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gsbischoff

How did they capture this audio? [BBC 1979]

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Hello jwsound! First off, I'm not too sure which board this should go in... it is a question about technique -- but the answer is probably one or two types of equipment!

 

So, anyone who is knowledgeable about audio technique or equipment, especially around the late 70s, this question is for you!

 

I have a huge interest in location sound and the techniques used in location sound from back then, I have a question which I'm wondering if any of you can give insight into with your experience. The productions which achieve that high quality location sound really impress me, yet finding information on how is difficult so I wonder if you could help:

 

It's this particularly interesting video from the BBC from 1979:
Tomorrow's World: Mobile Phone 13 September 1979 - BBC

 

 

In it, the presenter is shown moving around a lot, even into a vehicle and closing the door while their voice is being picked up, and then moving far from the camera at the end. What sort of solution would they have for this around then? The latter situation seems difficult to do with a shotgun and the former seems impossible.

 

In more detail, with specific concerns:

  • Walking from the door, to the vehicle, and shutting the door behind him in a wide shot (can't keep a consistent level from a shotgun with that?)
  • Walking (from afar) towards and away from the gate, while the sound of his voice is being picked up clearly and consistently (also too wide for a shotgun?)

 

However, I can't spot a lavalier in these shots as they're too far to see up to his tie (where they always mount them). Mind you, for this program, I see they wear lavs 99% of the time in studio work (visible on their ties) and whenever they're on location it's around 10% of the time, so I can see they take them out with them, but they probably stick to shotguns for location work. Again, though, these don't seem very doable with a shotgun!

 

It's definitely not coming from the phone because that's clearly been bandlimited for transmission.

 

Lastly, something to note: in the two shots we can very clearly hear the ambient noises in the car (engine, seat, door), and for the other shot the sound of his shoes on the ground and them bending as he walks, as well as the birds! (they even got the bird while he was sitting, shouldn't shotguns not do that?)

 

So... how might they have pulled these off so well? For the ambiance at least they may have gone to great lengths for foley, maybe... unless there was a way they got that too. But the main question is capturing the voice at those distances.

 

Did they have good lavs back then? And were they likely using any sort of portable recorders you could stash away on-person, or even portable transmitters?

Thank you in advance for your input!

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One creative possibility for the time - Sony ECM 50 constructed into the mock telephone mouthpiece feeding a Nagra SNN? And no doubt a 415 or 815 alongside.

 

But I really have no idea. Although 'reportage' it is certainly constructed as a short drama and I see no conflict of interest in coming up with a 'drama solution' if indeed that's what they've done?

 

Quite possibly though just nicely choreographed booms and plants?

 

Jez

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2 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

One creative possibility for the time - Sony ECM 50 constructed into the mock telephone mouthpiece feeding a Nagra SNN? And no doubt a 415 or 815 alongside.

 

But I really have no idea. Although 'reportage' it is certainly constructed as a short drama and I see no conflict of interest in coming up with a 'drama solution' if indeed that's what they've done?

 

Quite possibly though just nicely choreographed booms and plants?

 

Jez

Oh, that is very creative! I did imagine they could have done something like that but I'm guessing they didn't because: they wouldn't be allowed to modify the telephone they'd been given and they probably wouldn't go to such lengths to hide a microphone when they hadn't before with their lavs in studio. Thanks for the thought though!

 

1 hour ago, Philip Perkins said:

Rehearsed, perfected, recorded by professionals with wardrobe dept support, then cleaned up in post in fine style.

 

13 minutes ago, tourtelot said:

You mean, the way it is supposed to be done?  Oh wait, that's just old-man talk. :)

 

D.

No doubt! But from the point of view of an outsider, it really makes me wonder the specific 'hows'!

10 minutes ago, Philip Perkins said:

Yeah--this clips sounds very good and that show was nothing special: just small news-feature-magazine show segment, not a movie or episodic. 

I like it. The style of it is really interesting to me, even if commonplace at the time. Well put-together reportage, the highlight on technology where you get to see, if you look at old clips, early incarnation of old technology. Presentations like this are helpful when trying to get a feel for what the technology was at as I like to do.

 

For example, they had some pieces on computers at the time and I've seen other videos too -- I never imagined all the purpose-built systems and the widespread of some early computers!

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Common for BBC shows at the time, NOT common for USA TV for that time (I was there).   Don't be too sure that they didn't cheat a bit and fly in wild tracks for things like the telephone voice, the reporter's voice when he jumps into the van and so on.  This sort of practice was very common at the time, there wasn't the current onus to get everything in real time.

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GS, The audio is out of sync, adr? You mentioned how they did it when he walked to the van, we don't see his mouth, so we don't know how that was done, in other words it could have been done at a different time since we're not looking at his mouth. For the outside shots, I could do that with an 816. That doesn't seem too hard. In the closing shot when he's walking away from us, again we don't see his mouth. What do you think?

Sincerely, Martin

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Firstly, I admit I haven't watched the entire clip but was happy to post - and am happy to continue to do so until an older Brittan than myself chirps in with real knowledge!

 

re the adr - or sync- I thought maybe that was just stretching out the audio from beyond the take to make it match in style/timbre

 

Phil's first comment - what we all strive for (and perhaps started out expecting)

 

Maybe I got it wrong with the telephone? I expected that was part of a joke then we'd see a "mobile"? OK I will watch the rest - but I grew up with this (along with The Adventure Game and The Great Egg Race to name but two) so this was normal 70s quality for me!

 

J

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Ha - ten minutes later -  I guess I'm with Phil on this one - pretty much just rehearsed and well recorded. There's certainly to my ears/eyes what we call "Spots" and what the Yanks refer to as "Jack Foleys" in the file rummaging. That door too. The interior van is not sync. What is impressive is the very smooth transition in voice quality whilst keeping some localising difference yet not breaking the flow, especially for the "Looping"

 

My favourite part has to be the end walk away though.

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Lav -- likely under the tie.  Pay close attention to how his voice changes when he tilts his head up or down.

 

For the period, really well done -- of course, that doesn't surprise me with the BBC.

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38 minutes ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

Ha - ten minutes later -  I guess I'm with Phil on this one - pretty much just rehearsed and well recorded. There's certainly to my ears/eyes what we call "Spots" and what the Yanks refer to as "Jack Foleys" in the file rummaging. That door too. The interior van is not sync. What is impressive is the very smooth transition in voice quality whilst keeping some localising difference yet not breaking the flow, especially for the "Looping"

 

My favourite part has to be the end walk away though.

And that's what's getting me! It seems too well mixed for me to think they had done foley. The audio quality just doesn't change suddenly. And the voice seems to not have that "in a box" sound of ADR.

35 minutes ago, John Blankenship said:

Lav under the tie.  Pay close attention to how his voice changes when he tilts his head up or down.

 

For the period, really well done -- of course, that doesn't surprise me with the BBC.

Could it be? I should look again. The head tilting thing makes sense. However, I have one counter to that and it's that in all of their studio work they clearly show their lavs on their tie. Why would they go to lengths to hide it when they're out and about? (attached is a screenshot of an example from another episode)

 

edit: also I can point to this episode where we can see clearly under his tie, no lav. But that seems easy with a boom in that situation.

8 hours ago, MartinTheMixer said:

GS, The audio is out of sync, adr? You mentioned how they did it when he walked to the van, we don't see his mouth, so we don't know how that was done, in other words it could have been done at a different time since we're not looking at his mouth. For the outside shots, I could do that with an 816. That doesn't seem too hard. In the closing shot when he's walking away from us, again we don't see his mouth. What do you think?

Sincerely, Martin

Really? From where, in the van? That's interesting, I never figured that'd be possible. But, to me, the audio doesn't seem out of sync, it just seems very slightly delayed, uniformly.

 

8 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Common for BBC shows at the time, NOT common for USA TV for that time (I was there).   Don't be too sure that they didn't cheat a bit and fly in wild tracks for things like the telephone voice, the reporter's voice when he jumps into the van and so on.  This sort of practice was very common at the time, there wasn't the current onus to get everything in real time.

Did pop in my mind, but I still wanted to get the opinion of this forum. I'd just found it and the people on here are very knowledgeable! Perfect place for such a question, in my opinion.

 

----------

 

One thing I've noticed is that "blooper" at the end. It shows them slating the shot, we can hear ambiance (birds), and we can hear the way the audio from the phone is picked up, presumably, by the boom mic. I'm not specifying shotgun because, again, how would we have that ambiance?

 

That is another one of the shots that don't add up. If it's a 'blooper', would they soup it up like the rest of the episode? (i.e. are we hearing just the production audio there?) Then what mic is this? Again, we can hear ambiance. Cardiod, hypercardiod, lav? getting into fun specific details there

 

If then, does that change the situation if it were true that they were getting those results from production audio? (about whether you think it's ADR or not?)

 

Thank you all for responding to my barrage of questions!

lav mic TOMORROWS WORLD michael rodd_r.png

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I was using Audio Ltd radio mike in 1967 and later bought 3

By 1969 TRAM personal mikes had been introduced by Ted Rapp and I feel

that these were used on David Attenborough documentaries amazing us all how good

the sound was even in wide shots.

So in 1979 a UHF Audio Ltd radio mike plus a TRAM is my guess!

 

mike

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Agree Philip!

 

Recorded many features and dramas with them until the mid 90's

and I still use many Sonotrims for most applications

 

Joe the sound guy at the London Palladium promoted Audio radio mikes

 

mike

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23 hours ago, mikewest said:

I was using Audio Ltd radio mike in 1967 and later bought 3

By 1969 TRAM personal mikes had been introduced by Ted Rapp and I feel

that these were used on David Attenborough documentaries amazing us all how good

the sound was even in wide shots.

So in 1979 a UHF Audio Ltd radio mike plus a TRAM is my guess!

 

mike

Oh neat! Uh, so did Audio Ltd make the transmitters and TRAM the mics? What did they have in their line around then?

 

The 'history' of personal mics and their quality really interests me when I've seen examples like this.

13 hours ago, James Bull said:

What gets me is the number of people laughing in the blooper - how many people were there on that crew compared to a similar shoot today!

 

James

Yeah, seems like at least 4-5 whereas you'd think it would be half that!

 

But, since determining this is a bit tricky I think I should shift the question a bit, and focus on questions about ambiance. The prod audio that we hear in that blooper doesn't sound very directional like a shotgun (but still a bit directional). And we've seen that, assuming they aren't ADR + foley, the two other scenes sound very non directional (i.e. picking up ambient sounds).

 

The question there is... do lavs pick up ambiance like that? Or does this narrow it down now to non-personal mics like a cardiod, etc?

 

Preemptively, yes, that this is so confusing to me is a testament to how well they did in whatever technique(s) they used! (not like I'm a standard for knowledge of these thing though, that is the reason I'm here!)

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Actually by 1979 the BBC used wireless quite a bit.   The chances are very good that a Micron Wireless was used on this shoot since that is predominately what the BBC used in 1979.  The lav was most likely an ECM 50.

 

Since you are interested in technology from that era:

*Micron was founded by a former BBC engineer (Neville Druce) and they came out with their first wireless system in the early 1970’s.  

 

*This shoot could have been done by BBC TFS (Television Film Studios).  Micron designed special equipment specifically for BBC TFS.  These wireless systems were different in that they were higher power and they had their own frequencies.  This special design made it more practical to come out of a building and go into van.


*This was probably not a diversity system.  However the BBC did a lot of research into diversity at that time.  They researched diversity up to 4 channels and found dual  channel diversity to be most effective for the money.

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And, on this side of the pond, the FCC hadn't yet taken large portions of the public airways from the public and sold them to commercial interests so they can sell the use of those public airways to the public.

 

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22 hours ago, Laurie Webb said:


Actually by 1979 the BBC used wireless quite a bit.   The chances are very good that a Micron Wireless was used on this shoot since that is predominately what the BBC used in 1979.  The lav was most likely an ECM 50.

 

Since you are interested in technology from that era:

*Micron was founded by a former BBC engineer (Neville Druce) and they came out with their first wireless system in the early 1970’s.  

 

*This shoot could have been done by BBC TFS (Television Film Studios).  Micron designed special equipment specifically for BBC TFS.  These wireless systems were different in that they were higher power and they had their own frequencies.  This special design made it more practical to come out of a building and go into van.


*This was probably not a diversity system.  However the BBC did a lot of research into diversity at that time.  They researched diversity up to 4 channels and found dual  channel diversity to be most effective for the money.

Oh that's very interesting! Thank you for your information! In fact, looking at some studio examples I have, they quite clearly are using those Sony lavs.

 

Yes this whole subject is very interesting to me. Really cool how they had equipment that came from on who had worked with them. Probably was instrumental in tackling the problems ahead of time by someone who may have had that experience. Were other systems of the time finnicky though? I.e. were their signals easily blocked by obstacles and didn't go very far?

 

It's great to know what system they had likely used then, but then there's just two questions left: why did they hide it in those outdoor shots? (the two that were perhaps not done with a shotgun mic) And would the lav mics pick up ambiance like we hear in those two examples?

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Sorry I have taken so long to answer but I wanted to verify some of the information.  I’m not sure if I can totally answer your questions but I will I’ll try.

 

The microphone was an omni-directional so it would have probably picked up the ambiance sounds.

  

As for “finicky”, I cannot answer for other systems available at the time since we are most familiar with Micron.  Wireless systems at the time suffered due to lack of diversity and companding.  Micron receivers were sensitive with a very good noise floor which would have helped with these short comings.  

 

Most wireless systems transmitted at 50 mW and had to deal with England’s restrictions on wireless frequencies (only 4 frequencies were legal at the time).  This caused problems with large productions & theatre.  When Micron designed the wireless for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s show "Starlight Express”,  they had to design 21 channels for actors on roller-skates who were moving around the theatre.  Obviously they had to get very creative to do this.

 

With that being said, TFS was the exception.  They transmitted at about 100 mW and had their own frequencies to work with. 

 

Hope that helps :)

 

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It seems like they are definitely recording a separate feed of the wireless phone, don't you think? Those hard wave blips in the blooper scene wouldn't be picked up that way via microphone. 

 

The hallway walk n talk sounds like a boom to me. 

At 0:50 it sounds like what could be wireless RF clicking due to reception loss after he gets in the car (in the case that they weren't overdubbing his audio). Though, I'm not familiar with older wireless systems and don't know what typical dropouts sounded like. 

 

Overall the audio is very consistent, especially at the end. The hardest scenes for me to figure out are the book shelf filing bit and near the end when is walking up the path facing camera. We can hear his audio isn't 'brought up' until a couple seconds in. ie. 4:34 "the only..." To me it sounds like a boom lacking presence, before fading up the lav. 

 

It doesn't seem like the lav mic is hidden in the phone because of the way he is waving it around during the above shot^ (4:30). 

 

My 2 cents... Cool clip though. 

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