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Old July 2nd, 2011, 09:16 PM   #1
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Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

We've just returned from a shoot at a WW1 cemetery in France. The plan was for the on-screen talent to walk around the cemetery telling the story of the subject soldier. The Germans refused to allow any recovery of dead or wounded which had to remain on the killing ground until they withdrew 9 months later so it's likely that our subject's grave is one of the 600 unnamed graves in the cemetery which stands adjacent to and on the ground over which we now know his platoon attacked.

The shoot was timed for 7.30am on 1st July, 95 years to the minute when the soldier left his trench and became one of 19,000 British volunteer soldiers killed (and 38,000 wounded) that day - the blackest day in British Army history.

Despite years of experience we managed to arrive without the Sennheiser lav mic in the radio bag - the transmitter and receiver were there, just not the mic.

That meant the talent couldn't walk around the cemetery during the shot. The only other mic in the standard camera kit is an AT897 short gun and a U851R/W boundary layer mic which has been adapted for use with the radio transmitter. The boundary layer mic literally saved our day although it meant the talent couldn't move around.

We positioned the mic on the base of the Cross of Remembrance next to which the talent stood for most of the voice recording. The remainder was shot next to an "Unknown" gravestone for which the mic was placed on the earth behind (from the camera position) the gravestone where the talent stood for the commentary before coming to the front and placing some flowers in front of the gravestone.

This wasn't a large cemetery - just 1200 graves in total - and despite the interest in these cemeteries generally and especially around the actual anniversaries, we were able to recce the two days previously and to record for 90 minutes on the day, entirely without interruption. I should add that the day dawned exactly as it had 95 years ago, low morning mist which burned off as the sun rose.

Later that day we recorded the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium using two AT897s, one on the camera, the other wielded by the sound assistant to get constant quality sound from the various music sources (the Belgian Fire Brigade cornetists, a cornet squad from the Sherwood Foresters, a solo violinist and a full size Youth Brass Band from Victoria, NSW).
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 02:01 AM   #2
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Re: Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

At least the shoot was saved, we all have our bad days. I forgot my memory cards on a job, fortunately I did have a 16gb card in my DSLR so that saved the day for me.

Now I have a printed check list which includes mikes, headphones, transmitters, receivers, spare batteries, lens cleaning cloth, filters, back up recorder, tripod plates etc. I tick off every item before going out the studio. I do this and not my assistant. A simple solution which doesn't fail.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 02:11 AM   #3
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Re: Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

Vincent, I'm ashamed to say that we normally go out with three cameras with a radio mic pack in each bag (and two in the third) and rely on each op putting the mic and bits back at the end of the shoot. No 1 camera and bag is "mine" and so the responsibility and blame are mine alone also.

I'm not knocking lists but a system or procedure ought to be less hassle.

BTW, now we switched to EX1R and 64Gb cards at least that's a worry we don't have.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 04:34 AM   #4
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Re: Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

Lists are a pain in the Bxxxxx but they do work.

Haven't tried 64gb cards (yet) but see there are some new High Speed SDHC UHS-1 cards from Panasonic which should be available now. These cards allow data transfer speed of up to 90mbs, compared to 30mbs from other Class 10 cards.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 04:39 AM   #5
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Re: Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

Hi Philip

It's great to know that the boundary mic actually worked on a small surface!! I was under the impression that they only work on large smooth surfaces like tables or walls!! The specs on my mics talk about a minimum surface area of a board around 4' x 4' ..obviously the cross was neither smooth or a large surface area but I'm glad it worked OK.

I must admit that I have been reluctant to use my boundaries for wedding speeches but I did use 'em at one wedding with really nice results...I think I just might try them in the new season on lecterns but also run my normal lav on the 2nd XLR channel and compare the results.

We need to give them more credit. They are actually quite unique little devices!!

Chris
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 04:57 AM   #6
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Re: Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

Chris, the base of the Cross of Remembrance (which is a feature of every or almost every CWGC cemetery) has a two step hexagonal (I think I recall correctly) base and although it wouldn't conform to the 4x4 spec was quite a decent size.

The earth was, of course, unlimited as a base, though the dry soil might not conform to the flat smooth surface I've always understood to be ideal.

The mic certainly behaved as expected; initially I planned for the talent to speak as he walked round the headstone but the sound level dropped markedly as he passed "behind" the mic.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 09:31 AM   #7
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Re: Boundary Layer saved outdoor overseas shoot

My AT851 saved me the other day as well, but I wasn't working on nearly as interesting a project!!
I had decided at the last minute to use a different camera, and the correct output cable from the receiver to this new camera wasn't in the audio bag.
I had planned to use the AT851 as ambient to get the small group of participants and their reactions to the presenter. Instead I used it as primary and it worked very well since the presenter wasn't moving much.
While it is important to have a good boundary, it's more important to have the mic located correctly in relation to the voice.
It's one of the disadvantages of a boundary mic, rarely does the best boundary coincide with the best location for the mic, unless you have complete control over exactly where everything happens.
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