Archive for August, 2010

ICHEP Paris - Higgs Hunters meet

In the latest episode of Mike Paterson’s excellent series ‘Colliding Particles’ we travelled to Paris for the International Conference on High Energy Physics which we travelled to a couple a years ago when it was held in Philadelphia. The scientists were, in the main, thrilled to have been addressed earlier in the day by Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France who had some encouraging things to say to them about their work; “It is up to you, the scientists, to share your knowledge,” he said. “You do not lower yourselves when you express the infinitely complex in uncomplicated terms. In fact intelligence could be defined as the ability to explain complex phenomena in a straightforward way”.

While shooting the next episode of Colliding Particles we also worked on a short film for The Guardian website which can be seen here.

We’ve been filming with John Butterworth for some time, but he now holds some pretty important positions particularly in the High Energy Physics group on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. He is a physics professor at UCL, where he teaches mathematical methods to first year physics students, as well as being a Vice Dean in Mathematical and Physical sciences, but most importantly he is a jolly nice chap who has a great science blog also on The Guardian. He is the first person seen in the film chatting on the train.

The latest episode of Colliding Particles is called ‘Beam’ and can be seen below. Fine work as ever by Mike Paterson.

Colliding Particles - Episode 6: Beam from Mike Paterson on Vimeo.

Promzillas/Sound Devices 552

When i was at school, we had an ‘End of term party’. It wasn’t exactly high society living - in younger years it involved being allowed to wear civvies for a day, bring in some board games, and if we were lucky one of the teachers would put on a video. ‘Clockwise’ on VHS was the popular choice; i can’t count the number of times i sat watching John Cleese smash his Mini with a branch of sycamore, waiting for 3pm to come and a seemingly endless summer of lie-ins and ‘Why Dont You?’ to begin.

These days however, it seems that things have changed. For many schools across the country the end of term signals Prom Season; an American concept, High School Prom has become a popular way to celebrate graduation from Secondary School. While my traditional view of Proms involves groups of older ladies linking arms to sing Land of Hope and Glory while nodding knowingly at each other, culminating in Rule Britannia accompanied by some small plastic Union Jack waving, the newer form of Prom is a bit more glamorous. Large puffy sleeves, bouffant hair, uncomfortable looking young men in ill-fitting rental tuxes and copious vomiting of Asti Spumanti is now the thing.

Ever keen to help the youth of today celebrate in such style, Sky 1 has a new series being aired soon called ‘Promzillas’ in which fashion, hair and beauty experts are on hand to give the kids that extra bit of help preparing for their big day. Who will be be crowned Prom King and Queen? Will it be the good looking popular kids, or will it be a triumph for the underdog? Will one of the geeks emerge from the Promzillas tent having been made-over to reveal a beautiful swan previously hidden under piles of bad hair and acne?

Sky send three experts to help the kids; Jordans best friend Gary Cockerill does makeup, Gok Wans nemesis Brix Smith-Start deals with the clothes and celebrity hairdresser Stephen Glendenning works his magic with the hairdo’s.

Myself and cameraman Neil Pollock joined Ben Bradley (sound) and Will Milner (camera) to shoot an episode in Bridgend, Wales. It was one of the first outings for my new mixer; the Sound Devices 552, and i was keen to see how it performed.

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The advantages of the 552 over it’s predecessor the 442 are numerous on paper; the obvious being it is a 5 channel channel mixer as opposed to 4, but it also has an internal SD recorder that accepts incoming timecode, a facility to output two channels of digital AES/EBU signal, and all of this in a unit the same size as the 442 but lighter. Impressive on paper, and in practise too - it takes a bit of getting used to the control interface of the mixer; the faders, panning, bass cut, headphone monitoring etc are all very similar, but to access other features such as phantom power you are required to learn a few button combinations. Nothing to complex, and all quite intuitive after a few tries, and the addition of a digital voice called SVEN guiding you through the menus you can actually forget the manual pretty quickly. I did accidentally hit the menu button while recording by accident a couple of times and was surprised to hear a robotic voice announcing menu options in my headphones rather than what was coming through my mics and it must have been pretty loud too, as Neil Pollock the cameraman gave me a rather quizzical look as it burbled away. Fortunately this voice is via the headphone output only, and so my audio remained unspoiled. It did scare me a bit though.

But the mixer sounds lovely - nice and quiet even when adding in quite a bit of extra gain, the preamps are of the usual high quality found in all Sound Devices products. I still have many more options to try out, but so far i have found the 552 to be a great bit of kit. With three presenters, and often two students in the makeover tent at one time, 5 channels was vital.

The big pink Promzillas bus has become notorious around the country; almost as notorious as it’s driver and owner - Tim. If you see it at your school, it might be time for a new look.

So who won? Was it the beautiful and good looking socialites or the dowdy geek whose makeover revealed a beautiful swan underneath the ugly duckling exterior? You’ll have to watch to find out; Promzillas is due to air on Sky 1 and Sky 1 HD in Oct 2010.

Farnborough Airshow

The end of July this year saw the trade week of the Farnborough Airshow 2010 take place. I was there working for Aviation Week shooting some of the planes for a daily video update on the show for their website.

I was amazed at how loud the planes were, especially when they turned on their afterburners. I had earplugs on inside my headphones and the headphone volume turned right down, but i still came away with a slight ringing in my ears! My mixers limiter got a good workout that day too, with some passes lighting the meters up like a fruit machine they were so loud. I was too busy scurrying away with my hands clamped over my head shrieking ‘Not my ears - please not my ears!’ like a small girl to be fiddling with faders at such a time.

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Jester: That was some of the best flying I’ve seen to date – right up to the part where you got killed.

I got to see more exciting planes in a few days than i have in my entire lifetime until that point; the highlight for me was the F-22 demonstration which was frankly mental. I know a bit about how planes work - only a bit mind you - but enough to know that generally they shouldn’t be able to fly vertically upwards, slowing all the time before eventually coming to a standstill and without turning at all begin to fly straight back down - backwards! That’s just silly. It looked unreal in many way, and the slow pass and loop the loop (more like a fast moving flip 360 degrees than a loop) confirmed that this was a plane that didn’t really conform to normal laws of aerodynamics.

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The free gifts were impressive, if cumbersome to cary home

It was a great shoot, and i got to see some really impressive flying. Do check out the Aviation Week site, especially the Farnborough 2010 videos - thanks to all the guys at McGraw-Hill for a great week - they are the ludicrously action-looking people in the very dramatic photo below.

About to jump out of the back of a transport plane and hit the ground filming...

About to jump out of the back of a transport plane and hit the ground filming...

Sound Mixer Hell

If i keep posting things like this, people will draw the conclusion that i am a miserable curmudgeon, nevertheless here it is.

Oh, and did i mention I’ve got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side? I mean, I’ve asked for them to be replaced, but no-one ever listens.

Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust or just fall apart where I’m standing?

About me

I am a freelance sound recordist with over 10 years experience in tv & film. I studied location sound recording at the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield, and have been working as a freelance sound recordist since 2004. I have my own full location recording kit, transport and a clean driving licence and am available for work across the UK and worldwide, with bases in London and Oxford.

I also teach Sound in various forms at the London Met Film School in Ealing Studios.

This site contains a blog about my work as a location sound recordist, as well as articles related to sound and film, lots of information about careers in sound and pro audio equipment, advice on filming and sound techniques, a glossary of audio terms and lots lots more. Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, or if you want to contact me for work please click on 'Contact' or call me directly on 07980 910873.

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