Professional field mixer uses Sound Devices’ 664 and CL-6 to capture extensive audio of reality TV shows including The Real World and Bad Girls Club.

Sharon Frye

Chicago, IL — Field Mixer Sharon Frye spends the bulk of her time working on such reality television projects as MTV’s The Real World and, most recently, Oxygen’s Bad Girls Club. She is responsible for capturing substantial amounts of audio generated by the 24/7 productions. To get the job done, Frye relies on a Sound Devices 664 Field Production Mixer ensuring all audio is captured in the highest sound quality available.

Bad Girls Club follows the antics of seven girls living together under one roof, day and night, which requires a round-the-clock shooting schedule. Frye works in one of six camera teams, each of which includes a producer, camera person with a PA, along with an AC and audio mixer. Since the show tapes 24/7, each camera team typically works a 10-hour shift, with overlapping periods where one crew is setting up and the other is closing down. This ensures the complete capture of all footage.

The Sound Devices 664, offering both mixing and recording capabilities, was the only recorder Frye used during filming, which is a unique scenario in sound production. “With certain reality television shows, you’re going to record through the mixer, but you’re also going to record to a bigger system,” she says. “That wasn’t the case with Bad Girls Club. Due to the show’s filming environment, having the 664 act as a mixer and recorder in my rig really came in handy on set.”

Several features of the 664 helped Frye meet the pressure of having to rely on only one dedicated audio source. For example, she has noticed that in reality-style productions, the producers want to equip increasing amounts of people with microphones. More mics make for a higher track count. The 664, with its unprecedented I/O flexibility can record 16 tracks of broadcast-quality audio to SD or CompactFlash memory cards. Add to it, the CL-6 input control expansion accessory, and the mixer gains six more dedicated, rotary faders with PFL switches plus LED metering and illuminated transport controls. These features along with professional quality sound are why the 664 combined with the CL-6 has become Frye’s go-to choice for high-track-count recording.

“As the mixer, it’s my job to provide clean and usable audio,” explains Frye. “However, in applications when the camera is the only recordable source, I have to depend on the operator’s deduction of the situation to tell me whether my audio is clean, since I can’t listen to it directly. Now, with the 664 as my mixer and recorder, I know that if the on-camera audio isn’t being adequately captured, I have the clean ISO tracks directly on my mixer.

Frye also found the 664’s mixing and recording capabilities helpful for balancing a scene, especially when capturing a certain triangle of the cast. This can be tricky, as she must be close enough to the cast to capture audio, while also being out of range of the camera. Now she can worry less about being in the shot and concentrate on capturing the cast members’ audio.

664 & CL-6

Another feature Frye finds beneficial is the customer-driven design of all Sound Devices’ gear. This offers greater reliability and confidence whenever she has to look away from her rig.

“There are a lot of things that Sound Devices does to make the gear incredibly intuitive for a sound mixer,” she explains. “One of the biggest challenges when you’re mixing in the field, especially when there are a lot of things happening in a given scene or shoot, is that you cannot look down at your mixer, so it’s imperative that it has an easy-to-use layout. Another great feature of the interface is the readability of the screen, especially since we spend a lot of time in nightclubs and bars for the reality-style capture of these shows. Knowing that I can see the interface in the dark, and really any lighting scenario, truly makes a difference in the usability of the product.”

In addition to her reality TV work, Frye has used other Sound Devices’ equipment on past projects, such as the 788T digital recorder to capture behind-the-scenes audio for Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes. She has also utilized the Sound Devices 633 compact mixer/recorder as a playback source for an upcoming feature-length documentary called Mavis! on Mavis Staples of The Staple Singers.