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Wednesday, 15 February 2012 11:56

Extreme Audio

Written by  Michael Sujek
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pro_audio_eadliestcatch_2Working as a production sound mixer in Los Angeles, where it’s consistently sunny, it’s possible to take the weather for granted when recording audio in the field. But what if the job is recording audio for a documentary in the Arctic, like for Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” where there’s the incessant pounding of salt water? Or how about recording a reality show during the rainy season in Washington State? Getting clean audio can be difficult in good weather, but harsh conditions can present unique challenges to production sound mixers in the field. Luckily, there are some products that can offer protection for productions in need.


When it’s raining, the first order of business is to protect yourself and your recorder. M.T.O. Unlimited makes several products for working in the rain. The SoundSlicker Poncho (pictured lower right) covers the ENG sound mixer and gear. This poncho has a large plastic view window so the mixer/recorder can be easily seen underneath. M.T.O. also produces the AudioSlicker, which is designed to cover just the gear, while the SlateSlicker is a clear plastic bag for keeping your Denecke smart slate dry.

Now that your recorder and wireless receivers are safe and dry, what about the talent’s wireless transmitter? Wrap it up with a non-lubricated latex condom! This is a good way to protect your wireless transmitters from the rain. Make sure that the condom goes over the connector where the lavalier microphone plugs into the transmitter body pack to ensure that water doesn’t short out the connector.

pro_audio_lto_unlimited_soundslicker-front_photoofaudioguyontigerwoodsshootisnick-pollak_photobysusan-mSometimes rainwater or moisture will run down the talent’s back and short out the electrical where the lavalier mic plugs into the transmitter. I’ve also had sweat get into the connector and cause problems during a fitness video. One solution is to wrap silicone tape used by the military. Marketed as Rescue Tape or Mighty FixIt, this self-adhesive tape wraps around the connector after plugging in the lav. It will keep water out and can be removed without leaving any residue. It’s also handy when wrapped around connectors on long cable runs to prevent cables from shorting out (when lying in collected water on the ground) and it will protect the integrity of cables routed along a process trailer during a rainy car shoot.

How about when recording talent in water? Aquapac makes great waterproof bags for storing gear, including a submersible bag for connected electronics. A wireless transmitter can be completely protected in the bag while it’s connected to a waterproof lavalier mic like Voice Technologies’ VT500WATER. Putting a Zaxcom wireless transmitter in the bag, which records audio directly to a microSD card in the transmitter, would allow a sound mixer to creatively record that audio of a surfer out on the waves. The VT500WATER has been IPX7 certified and can also be temporarily submerged without being compromised. And if you’re trying to hide a lavalier mic on talent while working in rainy terrain, the Countryman B6 is currently the smallest lavalier (making it great for hiding) that also comes with fitted caps for moisture resistance.

Now that the recorder and wireless are taken care of, let’s protect your boom operator’s shotgun mic from the rain as well as from the sound of falling rain on the zeppelin (which can affect the integrity of your audio). Remote Audio’s Rainman is good option for covering up a shotgun mic in a zeppelin. The Rainman is made of a soft, lightweight batting that doesn’t absorb water but instead channels it away from the microphone. Lastly, it’s a good idea to keep silica gel packs in your cases along with your gear. Silica Gel Desiccant Packets will remove moisture from the surrounding air. Just drop one of these bad boys into a sealed container with your gear to create a low-humidity environment to protect your sensitive electronics.
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