Category Archives: Uncategorized

LMa, SMV, and college tuition.

I just added two more SMV transmitters, and my hands are tired from mashing those little buttons. The Reality Soundman Army  continues to rack up transmitter count without regard to ROI. Its a bit like collecting Hot Wheels cars. Bexel and VER keep a bowlful at the checkout desk.  Happily, I don’t give away services and gear, and my schedule is still full.  I’m a one-man army, knee-deep in the Full Catastrophe, (google it, son)  and the  LMa wireless transmitter from Lectrosonics  will be our little secret.

The SMV series from Lectrosonics. $1300 and up.

 One thing you can’t beat the SMV for…wireless on children. The SMQV? I don’t get. Too big for the bucks. 

The $650 LMa.
To whom does this size difference matter? Catherine Zeta Jones, maybe. Reality Cast…?

I’ve always resisted commenting on the LMa because I’m afraid Lectro is going to wise up and start charging more for them. But I’ve knocked back a couple, which is always ill-advised when posting, and I’ll probably delete this in the morning anyway. 
The LMa‘s lower power is virtually indistinguishable from an SMV or any Lectro 100mw transmitter. While visiting with the bunch of hams (I’m KQ5I) who volunteered to check freq’s at the last Superbowl, we did comparisons and measurements with their very expensive spectrum analyzers, and found the LMa has to have at least 70+ mw of power, and in real world situations, the difference between the two matters little. Audio-wise, they are identical, both in specification and in the real world. The fixed antenna on the LMa is an advantage, as it is more robust than the connector affair, and makes the antenna physically shorter by eliminating the connector. The spring clip has a lower profile than the clunky um400a clip, and the “lip” can be bent down to make the profile even lower. Excellent in a bra-strap mount, where I go 90% of the time. Less excellent on the waistband, tends to fall off, but considering the LMa‘s low-profile without clip, pouch-wise and concealment-wise, it runs a close second to the SM’s and their ilk. Hides well in the men’s front pants pocket, I defy you to see it on camera. The clip pops on and off in a second, no tools required. The power switch seems different than the um’s, and is mounted differently, but I can shut it off and adjust gain by feel thru most materials on a women’s back. (somehow my jobs are mostly women on camera). Finally, when monkeying with 10 wireless going at once, I’ll take lower power over higher. There, I’ve said enough already. Larry please don’t raise the price on the LMa‘s…

by Pete Verrando

The Six Stages Of Film Production?

Hi, and Welcome! Bend Over!

A few years ago, there was a great t-shirt, occasionally seen around  the set, featuring “The Six Stages of Film Production.” Perhaps this was modeled after the college textbook dogma, which follows:

 “Six Stages of Film Production
1. Development
2. Pre-Production
3. Production
4. Post-Production
5. Distribution
6. Exhibition

However, I think the t-shirt  more accurately represents our “profession”
The Six Stages of Film Production:

1. Wild Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search For The Guilty
5. Punish The Innocent
6. Reward the Non-Involved
Actual picture from production company website
offering perks to anyone who contributes $ to the film.
Be A Movie Maker! $1000 or $500 Membership Levels!
click the above for a sales pitch to the gullible!

Found recently is another “6 Stages” List, with a bonus 7th stage:

The 7 Stages of Film Production

1. Wild Enthusiasm
2. Total Confusion
3. Utter Dispair
4. Search for the Guilty
5. Persecution of the Innocent
6. Promotion of the Incompetent
7. Distribution of T-Shirts

Hi, welcome to Television!

-by Pete Verrando

Welcome to the RF Jungle

These are not my equipment packages, and for that I am very happy. They are shown here only as examples of compounding technology to remedy the effects of compounding technology.  Who wins? The equipment vendor!

As long as I don’t have to run!

Antenna “distro” adaptor farm
Hope it doesn’t rain!

Its interesting how Lectro designed the SR as a slot receiver, sacrificing a level of extraneous RF immunity for size. Then users try to cram a bunch of them in a bag, in close proximity to IFB and hop transmitters, an environment for which they were not designed. Panicked bag users attempt to fix them with external amplifiers and antennas. Then manufacturers rush to market to supply plug-n-play amplifiers and antennas. Users end up scratching their heads as to why RF doesn’t all work like water in a garden hose. -by Pete Verrando

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Pimp My DSLR

     2012 has started out as a busy year!  The Canon 5D has shown up on more shoots than any other camera, and they’ve shown up in quantity, sometimes with 4 or 5 cameras on the job.  I typically send high quality wireless audio links to these cameras, and can send audio to several of them at once, with different tracks going to each. My wireless receivers are compact, lightweight, and can ride on the hot shoe of the camera. However, regardless of the robust audio I can deliver directly to the DLSR, Double System Sound is a must for DSLR audio work. 
     As many production companies are now discovering (thru bad experiences), it is essential that 5D, 7D and D60 shoots record double system sound. That is, the sound should be recorded to a separate, high quality audio recorder, and never to the camera only. Even with the advent of the 5D Mark III, with added audio features, double system sound is a must. Here’s just a few reasons why:
  1. The mini audio input jack on these cameras are prone to developing problems. Dirt ingress and torquing from the mini plug can cause it to fault without warning. The input jack is held in place only by solder junctions on the circuit board.  Just a few spots of tin and lead!
  2. The audio inputs on DSLRs only accept mic level audio, at a very specific level for optimum signal-to-noise ratio. If the inputs are not set exactly right, the resulting audio will be to low-level and noisy, or too hot. 
  3. Unlike professional video cameras, the sound man cannot check the DSLR for audio confidence during a shot. Only before, or after. If you are missing audio, you’ll only know after the action’s over!
  4. Especially in documentary situations, camera operators are prone to inadvertently pulling the mini-plugs off the DSLR in mid-shot.  There’s no “click” or screw connection to keep them in. 
  5. Audio interfaces such as the Juiced-Link, were rushed into production, and are very poorly designed. The silkscreen switch label quickly wears off, leaving you wondering which switch does what. The metering, 3 or 4 LEDs, is difficult to set correctly. The knobs on these devices are prone to being unknowingly nudged by the camera operator, screwing up the settings mid-shot.  
Using a separate recorder such as my Deva Fusion 10-track allows you to isolate all those talent wireless on to their own separate tracks, with superior audio quality. It also allows the use of time code and metadata to identify takes, and create sound reports.  The wireless audio links I use add extra power to auto-sync software such as PluralEyes. With this software, audio can be automatically sync’d-up with the picture files. However, a reasonably robust audio track must be sent directly to the DLSR that matches the production audio. The DSLR internal camera mic can serve this purpose, but only if it is in “earshot” of the action you’re recording. Enter the wireless links! -by Pete Verrando

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Facebook Sound Mixer Nation

Theres a burgeoning Facebook group known as “Freelance Sound Mixers & Recordists for TV/Film. It is a largely un-moderated an un-categorized free-for-all. But, if One had to categorize the existing posts, these come to mind:
*I Can’t Get Any Wireless Range
*I Just Spent another $2000 and I Still Can’t Get No Wireless Range
*My (equipment) Stopped Working, How Can I Fix It Without Getting It Repaired?
*My Crisis That Is Holding Up A Production Right This Moment Is:
*I Bought This(equipment) & How To Use It
*I Bought This(equipment), Do You Want To Buy It
*What Frequencies Are Good In This (city, state, country, nation, hemisphere)
*What Do You Think Of This (microphone, recorder, wireless, etc)
*You Are Wrong About That (microphone, recorder, wireless, etc)
*Lengthy Technical Posts Of Questionable Accuracy
*Arrogance As An Expression Of Insecurity
*An “office today” photo.
*What Is The Best Microphone For (whispering, shouting, singing, sound effects, gun shots, etc)
*How Do I Record On A (plane, train, automobile, bus, boat, hallway, bathroom, mountaintop, etc)
*Has anyone ever used this(microphone) In This (situation)?
*Look At My New Package (of equipment)
*What Is A Good Pay Rate For A Mixer/Equipment
*This Job Is So Cool, Whats The Big Deal About Pay
*I’m Doing Lots Indies & Shorts Films with My New Package.
*Why Is The Pay So Low On Indies & Shorts?
*Old Mixers Bitching About New Mixers Working For Cheap
*Old Mixers Bitching
*Arguments About How Wireless Microphone Equipment Works
*Production Starts In 3 Days And I Have No Clue About Any Of This
*Ha Ha Lame Craigslist Crew Posts
*The Only Work I Land is From Craigslist Crew Posts
-by Pete Verrando

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Lectrosonics Venue Field Mod

This 6 channel receiver was originally conceived as a single-space rackmount device. Lectro then quickly morphed it into a box for field use, essentially by folding the ‘wings’ underneath the main board. The resulting lunch-box affair was neat-o, but still a little bulky for real field in-the-bag use.  I’ve always looked at this product with an eye towards sizing it down, and I finally squeezed the project in this week. Primarily,  I re-designed the NP-1 battery receptacle to save a 1/2 inch off the height of the box:

The above photos show the size savings after the mod. I also re-positioned the LCD and shaved a 1/4 inch off the top of the faceplate. Also, the antenna inputs are re-routed to the front of the cabinet. Now it can ride bag-style with some much needed space savings. Still too big for run-n-gun bag, 6 individual receivers will still occupy about half the space. Fun project, though.
-by Pete Verrando

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Block 21’s Up For Grabs?

Good Ol’ Block 21…

I follow the used equipment market pretty closely. I’ve noticed the past 3 months or so a glut of block 21 wireless being put up for sale. It could be that folks are just upgrading to newer gear. But I wonder if the motivation could be based on more RF spray issues on the lower blocks. And, the crowding of dual receivers into bags with digital recorders, high output IFB and hop transmitters, wifi devices, smartphones and ipads.

I know there’s more intelligent (& cheaper/lighter) ways of dealing with stray RF than throwing more splitters, combiners, sharkfins and preamplifiers into your rig. In doing so, you are essentially re-designing the front-ends of receivers that have already been very carefully designed. But this seems to be the popular trend, based on general lack of understanding, and I’m sure the equipment vendors don’t mind at all. Of course, I’m often wrong, but certainly never in doubt.

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First adopters, first responders

The Zaxcom Nomad one of the latest devices offered for production sound mixers. It offers multi track recording and mixing, in about the same footprint as a traditional 4 or 5 channel mixer. It is not a collection of afterthoughts, like the Sound Devices 788T/CL8. Nevertheless, it is new, and does not have many hours racked up in the field. Its also a complex device, and new-gear bugaboos are inevitable.

The Zaxcom Nomad

Following a popular sound mixer discussion group, a few reactions become evident.
1. Many newer sound guys who’ve had a mixer-only package are upgrading to this device.
2. There’s still a few tweaks and quirks in the device that are being discovered while on the job.
3. Those who have problems quickly detail their production horror story on the discussion group.
4. The good or uneventful experiences go un-documented. 

I’ve never been a “first adopter.” Why would anyone bring a 1st-generation device, right out of the box, to a paying client’s job? The producer is not paying me to experiment with new gear. My gigs are not beta-test sites for new equipment.   Granted, equipment issues happen on the job, even with time-proven gear. That’s why its important to have an intimate knowlege of how your gear works, and even some ability to fix it. Which I do. Also back-up gear is important to bring along if ever things get really nasty.

Back when DAT became the standard recording device, many mixers continued to roll their analog Nagras as a backup. Two recorders on the cart. It was cumbersome, but the peace of mind of having a backup was sublime. Those DAT machines were quirky animals, so much as an errant speck of dust could shut them down. When they were finally obsolete, we sound mixers built a huge bonfire and threw all our DAT machines on it. Not really. But I still have my DAT machine, so if you ever want to have a bonfire, I will be the first to throw mine on.

There will never be a Nagra bonfire, because they are just too beautiful a machine to trash.  As a hobby,  I restore and sell Nagras to audiophiles.  Nagras are the ultimate refinement of the analog recording medium.

So, if your soundman comes to the job boasting of a new piece of gear, raise an eyebrow. Make sure your production won’t be featured as the next dirty-laundry story on a popular sound mixer discussion group.

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