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The Documentary Sound Guy

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    British Columbia, Canada
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    I am a location sound recordist in B.C., Canada. I specialize in sound for documentaries.

    I’ve been recording sound professionally since 2006. I’ve worked on everything from giant Hollywood blockbusters to your brother’s neighbour’s short student film, and my favourite is documentary. There is nothing else I’d rather do.

    I’ve hiked half a day to a pristine alpine meadow for a shoot. I’ve stood waist deep in the ocean waves to record dialogue in a kayak. I’ve plugged in to helicopter comms at an active heli-logging operation. I’ve recorded a daredevil waterskiier as he skied on and off the shore of the Squamish river. I love documentary because it takes me places that normal people don’t go.
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  1. I can get that kind of coverage through Front Row Insurance, but I think they have a couple US offices. Not sure if they offer the same package in the US. The product they sell comes from "St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company of Canada (Travelers)", so you might also try contacting St. Paul's directly and ask who sells those policies in your area. My main gripe is they require proof of forced entry for theft form a vehicle, so more modern electronic types of car theft aren't covered.
  2. Oh, hey ... it's really nice to see a manufacturer supporting JW in this way. I will admit, I tuned out this post (precisely because it looked like an ad) until Jeff posted here. I have no problem with paid ads, properly labelled, though I'd imagine I'll continue to tune out obvious ads in the future. I didn't realize Doc Justice was related to Halter Technical, so it's nice to have a face for that company. I've appreciated his presence here, and now that I know about the connection, I think I will take HT more seriously if and when I do end up in the market for something they make. Having a human presence and being able to talk to manufacturers directly about their products is a big deal to me.
  3. "Caught up" isn't really specific enough. I think there's a wide range of equipment that can do the job these days, including some of the prosumer stuff (Deity Theos looks quite competitive and fully featured ... I was able to see it in person, but I haven't used it in production). And, as others are pointing out, 20-year-old Lectro kit is viable too. So, for me, it comes down to ecosystem, support, reliability, brand trust, and perhaps some of the odd-ball features that set them apart. Want recording and Tx? Zaxcom. Wide compatibility and availability of rental stock? Lectro. Cheap? Sennheiser Evolution. Range & lots of transmitters? Wisycom. Integration with Sound Devices? A20s. Plus, Sony, Shure, and Sennheiser's "pro" wireless. Those are the "pro" options ... I don't know the prosumer market as well, but there's no shortage of off-brand sub-$500 options out there. Audio quality has gotten really good because you can basically buy it in chip form these days. Wireless is also very close to being a chip you can buy if it isn't already. And while there are certainly some terrible Chinese knock-offs out there, there's also plenty of Chinese brands with high quality engineering that we've never heard of. Chinese manufacturers own electronic engineering these days; the only reason we keep buying the same old brands is because they don't own the sales and marketing side, especially in the all-important US market. I'd be willing to bet there's low-end equipment out there that is perfectly capable ... but I'll keep buying the high end stuff as long as my rental rates can justify it because I know it and trust it.
  4. Technically the smallest is probably a boom transmitter that also records (e.g. European A20mini, Zaxcom ZMT4, Deity Theos), the headphone output could be a beltpack receiver. Jam the transmitter from camera. Adjust gain directly on the Tx as needed. But, maybe that isn't exactly what you are looking for. There's a certain amount of showmanship involved with doing sound on those big commercials. Showing up with a minimal kit might be convenient for you, but the agency that is making the commercial is running a horse and pony show that is intended to convince their client (the big box store) that they are getting good value for the often-exorbitant amount of money they are being charged for the ad campaign. The agency might prefer that you show up with equipment that is big and expensive-looking, even if it's unnecessary. A commercial might capture "nat sound" with a two-person team just to keep up appearances. These commercials also typically have very high IFB requirements: At least a dozen, sometimes as many as 30. I hope you've asked what they need in that department. If you are working directly for the big box with no agency involved, that is probably a different (much smaller scale) situation. But it's worthwhile keeping in mind that appearances matter in the commercial world if you haven't considered that aspect of things.
  5. 30 talent is a lot! Maybe a more experienced reality mixer will chime in with a better idea, but my starting point (really, the only gear I know can handle it) would be Zaxcom wireless + URX50 IFBs. You can program frequency presets for all the wireless channels, and producers can choose the presets they want to listen in on. If you name the transmitters appropriately, they'll be able to identify which preset is which. You'll also probably want a GUI Bridge and some form of Zaxnet for remote configuration ... 30 talent + IFBs is way more than you want to manage one-by-one. I suspect it may be normal to hire a second mixer to do manage specific producer mixes (necessary if the producers need to listen to more than one channel at the same time), but you could also potentially do it with submixes and an additional transmitter at your cart for each submix. It sounds like a huge job! I hope you find the help you need.
  6. It's slow where I am. The strikes didn't help, but I think the real reason is the streaming market has crashed and cable is dying. Netflix et al have been spending beyond their means to try and gain market share since at least 2015, and that all stopped with the strike. Much of it hasn't come back. Just before the strikes started, CW cancelled about a dozen series that shot here, many of which were quite high profile (Riverdale, Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, etc.). Only CW knows for sure why they were canned, but my guess is they couldn't afford the production costs of so many big shows. It's always been a boom and bust industry ... and we just had a boom from 2015-2020.
  7. Live sound is its own beast for sure. I think if I was in your position, I'd see if the client would hire a front of house engineer to handle that side of it, and I would just focus on the record track. This is the proper workflow IMO. There's a lot to think about if you are already handling a broadcast mix. I'm not much more experienced than you, so hopefully this is actually helpful, but off the top of my head, here's some additional equipment / things to consider: 31-band EQ to ring-out the room, and enough time in sound check with no one else in the room to properly ring out the room for feedback. If possible, find a way to practice this process so you aren't doing it for the first time on the day. Single-purpose "feedback killer" on the live outputs (There are boxes that do this, I don't know much about them other than that they exist). Consider using an automixer (probably Dugan) that can automatically keep unused channels down for speakers who aren't talking (this will help with bleed and also very good for maximizing signal to noise for feedback purposes). At the very least, bring unused faders down a bit if you can predict who is speaking and when. Keep monitors at the front of the stage, facing away from the panelists / performers (you already know this). If it's a large discussion and the channel count gets high, a headset (to bring the mic closer to the source) or a cardioid lav will both improve SNR and therefore gain-before-feedback.
  8. If the hall and speakers are set up correctly, it should be possible, but you are right that chest-placed lavs aren't always easy to control. You don't say how much experience with live sound you have ... can I assume you already the basics under control? i.e. do you need to hear about speaker placement and ringing out the room?
  9. Yup, I found Canare L-4E3-2P very hard to source. I don't think it gets used much. I think the Cordial will be a pain to work with on a boom pole because of its shape; if you only need a 3m run, I think you have lots of options. I think I'd try in the Mogami first if I were in your shoes.
  10. Yes, it was pretty insignificant. I had no issues in day-to-day use. I have no satisfactory explanation. I wish I could do more testing, but my stereo kit was stolen last year, so I don't have the cables any more. I would imagine there would be more significant differences on longer cable runs.
  11. Most of the commercial cables I've seen seem to use regular Starquad. I've built stereo cables with Canare L-4E5C and also generic 4-conductor (I believe some kind of Denko cable ... it had silver insulation, and was stiff and slippery compared to L-4E5C). I also built a cable using Canare L-4E3-2P, which is 2ch Starquad. This was very thick but surprisingly flexible. Getting it to fit in a regular XLR headshell was tough ... I recall having to modify it a bit. I tested cross-talk with all three cables, and none seemed to perform better than any of the others. All three had cross-talk in the -80 to -90dB range if I recall, though I'm going from memory right now. All were 25' lengths (which is as long as I need for my boom). I'm sure differences would show up at longer cable lengths, but for my purposes, it didn't seem to matter too much.
  12. My numbers come directly from Schoeps and Zaxcom, because that is the equipment you say you want to use. Why are you so hung up on the MZD8000? If you want to use that ... buy a used one and do it that way. But don't equate it to the CMD42, which has published specs. Yes, SuperCMIT uses more power. 170mA according to Schoeps. It has a second capsule and a whole bunch more DSP, so no surprise there. And the MZD8000 is rated at 160mA, so on paper the CMD42 will be better than both. But all three are power hogs compared to analogue. Yes, I'm using AAs with the 745. So what? Battery life will be drop commensurately no matter how it is powered.
  13. Maybe "digital" doesn't, but the CMD42 does. The CMD42 manual specifically warns about it, and the published specs reflect that. As does my experience with the SuperCMIT ... it cuts battery life on the TRX745 by a bit more than a third. As for whether it's worth it ... that's subjective ... I don't think it is. And I think it does matter in the recorder. Zaxcom specs the Nova at 1A @ 12V with 8 channels of Rx, which is 12W. The MRX414 modules each consume 300mA @ 13V, or 3.9W each. That means the recorder itself consumes 12 - (2 x 3.9) = 4.2W on its own. That means a CMD42 will increase the power consumption of the Nova by almost 30%, whereas a CMC6 will increase it by less than 5%. I agree, let's wait for real world performance tests, but, on paper, the CMD42 will noticeably decrease battery life however it is powered.
  14. Yup. And the CMC6 is 4mA @ 48V. Which is 6.25x less power than AES42, not 3x more. Like I said, analogue phantom uses way less power.
  15. I agree, I don't like the CMIT (or any shotgun) indoors. SuperCMIT sounds even worse. I guess if you are willing to forego using any shotgun mics, your plan makes more sense. That's not a limitation I'd consider ... I need the additional reach of a shotgun mic in outdoor situations.
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