As an audio supervisor, I've come to understand the pros and cons of sound bags versus cart systems very well. So when I had the chance to get the best of both worlds with Zaxcom's Deva Fusion portable digital audio recorder/mixer, I jumped at the opportunity to put it to the test on the E! reality series "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood."
Because of the nature of reality television, in which dialogue and environment are frequently changing, distributed audio systems have long been the dominant approach to recording audio. This involves multiple bag mixers with each sending two audio channels to their associated cameras. This provides maximum mobility, but requires a lot of equipment. And having only two mixdown channels per camera can prove limiting in post production.
The Zaxcom Fusion solid-state mixer recorder
On the flip side, a cart-based audio system allows for multitrack recording where eight to 12 tracks can be mixed together. While this provides a lot of functionality, the bulk, logistics, weight, heat and battery drain make it impractical for keeping up with the talent. In "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood," it's usually necessary to be in a "run-and-gun" scenario, following an entire family and friends, so, we frequently are using all eight channels of audio.
We also have an operator who keeps track of all the lav radio mics and the production team IFBs as well as mixes on a traditional single-camera bag mixer for situations where some cast members will leave the house. Without a script, we're always surprised with the flow and changes to the program, and we must instantly adjust to them.
I'm an equipment geek, so I'm constantly on the lookout for gear that will allow me to do my job better. The Zaxcom Fusion system definitely answers the call. Most importantly, it's a solid-state recorder. This is important because I'm running around a lot during the show and didn't want a hard disk recorder that could be susceptible to g-forces, heat and shock. However, unlike most solid-state recorders, the Fusion is small enough for use in a bag and gives me a full eight channels of discreet digital audio, recorded to two Compact Flash cards for redundancy. It's also easier on batteries than hard disk recorders. Metadata is recorded direct to the cards, allowing me to name each channel with the talent's name, date of shoot, timecode, and scene notes. It even generates an Excel spreadsheet report with the metadata listed.
DUAL IFB FEEDS
The Fusion also supports two IFB feeds, which allows me to feed the audio to the story producers, so that they can follow the dynamic multiple storylines and instruct me to change the IFB mixes on the fly. The quality of the audio is amazing and the Fusion's reliability is extremely impressive. I've used it daily since April to record hundreds of files, and have only lost a portion of one file—and even then, I consider it my own fault.
Ultimately, the Fusion puts you on a higher level. I've had more control over what is being recorded and feel it has really improved the overall quality of the show.
For additional information, contact Zaxcom Inc. at 973-835-5000 or visit www.zaxcom.com.