'Treme'

Jul 12, 2010 2:30 PM, By Blair Jackson

POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS GROOVES IN HBO SERIES

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The production recording is a little different than on most shows, in part because a critical component is using a 5.1 mic—in addition to the usual booms and RFs—to capture more dimensional room and street ambience. “We want it to sound like you’re there in those spaces,” Kris says. After first trying out an Ambisonic-style TetraMic, which was ultimately rejected because “you needed to post-process the tracks, so that created a hiccup in our workflow chain,” the team settled on a DPA 5100, recording five surround tracks, but not the sub-channel. (Read the review on the 5100 from last month’s issue.)

“It took us a couple of episodes to get on the same page as to what we were doing,” Kris notes, “because at first Bruce would record this DPA for the first take or two, and think, ‘Great, you’ve got your 5.1 recording.’ But when you keep shooting additional takes, when we cut to those other takes we need to have the 5-channel signal from that take and not from the first couple. So we went back to the drawing board, and said, ‘Okay, if we’re going to do this, no matter where the camera is, that microphone has to be in the same position for every angle that they shoot so we can get a consistent 5-channel bed for the whole scene.”

Supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Andy Kris

Supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Andy Kris

One of the other challenges of using the 5.1 mic is, Litecky says, “Where do you put a 5.1 mic in a small bar? Because we didn’t want to see it all the time—although if you don’t know what it looks like, chances are you wouldn’t recognize it as a microphone. [It looks a little like bicycle seat.] In a lot of the venues where there was music, there were already all sorts of things hanging around on ceilings. Plus, they put lights up there and the mic would sort of disappear. Then we’d tape off the connectors and hide the cable; try to dress it up.”

Litecky’s main rig includes two Aaton Cantar digital 8-track recorders (an X-1 and an X-2)—one serves as the more traditional production recording rig, accommodating the booms (usually two per scene), RFs and plant mics; the other devotes five channels to the DPA surround mic, with the remainder for spot iso tracks, which could include a direct input from an instrument. “I like almost everything about the Cantars,” Litecky says. “J.P. Beauviala, who’s the head of the company, had worked with Nagra, and this machine evolves some of the features of the Nagra, with a selector on the front that extends the functions, so from an ergonomic standpoint it’s a very interesting machine. It has a wonderful feel to it. The Cantar also has five excellent microphone preamps and that was one of the reasons to use it for the 5.1.”

Occasional scenes also called for additional recorders—a Sound Devices 744 provided a few more tracks and Litecky used a Zoom stereo recorder from time to time to fill in some ambience on complicated street scenes.

Depending on the scene, mics might include Schoeps, Neumann or Sennheiser shotguns: “I recorded a lot of the production tracks for the music with mid-side: a stereo microphone, but it uses a directional microphone for the front and a figure-8 for the side, and it goes through a matrix and you combine the left side and right side and it makes stereo out of it. The advantage for post-production is you can dial in the width of the stereo field. I know Andy liked the mid-side because he was able to dial in, listen to a space in its simplest stereo form and then add additional elements.”

Typrically, Litecky would also employ five or six radio mics in most scenes, choosing a Sanken COS11D-PT low-gain “red dot” model: “They allow me to handle a little more sound pressure level from the music and not hit the limiter so hard,” he says. “It was difficult to set the trim on my radios so they would do a good job for the music, yet not be too noisy for the quiet dialog.”

His main mixer is a Cooper 208, “and then I also have a Cooper 306 for some of the big music scenes. We would use the mixer as a mic preamp to drive the additional channels for the Cantar.”






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