's Corner Caf, in downtown Kabul. At the heart of this gathering spot stands an open microphone, a symbol of hope and freedom to their fellow countrymen. As the Poet's Corner gains popularity it comes under the watchful gaze of the Taliban, and ultimately under attack. As the Dakkas face dangerous decisions, they (and the audience) become increasingly aware that the imperiled Poet's Corner is a tragic metaphor for Kabul and Afghanistan itself.
Tendrich's audio setup included a unique quad mic kit of Schoeps microphones with two pointed in an XY pattern in the front (a left and a right) and another two in the same arrangement in the rear. He used Sound Devices 788T recorder with the CL-8 Controller along with the Schoeps quad kit for capturing the local ambiance in surround sound using his Sanken CS-3e as the center channel. At times the quad mic setup was used with Tendrich's locally handmade sound cart to capture ambience during a scene, while the Sanken CS-3e short shotgun was being used in conjunction with Sanken COS-11 lavalier mics to get the best dialogue possible. The COS-11's were being sent through Lectosonics-UM400 Transmitters to UCR411A Receivers. Offering a range of ambient and dialog techniques enabled Tendrich to deliver several audio options for the post sound editorial team.
Using the 788T and CL-8 Controller also made his package light and easy to operate, especially at times when mixing over the shoulder was the only option. Tendrich also made use of two audio channels in the RED video cameras used in the filming, the left channel designated for the boom mic and the right for a mix of all of the wireless microphones. He was able to feed the two mixed tracks to the camera via the assignable and level adjustable analogue outputs on the 788T. Tendrich used a third output to send through a Comtek system, for a separate director's mix that he would assign on the fly.
"I almost always had wireless mics on the cast and then a boom mic," says Tendrich. "I had my quad mic kit on the cart and would use it to capture ambiences during the scene while I was also recording dialog with the boom and lavalier mics all to my 788T."
For Tendrich, capturing audio for the film posed several challenges, not the least of which was the communications barrier. He did not speak the local language and was working closely with a boom operator who didn't speak English, making it extremely difficult to capture dialog and do on-site mixing when the dialog strayed from the script, as the dialog was improvised at times. To address this issue, Tendrich left the lavaliers open knowing his right channel of the mix would just be used as a guide track and the isolated recordings could be accessed later in post to do a more precise edit and mix. He was able to achieve this thanks to the versatility of Sound Devices 788T, as the product allows isolated tracks to be recorded.
"Sound Devices has never failed me whether I'm working in the hood with Suge Knight for a reality TV project, working from a paddle boat off the coast of Cuba on a student film, doing commercial work on cruise ships, dangling my feet and gripping a bridge in Costa Rica to capture a waterfall or recording the sounds of the Panama Canal locks being opened and closed," continues Tendrich. "Sound Devices products are so reliable that I knew they would hold up to the environmental conditions in Afghanistan, especially the excessive amount of dust."
Filming Black Tulip proved to be an overwhelming endeavor in general, as the crew was filming in the middle of war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan at a time of escalating political and military tensions. While filming, there were daily threats upon the lives of cast and crew, not only because of the location and events surrounding the shoot, but directly aimed at the filmmakers due to the content of the film.
"For a project of this nature, where the dangers of the environment are real the last thing you want to worry about is your equipment," adds Tendrich. "Thanks to the overwhelming support of Dave Panfili, Bill Hansen, and all of my friends at Location Sound Corporation, who have been helping me with my purchases, rentals, and assistance, of top notch audio equipment for over a decade, and special thanks to Jon Tatooles and the team at Sound Devices who rushed the CL-8 to me days before my departure to Afghanistan. I knew I had all the best and most reliable audio gear for this project at my fingertips."
Black Tulip is the first feature film directed by Sonia Cole, who also co-wrote and produced the film, which was shot in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2009. Cole also played the lead actress on the film due to the regions cultural views on women in entertainment. A true daughter of Afghanistan, forced to flee her country as a child by advancing Soviet forces, Sonia has now set the world stage for a new message about her war-torn land. Cole worked with screenwriter David M. O'Neill for over five years to establish the universal relevance in this story of a small family who seeks its own self-determination under such complex and overwhelming circumstances.
Black Tulip is currently in post-production and being edited by the Oscar-winning editor for "The Hurt Locker," Chris Innis. The film is currently being pitched to major Hollywood studios for possible release in 2010.
For more information on Jon Tendrich and Tiger Sound, visit www.tigersound.com.