A while ago, I was hired to work on a commercial for a car company.
It was a strange and complex setup.
Firstly, there would be a moderator, the only one who knows actually what's going on. The rest would be a group of 12 people, randomly picked. They would only know they are being recorded - but not shot.
The venue of the shoot was outdoors on a Sunday. The expectation was not much traffic or people on the roads in that part of town.
Everyone was wired. 13 lavalier microphones and wireless receivers were rigged.
My usual setup is the Aaton Cantar X3 and 6 channels of Audio Ltd wireless in a rack - the RK6. I needed to bring in 7 more wireless.
Additions to the regular setup were:
1 x Lectrosonics Venue receiver rack (6 receivers)
1 x Lectrosonics UCR411A receiver and an SM transmitter
1 x Joeco Blackbox recorder
I wanted to to ensure complete safety in terms of the recording - because the 12 people were actual people and not actors and nothing was scripted. It would be impossible to 'dub' them later... Hence I decided to add a Joeco recorder to my regular cart.
The Joeco Blackbox recorder is a 64 channel recorder with various options for inputs. The one i had was fully analogue inputs in DSub connectors.
Since I wanted to have both the Cantar X3 AND the Joeco recorder to record all sources, i had to do some jugglery.
Audio Ltd main outputs - Microphone Level -> X3
Audio Ltd auxiliary outputs - Line Level -> Joeco
Lectro Venue outputs - X3 - Line Outputs -> Joeco
Lectro 411A output to Sound Devices MixPreD -digital output -> X3 (AES42 input) -> (Line out to Joeco)
Timecode from Cantar X3 -> Tentacle Box -> Joeco Recorder
The Cantar X3 has 8 mic/line inputs and 4 line inputs. Apart from these it also has 4 AES42 inputs (TA3 jacks) and 8 AES inputs on a DSub25. The analogue line outputs are on a DSub25.
Since ALL inputs on the Joeco were DSub25 connectors, getting the Line Outputs from the Cantar X3 to the Joeco was easy - just one standard DSub25 to DSub25 cable.
However the Audio Ltd RK6 rack had a DSub9 connector - offering 6 unbalanced Line outputs. So i had to make a cable with DSub9 on one end and DSub25 on the other end.
One strange thing I did was to use the AES42 input on the Cantar X3 to take the AES digital output from the 13th microphone (going through the SD MixPreD). I could have gone standard AES input - but that meant modifying my current DSsub cable which I had made to take Digital outputs from the Cantar X3. There was no time to do this. The AES42 protocol is actually AES3 BUT with Digital Phantom Powering (DPP) added to this. This is similar to the ubiquitous 48V Phantom Power, but with a big difference in the voltage and power. 48V Phantom is 48V at about 10-12 mA but DPP is 10V at 170mA. Apart from this difference the AES42 signal is essentially an AES3 signal. Therefore the Cantar X3 had no issue taking an AES3 signal from the SD MixPreD and the MixPreD did not get hurt by the DPP either.
So this took care of getting all the sources (wireless receiver outputs) to both recorders.
Apart from this the Director wanted to be able to talk to the Moderator at all times. This was achieved by using a Phonak Invisity in-ear receiver. These are essentially Radio Frequency receivers working at 216 MHz. A Sennheiser hand microphone was plugged into a Sound Devices 302 and the output went to a Comtek M216 transmitter. This was placed right next to the Video Assist that was buried inside a vanity van with two cameras shooting the people on the other side of the road, some 30 feet away. There were other cameras of course - all hidden - some seven of them.
To ensure the two main cameras would have footage that could be easily synced to my audio, I put two Tentacle Sync boxes on the cameras carrying the time code from my Cantar X3 which was made the MASTER time code generator for this project.
Furthermore, one by one all twelve of the participants in this "market research" would get into a car parked beside them with the Moderator and drive away. They would have a conversation that needed to be recorded. For this, I used a pair of DPA 4098 mics which are essentially miniature mics on goosenecks. It was very easy to rig them right next to the gear shift and they sounded very good for both the driver and the co-rider in the front seat. The camera in this case was a GoPro rigged on the windshield. The two DPA 4098 mics went through cables to a Sound Devices 552 placed on the back seat, both mics being fed 48V Phantom.
Since (for once!) only the SOUND DEPARTMENT was visible to the participants and everyone else including the Director had to be hidden at all times, one of my team would go and put the 552 into REC mode before the car took off for a test ride. When it returned we would stop the recording, pull the SD card out and put in a fresh one. The SD card with the recording was brought to me and i would copy it off into two places and then this card would go back into the 552 and get formatted for the next run.
We did three groups of 12 participants in two days.
The result was what I would say a good one - successfully executed.
I decided to write about this project only because it was quite different from the feature film work that I normally do, in terms of technical requirements as well as the format of the whole production. Rigging 12 people who were not actors but actual real people with wireless transmitters and lavaliers was interesting to say the least!