We have been featuring an excellent interactive guide to filmmaking called Project Volare which is a six-week program created by Joel Guelzo & Jonah Guelzo providing a valuable learning resource for up-and-coming filmmakers.
Each week as well as an episode from the film, the Project Volare team are also producing an Inside Volare series providing instruction on directing, writing, sound, and acting. 3 of the 6 tutorials are sound related and the second of these is entitled Equipment Breakdown in which Jonah Guelzo takes time to unpack some more commonly used gear and accessories on set and what role each item plays in the sound mixer's toolkit. So when it's time for you to kit up, you'll no longer be in the dark.
When you’re just getting started into location sound work, often the most challenging thing simply is… where do I start? What gear do I get, what brands should I trust. Should I purchase entry level gear and upgrade as I go? Should I take out a loan and just purchase for the longer term future?
There’s a lot of things one must consider and unfortunately, these are things you’ll simply learn by diving in. However, in my equipment breakdown video, my aim is to at least acclimate you by breaking down some more commonly utilised gear you might find on a small to medium-sized set.
Different location sound mixers have different needs, different tastes, like to travel light, or like to have every available option in their stable. For me, since I’m mainly a post-production sound guy, my focus in terms of location sound has always been to have the main essentials to accommodate most situations I’d find myself in while not having too much gear sitting around unused.
I used to own a large Tascam 8 channel recorder that was an absolute wonderful unit that never once let me down, but felt like an anchor weighing me down when it was anywhere but on a sound cart. I decided to trade in my Tascam HS-P82 for something more manageable and lightweight, sure I downgraded in some ways but upgraded in others when I decided to go with the Zoom F8. For me, the F8 was exactly what I needed. I can get very high-quality recordings while not having to have too expensive of a mixer recorder sitting around very seldom used. Unlike my Tascam where I was constantly worried about not having enough battery life to last me through the day, with the F8 being externally powered via 4 pin Hirose and some Lithium-Ion NP1 batteries, I can go all day powered on without blinking an eye.
The mixer bag I now use is a bag from K-Tek’s Stingray line, which negates the need for a shoulder harness or strap as it can be secured around my waist and allows for quick detachability. It also allows me to boom freely without feeling too encumbered with extra straps tightened around my upper body limiting in some ways my freedoms of movement.
I firmly trust in my K-Tek Boompoles of which I have two… One size for portability and travel, the other for situations where length is needed. Rycote is what I utilise for my shockmounts as well as many of my wind protection options I utilize in low and high wind conditions.
In terms of wireless, in my mind it’s Lectrosonics or bust. Even their now slightly older UCR401 kits still perform flawlessly, are rugged, compact enough for me and were something my wallet could stomach just fine.
When it comes to concealing Lavs, I have many a Rode Lavalier on hand… yes it’s not the creme de la creme of lavalier microphones but they’ve held up just fine for me and have never let me down, and at their price point where I’ve had to at times have quite a number on hand, they’re a little easier to make happen budget wise.
Timecode is a must on anything more than simply a traditional interview. I love using my cost effective and long battery life delivering Tentacle Sync devices. They’re extremely small and lightweight so Camera ops never mind sticking them on their cameras… The battery lasts you a full day and then some so you’re never sweating another thing to have to replace batteries or do a recharge on. And it has a built-in scratch track microphone so even when using with DSLRs, you don’t have to choose between a reference track and only timecode, you can have both for added peace of mind and redundancy.
In the video I talk about all these common facets of a typical location sound kit so check it out and get up to speed with a nice overview that will help you from being in the dark once you’re ready to kit up and call out sound is speed on set.