RECORDING ON THIS AND DAT
Mixer Nick Kolias has been on all sorts of shoots around his Seattle home base, working for clients like NFL Films, indie film and television production companies, and a number of local advertising agencies. While each shoot has its own set of unique challenges, any commercial set is an opportunity for Kolias to practice the tricks of his trade. “The pressure is on,” Kolias says. “Clients are around, and they want to hear what’s happening. Often the talent doesn’t have much experience and things have to be done quickly.”
On one commercial shoot, Kolias was holding a boom microphone over an under-experienced actor who was having trouble getting a take done. “At one point he got so frustrated that he looked up and screamed as loud as he could,” Kolias recalls. “It nearly blew my ears off.”
While that experience was one sort of challenge, Kolias recalls a commercial shoot for Microsoft where there were so many people on the set that the production sound mixer called everyone in town to see if he could borrow personal monitors. “I didn’t work on that one, but we all heard about it because he needed something like 40 Comteks [a wireless personal monitor].”
Kolias explains that providing multiple monitors for clients is typically not a problem, but collecting them at the end of the day can be a bit of an issue. “I’ve had to walk around and try to find all of my Comteks,” he admits. “You find ’em all over the place, because people just unclip them and leave ’em where they’re standing.”
Beyond that, Kolias says that one of the unique aspects of working on commercial shoots is the client’s call for recording the dates on DAT, rather than on a non-linear file-based recorder. “I’m not sure if this is unique to Seattle, but most of the clients call for DATs because they are more familiar with the media,” he says. “At the same time, I do back everything up with a non-linear recorder to make sure I have a safety. What the clients don’t know is how sensitive DAT tapes are — I mean a speck of dust could ruin the whole thing.”
Kolias has built his sound cart to handle both types of media, stocking it with a Sound Devices 744T digital audio recorder as well as a HHB PDR1000TC+ time-code DAT recorder. He also travels with a wide range of microphones, including Schoeps, Neumann, Sanken and Sennheiser shotguns, Sonotrim and Countryman lavs, to ensure that he can capture the actors’ performances. Kolias also has three different mixers — Sound Devices 442 and 302, and a Lectrosonics AM8TC auto mixer — that he uses depending on the date.
While the variety of gear ensures that Kolias will have everything he needs on a set, it’s crucial to for him to also make sure that the equipment is easy to use. “On a commercial, especially for a regional, I’m often the only sound guy there,” he states. “So I have to have everything right there and ready to go.”