Location Sound Mixer Carolina Barranco discusses her start in location sound, creating an inclusive industry, and why the MixPre-6 is her perfect work companion.
Barranco knew from her first location sound class that audio was her passion.
“When I was close to graduation in film school I started my first sound classes. I fell in love the minute I put headphones on and truly heard a mic through a recorder! I was lucky enough to have private classes because a group of students quit that semester. Even though there were no other students I asked if I could still show up and take the classes. My sound teacher was really impressed to have someone so interested in sound that they agreed and gave me private classes for the semester! I learned with the Nagra and DAT machines for that class.”
“It took almost five years after graduation to start working with sound. In college I was in an internship doing production in a small company and I continued to work there after graduation. The company suddenly closed and that was my chance to change my focus to location sound. I’ve done all kinds of jobs, but in the last two years I’ve mainly been doing documentaries. “
“It’s amazing because I have the chance to travel to different places, meet interesting people and learn incredible history. I have been to the Amazon rainforest to watch indigenous communities harvest chestnuts, recorded school and arts projects in the poor communities (favelas) in Rio de Janeiro, filmed powerful politicians, and followed an indigenous community in the Dakotas fighting against the arrival of oil companies to drill on their land.”
“Without a doubt the most surreal moment was when I was working as the sound utility for a BBC London program celebrating the 30th anniversary of U2’s album The Joshua Tree. The location sound mixer sent me a photo of the bands faces so we didn’t get confused with the radio mics! I have never had to mic someone faster in my life. Bono was waiting patiently while I did my job and he asked if we had met before, which I think I would have remembered! I was shaking, but I had my poker face on – as if micing Bono, the Edge, Larry, and Adam was the most normal thing in my life.”
Being the only sound person on documentaries, Barranco appreciates her lightweight MixPre-6 with the MixAssist plugin.
“My current setup is the MixPre-6, Wisycom wireless, DPA 4060’s for lavs, and a Schoeps CMIT 5 U for booms. I chose this very compact yet very powerful configuration after specializing in documentary work where I am alone.”
“When MixPre was launched, I fell in love with this recorder and couldn’t wait to work with it. It is the perfect size for documentaries and my back says thanks! The MixPre-6 has exactly everything I need. It’s compact in size and weight, has six channels, quality faders, a touch screen menu and it fits in the palm of your hand. The size of the MixPre-6 makes it a great tool for run and gun productions.”
“The MixAssist Plugin on the MixPre is perfect. I have used it in situations where dialog is improvised and it helps me focus on other aspects like booming, making sure the placements are correct and that we aren’t getting other noise from the lavaliers.”
Sound mixers in Brazil face unique challenges.
“Brazil is going through a moment of great instability. The government has reduced public funding for the arts and cinema is suffering. The vast majority of our productions today are feature and series projects. The advertising landscape has also changed significantly and now brand content is very prominent. Streaming content and internet channels are becoming a big phenomenon catching on in Brazil.”
“The most challenging thing in location sound is to find the gear in Brazil. We only have the chance to test gear if another sound person has it, otherwise we have to travel to be able to try it out. In South America, although we have constant productions, we do not have specialized sound stores or trade shows dedicated to the audiovisual sector. It was a dream to be able to attend NAB in 2019 and see the new gear.”
Getting a proper education can be hard as well. There aren’t many sound schools around the world so if you want to learn you have to be very persistent in finding courses or people who are willing to teach you.”
For Barranco, creating a more diverse and inclusive industry is paramount.
“A major problem, not just in location sound, but audiovisual production in general, is certainly diversity. I have made it my mission to change the market by including more women, non-binary people, and people of color.”
“My inclusion in the market was not easy, and it continues to be a huge battle every day. Whenever I have the opportunity to form a sound team, I invite women to work with me so I can increase the number of women in production, especially in a role where it is not very common to have women working. Having more women on the sound team not only brings different perceptions of the world to productions, but as it often ends up being an intimate job in general, people feel comfortable with female staff.”
“One of the things that fascinates me most about location sound is that while I work with technology and electronic equipment, there is a human side in teaching people who work with me as a team. When you get to a certain level of confidence and commitment in your job it makes sound work very rewarding.”