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Tuesday, 24 March 2009 14:02

High-Def Sounds

Written by  David John Farinella
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Richard Lightstone, CAS is well versed in the world of production sound mixing, having bounced between feature films and television shows for more than 30 years. To say he has seen it all would be a bit of an understatement...

Richard Lightstone, CAS is well versed in the world of production sound mixing, having bounced between feature films and television shows for more than 30 years. To say he has seen it all would be a bit of an understatement, yet Lightstone is chagrined by the changes in his job responsibilities since the industry made the transition to HD.

“Even though it’s been hailed as this terrific medium, and it has some savings advantages on the post-production side of the chain, it doesn’t make the shoot any faster,” Lightstone states. He adds that it’s not a matter of the gear that he’s using, it’s the additional technology required for the work, including the increased cabling required to carry both visual and aural information from camera and microphone to the digital recording area.

And then there’s the increased attention to time code. Production sound mixers used to just sync to slate and record time code to their media, but now time code has to be synced to cameras as well. “We have to do more housekeeping in terms of technical issues that are not really our domain,” Lightstone reports. “But in order for the product to be synced up and then edited in a system like Avid, time code is essential. Often it becomes the most important thing in the job, as opposed to the quality of the audio. It’s become a little crazy in that sense.”

Beyond the technical challenges, Lightstone has had to figure out a way to get clean production sound on a HD set, where cameras are simultaneously set for extreme wide and tight shots. “That compromises the method of how you get audio,” he states. “It makes it much more difficult to get a quality boom track on a lot of HD shoots. You just kind of throw your hands up, put wires on all the actors, and mix it the best you can. Obviously, you’re still going to do a good job, but it has a different quality and it’s not as good.”

Lightstone would prefer to use boom microphones on every shoot. His boom mics of choice are a pair of Schoeps CMIT 5Us, and he’ll use Sennheiser MK50s for plant mics. If concealment is an issue, he’ll use a Schoeps MK41 capsule on a colette cable. He sends AES to both a Zaxcom Deva 5 multi-track recorder and into an Apple Mac-Mini via VOSGAMES Boom Recorder. The signal comes from the ADAT output on a Yamaha 01V96 console.

When Lightstone has to go wireless, like on most HD shoots, he uses Lectrosonics SMs with Sanken COS-11s. He currently has two racks of 411s, but he is looking towards a pair of the Wideband Venues in the near future.

Even with all the additional technology and personnel (it takes an additional person to manage all of the data on the set), Lightstone knows that his job is capturing clean audio. “No matter what, we always try to record audio the same way,” he says. “We’re there to get great audio and picture, edit it together and deliver a great product.”

Apple www.apple.com

Avid www.avid.com

Lectrosonics, Inc. www.lectrosonics.com

Sennheiser Electronic Corporation www.sennheiserusa.com

Zaxcom www.zaxcom.com

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