Chris Welcker is a production sound mixer who built two 8-Series systems and loved them so much he had to write about it!
“My name is Chris Welcker and I am a production sound mixer based out of New Orleans, Louisiana who primarily mixes feature films and television.
My team and l had built some great momentum throughout 2019 which ended with us working on a film called Deep Water, a thriller with a large cast, some ad-lib performances, a lot of live music recording and as the title implies, a fair amount of water was involved. After Deep Water we were positioned to go right onto a Netflix feature called Rebel Ridge.
Channel counts were growing as I found myself involved in projects with more and more live music recording and playback situations. My approach to handling this in previous years was to use a timecode synced MixPre-10T to handle the additional music tracks and then send a bus mix from this recorder back to the 788T which would contain the dialogue tracks and the main mix track. This is primarily what attracted me to the Scorpio as the perfect replacement for my trusty 788T.
The 36-track count of the Scorpio meant that I could now keep my recordings to only one device and allow me to grow into the recorder as I am sure future projects will continue to add newer and bigger demands on production sound teams.
Rebel Ridge would involve a good amount of driving work. During the more run and gun situations, there is the option to use rotary faders on the Scorpio and when on the cart I would be able to integrate the CL-16 to mix.
Then the call came in that production was going to be delayed due to a concern for a virus that had the potential to become a pandemic. We were expected to shut down for roughly two weeks and let things clear up before we would resume production on Rebel Ridge. This turned into several more weeks off and eventually turned into months with no work as this production was now postponed for a full year!
I decided to utilize this downtime and put in hours each day to further developing my new system as well as educating myself on some new sound related techniques. One of the biggest ways I spent my time was in learning as much as I could about Dante.
Dante offers a way to interconnect various devices using only cat-5 cables and it “remembers” the connections that were made previously. A great benefit of Dante is the ability to do all of this over extremely long cable runs.
With the circumstances of the pandemic unfolding as they did, I was beginning to anticipate the need for working more remotely on a set. I began building an additional system which would give me the full functionality of being on set while actually being up to 300 ft away.
Utilizing the A10-RACK, I realized the possibility of remoting my slot receivers on set and feeding the audio back to my main cart. The A10- RACK also provided power to active antennas which allows me an additional 200 feet of distance from the set. I also sent audio via Dante back to set to be dispersed to IFB and Comtek feeds.
Around August of 2020, production work started to slowly creep back up. We were offered the opportunity to work on a series called Leverage: Redemption that would shoot in the New Orleans area. This was a great opportunity to put the new system to the test. There was a core cast of five actors with additional characters that would come into each episode. The first realization I had with using the Scorpio and CL-16 was that, due to the high number of available tracks, it offered the ability to assign each character their own fader on the board.
When our time on Leverage came to an end, there was the opportunity to do the production sound on a movie called 65. There would be a maximum of two actors at any given time, but the challenges surrounding this production primarily revolved around communication between the AD staff, our 2 directors, as well as playback of sound effects for actor motivation, all while navigating the logistics of some very tough locations.
We would be shooting in everything from swamps, forests, beaches, mountains, plains and on stage. Due to the varied terrain, I felt that I needed to again rethink the approach with regard to the gear. This time, I chose the 833 and SL-2 as the centerpiece for a new system. The 833 could access and control settings of not only the receivers plugged into the SL-2, but also could remotely control the gain on my Wisycom LFA Active antennas.
I was able to provide the needed power for a lightweight, yet extremely powerful, system with only one 98Wh Lithium Smart Battery. I could get roughly five hours of record time before needing to make a battery change.
One of the biggest benefits was that we could maintain such a small footprint while providing not only the production mix, but also several microphone feeds to the PA system. The communication requirements on this production were equally as important in getting through our shoot days as we’re recording the tracks. This system provided the perfect balance of size and capability.
We took some time to clean off all of the mud and lichen from the gear and go back to life at home for a while before we get ready to do it all over again on the next job! I was worried that 2020 was going to be a waste of a year, but in retrospect it proved to be a rare opportunity to further educate, reflect and redesign my approach with how I want to work. This has all been made possible by the various manufacturers and inventors like the team at Sound Devices who combine their passion for sound with the love of solving new challenges.”
For more info about Chris and his work visit his website.
Follow Chris on Instagram: @catgutsound