AFTRS Soundbyte – Sound for Lifestyle and Reality TV

I went and checked out the Soundbyte session at AFTRS yesterday that was presented by the ASSG (Australian Screen Sound Guild). These events are a great opportunity for audio professionals in the film and media industry to share information. Last night’s presentation was from a panel of 4 people involved with some stage of the sound process from production through to mix.

The session was really interesting, with almost as much great information coming from a few very experienced audience members as from the panel members. There were no huge surprises in the presentation, although it is always great to hear other people are doing in terms of workflow etc. The most interesting part for me was hearing about the audio setup for Survivor. A student asked me about how they set this up just last week, and now I can give him some kind of decent response…

For challenges and tribal council, the sound crew comprises 5 people – they may or may not have official titles, but you could consider them to be the equivalent of 1 x production sound mixer, 1 x sound utility, and 3 x boom operators. They would usually be running 18 wireless lavs for the contestants, each being recorded as ISO’s across 3 x Sound Devices 788’s. Lavs, at least for the water challenges, are Countryman B6’s with Lectrosonics MM transmitters. Both the lavs and transmitters offer at least some sort of water resistance or water proofing. Mics are generally placed in the buffs (neckerchief) on the guys at least, with the transmitter tucked in the back of the buff. On females mics would be placed in the buffs as on the males, or else be placed more in the cleavage area. The crew also run a few boom mics, although these generally run straight to an associated camera, from what I could tell, via a 302 and transmitter. The tribal council area is really just a big TV set, and shots are well planned out. There are 3 MKH 416’s as pit plant mics. On challenges there are typically 15 cameras running.

The other side of all this is the “reality” guys. These guys work really hard and are booming all day with MKH 70’s. I’m not sure which series this was exactly, but it was for one of the more tropical ones where they were dealing with really hot temperatures and extremely high humidity. Really tough on both people physically, and the gear. “Pinky” Sener, the location sound guy who was describing this set-up, was quick to point out how professional the crew is – they really have their system down pat.

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