Sound recordist trusts 788T with a CL-8 accessory to capture the ambiance of Champ Of The Camp for Dubai’s first full-length 5.1 surround-sound film.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — When Sound Recordist David Thirion set out to capture the ambiance and thrill of a popular annual singing competition in Dubai’s labor camps, he turned to Sound Devices’ 788T Digital Audio Recorder and its CL-8 Controller. Champ of the Camp, a Veritas Films documentary, marks the first time a full-length feature film was recorded in 5.1 surround sound in the region. Directed by Mahmoud Kaabour, Champ of the Camp is scheduled for its world premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival on December 7, 2013.
Produced by Dubai-based Veritas Films, Champ of the Camp follows a massive Bollywood singing and trivia competition that searches across more than 70 camps throughout the country to find and crown the champ of all camps. Narrated (and sung) entirely in the voices of the laborers, the film alternates between the X Factor-style suspense of the competition and the gritty reality of the labor environment, while weaving in intimate access scenes of their daily routines and emotional reflections on their life as laborers in Dubai.
Although Thirion has become one of the UAE’s most desired sound recordists, Champ of the Camp was the first time he recorded in full 5.1 surround sound. Knowing the microphone needed for a 5.1 shoot is fundamentally different than what’s required for a typical stereo shoot, equipment selection was paramount to the success of the project. Executive Producer Eva Star Sayre worked with Melody House/NMK Electronics to put together a sponsorship with Sound Devices and microphone manufacturer DPA for the provision of high-quality 5.1 audio gear.
“I have been using Sound Devices equipment for some time now and knowing that I could trust the quality of the 788T was one of the main factors that pushed me to stay with the company on this project,” says Thirion. “The second important factor was when we made the decision to use the DPA 5100 Surround Mobile Microphone for the film.”
In order to capture the dynamic audio for the film, Thirion divided his crew into two sound teams, with a third unit joining toward the end of production for the event finals. Thirion recorded 5.1 for most of the musical events in the camps and another unit recorded four ISO tracks from the stage and judges’ panel. In addition, as the DPA 5100 needs to be as transparent as possible to allow him to record the reality of the environment and not premix anything, Thirion decided to use Sound Devices’ CL-8 mixing control surface so he could be as precise with the levels for each track.
Thirion also deployed a separate interview and ambient sound kit, enabling the production crew to edit the interview content quicker to send out to potential investors. While the interview kit was in use, the kit was then set to record 5.1 to further enrich shots by using the actual background from the event itself and/or from the particular location. Sound Devices’ 744T also served as a back-up recorder for the event.
“One of the main challenges was that my headphones were stereo, so I could not monitor the 5.1 through them, which took some getting used to,” adds Thirion. “Fortunately, the flexibility of the 788T allowed me to create my own headphone routing and monitoring, which was a great help to me. I had to take a brand-new approach with this project, as I was constantly trying to keep the 5.1 coherent between scenes for post-production purposes. Since we were on a certain budget, we couldn’t afford to experiment a lot and I had to get it right from the start. Also, since we were recording the musical events live, everything had to be done that night; there was no chance for a second take.”
Another benefit of the 788T is its time code master clock. “At the beginning of each day, we would synch the time code with the 788T as the master,” adds Thirion. “This feature turned out to be very reliable and useful, and the editor was very happy with it. The reliability of the 788T allowed me to concentrate on the singing competition instead of wondering if the recorder and battery would cope with the heat and less-than-ideal environment. Sound Devices has always been extremely reliable and the 788T is a great recorder. It can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the Dubai summer, but the 788T always kept its cool.”
Sound Devices 788T boasts eight full-featured inputs and records up to 12 tracks. It accepts either microphone or line-level signals, provides 48-V phantom power for condenser microphones, offers peak limiters for microphone inputs and features fully adjustable high-pass filters—all in a compact package. Sound Devices CL-8 is a powerful mixing control surface for its 788T recorder. Its large rotary faders and push buttons bring extensive mixer-type control to 788T inputs. The lightweight CL-8 can be used either mounted or remote from the 788T.