Sound Devices Captures Reality TV

LOS ANGELES—As a production sound mixer and audio supervisor, I’m involved in the production process from the early planning stages through delivery to post. Since I—along with my company Audio Justice—specialize in house-reality builds, hidden camera, and competition shows, I’m often faced with a huge number of microphones and sound sources to record. Managing these shows requires reliable equipment, efficient workflows, and utilizing the best technology offered on the market. Sound Devices’ 970 audio recorder checks every box and is a staple on every set I work on.

Nathaniel ‘Doc Justice’ Barrow using Sound Devices’ 970 audio recorder

“Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge,” a weekly reality show that airs on the CMT network, consists of eight contestants and Austin, a former pro wrestler, all of whom are typically outfitted with Lectrosonics transmitters and Sanken or Countryman lav microphones. In addition to these nine audio sources, plant microphones and wireless booms are positioned around the set to capture all critical audio. This includes dialogue, footsteps, splashes, bangs, crashes, and any sound that a particular challenge may create. It all adds up to a lot of tracks and a lot of metadata. Using Sound Devices 970’s built-in Dante network capabilities, I’m can easily route and label all of my tracks.

The majority of the shows I work on have a centralized control room, plus ENG mixers who are mixing specific scenes or to assigned cameras; such is the case on “Broken Skull Challenge.” I employ the 970 as the main multitrack recorder, while the ENG mixers use Sound Devices 664 mixer/recorders to record camera-focused audio. The 970 works in conjunction with the Yamaha QL1 digital mixing console, which allows for 32 tracks of Dante directly from the console. Using the 970 with the QL1 means a single CAT5 cable sends and receives all of my audio back and forth with no issues, making it easier to directly handle all of my audio sources and mix buses.

Since the 970 has its own delay and gain compensation for each channel, I can utilize either the Dante publishing or the analog audio outputs to route audio to other sources. With these features, I’ve been able to match the delay of the video microwave transmitters from the 970 back to the Yamaha QL1.

The 970 also offers a lot more flexibility with my deliverables. It allows me to record directly to a CF card, and back up that audio to an SSD. This way I can deliver the CF card right to post and keep the SSD backup for myself. Recording to all solid-state media means I no longer have to deal with the inconsistencies and unreliability of spinning hard drives, and I feel much more comfortable delivering to post. Metadata management is paramount, and having structured and specific sound reports included directly on the media means post has a clear roadmap of the day’s audio.

The combination of the 970 and QL1 has transformed my job. Dante networking has become a big part of life on set, and 970 as a dedicated audio recorder does a great job of handling it. I put a lot of trust in my equipment, and I know the 970 does its job and does it well every time.

Doc Justice owns Audio Justice, Inc., a sound services company in Los Angeles. He can be reached

For more information, visitwww.sounddevices.comor call 608-524-0625.