Location Sound Mixer Allan Holmberg reflects on his start in location sound, the power of the Scorpio and getting audio right the first time.
Holmberg was inspired to pursue audio after he began running sound for his band.
“Like most of my colleagues I used to play music in bands. I became the band’s self-assigned tech, and at some point I got far more interested in doing sound than playing music. After a few years earning experience and doing small TV jobs, I was lucky to be accepted at the National Film School of Denmark. The Feature Film degree is a four-year program only accepting six students per track every second year, with five different tracks to apply for: directing, editing, photography, producing, and sound. Of course I chose sound! After graduating I started doing longer projects and features including the Oscar-winning In a Better World with Susanne Bier.”
Holmberg used the newly-introduced Scorpio on the final season of Rita and found its workflow and control intuitive.
“I have just finished shooting the fifth season of the Danish hit series Rita. Along for this journey I brought the Scorpio, with a bit of anxiety since it’s a brand new product. The firmware with Dugan Automix was available only a few days prior to the start of production. I can truly say it’s been a joyride! The extra headroom on Scorpio and the very quiet preamps have proven to be a lifesaver since this production is very dynamic. When dialogue is improvised the Dugan Automixer took care of the mix and I could focus my full attention on the levels and quality of the sound.”
“What I like most on Scorpio, beside the super-transparent preamps, is the collaboration with the wireless system via the SL-6. You can do scans and control the most important settings from the front and via hotkeys. I had great fun discovering that I could use one of the hotkeys to access the slate mic and send it to continuity (script supervision), so I not only had a talkback to my boom-ops, but also a way to speak to continuity just by routing and not adding more hardware!”
The Scorpio was powerful enough to replace larger setups while maintaining a moderate footprint.
“Since we are shooting 100% on location, the size and amount of gear is a big deal. I brought a very slim Züca cart, with the Scorpio in a bag on top of the cart and a tablet on a flexarm. It takes me less than two minutes to disconnect the Scorpio from the cart and antennas, which is also important for this job.”
“It’s a pretty small setup, but very capable and easy to scale to whatever need I would have.”
“On a daily basis we were challenged due to lengthy shoots, moving through multiple rooms, and sometimes with no opportunity to cover it all by the boom, so placement mics were often used. The Scorpio’s ability to route any input to any track really made the ever changing sources easy to arrange and get an overview of, making my workload less stressful. For the first time in my career, I ran out of ideas and sources before running out of mic preamps…..that’s a new one!”
“My setup for this job was the Scorpio in a K-Tek bag, two Wisycom MCR42 wired digitally and three in the SL-6, two Wisycom transmitters, one for scratch sound to director and one for talkback to boom ops, one PSC RF-multi SMA, two Wisycom directional powered antennas all powered by one Audioroot 98Wh smart battery. On top of the cart I had one dual screen, with Teradek wireless from the cameras.”
For Holmberg, transparency is vital to capturing the feeling of the moment and ADR is only a last resort.
“My standard has always been to capture the dialogue as close to natural as possible, so everything in my kit, both mics and recorder should be as transparent as possible, not adding any coloration of any kind, and this is what I really love about the 8-Series. It’s the most transparent recording tool I have ever worked with, and it’s a joy to listen to the dialogue and not the preamps! The worst and most annoying misconception is that if the talent is mic’d then we don’t need the boom or that sound always has a second chance, meaning ADR. In my opinion there is nothing that beats the pure full-bodied sound of a well placed boom mic, to get all the small details in the actors voice, and even in their breaths and pauses. A lot of the acting is in the way each word is presented, and how the pauses and breaths gives us, the audience, a better feeling of what is happening. These things occur while the talent is acting is in the scene with co-actors and props and so on, and that is not easily reproduced in a dubbing session.”
“I have worked on a project I cannot say anything about since it will be a secret until late 2020, but it involved Two DPA4017 directional microphones, one DPA4006 stereo setup, one Schoeps ORTF setup, one Schoeps MS setup, and one Sennheiser Ambeo setup all plugged in at the same time, recording the same thing. That was awesome to be able to plug in a lot of mics and never run out of inputs all in one recorder. Prior to the Scorpio, it would only have been doable with two recorders, or a much bigger setup.”
Holmberg enjoys the challenges and pace of location sound.
“All projects have some challenges, and can be fun on different levels, and that is also the reason I love my job so much. Not two jobs are the same, and the way you achieve your goals on each project differs. One of the biggest changes in the Danish industry is going from producing on soundstages, to shooting everything on location, and the demand for even more versatile and mobile equipment has only gone up! I really don’t mind, since I have always loved the fast paced productions, and the constant moving from location to location. I tend to get bored on a stage!”
More information about Holmberg’s work can be found on his IMDb page.