Getting Mobile

Keep it simple, light, and dependable.

by Bryant Falk

I’m set with the challenge of creating a portable rig to achieve a number of goals. One of my assistants is heading to the left coast to grab some interviews of celebrities who are attending the event. Knowing he needs to travel light, I know I have a challenge on my hands. Here are some of the requirements for the trip:

1)     The gear has to be portable.

2)     The gear must be lightweight for carrying around the convention.

3)     Audio needs to focus on the people being interviewed and not the background wall.

4)     There are long panel discussions requiring long record times.

5)     Additional lighting needs to be supplied.

These are some tall orders when you want to keep your rig as small as possible. The first thing I attack of course is the sound.

A standard dynamic just won’t cut it, as these tend to pick up too much background noise and popping ‘P’ issues when held too close. My solution is a dedicated interview mic that conquers a lot of these issues; this type of mic connected to a wireless transmitter allows the interviewer free reign to go over to anyone for a quick sound byte.

The next biggest issue is the recording device. To save space and because it’s pretty typical practice to record audio along with video for interviews, my approach for a solution is looking for a video camera that could get quality audio and video while also being able to record for hours at a time. Tape format cameras are limited by the tape stock. This usually will max out at no more than 80 minutes. I find a new kind of camera that might just do the trick. These are cameras that record to SDHC cards. There are a number of them on the market with many different features. What is so compelling is the ability to record over 200 minutes on a 32 gigabyte card! The “unlike a hard drive camera,” you can pull the card, drop in another one and keep going. Although I don’t know any convention where a speaker goes longer than 200 minutes. (Okay, maybe a filibusters’ convention?) Well, anyhow, after checking a number of cameras I settle on the Panasonic HMC 150. It’s light, lets me plug XLR’s straight in, and the quality is solid.

The top two pieces of gear, plus a new LED camera light finishes off the rig nicely. The new LED lights have some distinct advantages. They don’t get hot, can run on regular AA batteries, are extremely durable, and weigh next to nothing. I think the batteries actually weigh the same or more than the LED light itself!

Keep these things in mind the next time you have to run and gun a project.

  • Keep your rig simple.
  • Make sure it’s not too heavy!
  • Focus on dependable equipment.

Realize the top three items mean nothing if you haven’t any working knowledge of your equipment. Make sure to practice with the equipment before the big event arrives!

Bryant Falk has been a producer and engineer for over 12 years working with such clients as The Ricki Lake Show, Coca-Cola, Sports Illustrated, Valley National Bank, and MTV’s The Shop. His company Abacus Audio (abacusentertainmentnyc.com) handles many aspects of the audio production field from creative and production to mixing and final output.

Featured in StudentFilmmakers Magazine, September 2009 Edition.
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