Frank Stettner

Multi-track 970 audio recorder provides sound mixer with the flexibilty necessary during HBO mini-series’ Show Me a Hero.

NEW YORK – When production sound mixer Frank Stettner began wrapping up his work on the final season of HBO’s popular series Boardwalk Empire, he decided it was time to buy a new digital audio recorder. He needed a product that offered the additional audio tracks necessary for his next project, HBO’s new mini-series, Show Me a Hero. With the guidance of Gotham Sound, Stettner chose Sound Devices’ 970 audio recorder for its robust 64-track capabilities.

Frank Stettner in action
Frank Stettner

Show Me a Hero is based on the real-life story of former Yonkers Mayor Nick Wasicko, played by Oscar Isaac. The mini-series covers Wasicko’s battle with the federal courts, which in 1987 ordered the construction of public housing in the predominantly white, middle-class section of Yonkers. The events divided the city, with several heated city council meetings disrupted by yelling and protests. Stettner knew that successfully capturing the audio of these recreations would require the recording of multiple ISO tracks.

To recreate the city council meetings, several cast members playing the council, the mayor and the clerk sat at desks with a microphone positioned in front of each actor. Stettner also needed to record four to five speaking parts from the actors depicting hecklers in the crowd. His second mixer captured the council’s audio, while he concentrated on the lines of the hecklers. Since there were three cameras shooting at the same time, the 970s were tasked with capturing the fast-paced dialogue from the whole scene—all angles, all the time.

“With the 970, I had access to 64-tracks, all of which were Dante-enabled, so I could route all the fixed mics via a LAN to the individual ISO tracks. I also sent them to a second mixing board with a second mixer where they were combined to a mono mix, which I incorporated into my mono dailies mix,” Stettner explained. “Gotham Sound was great in helping set this up for me, and even had one of their technicians on site so that I could correctly interface between the two boards quickly.”

In addition to two Sound Devices 970s running redundantly, Stettner used a Yamaha QL5 Series digital console and Rio1608-D input/output box connected to 12 Shure SM57 microphones. Audio was then routed over Cat5 to the LAN. The mics were routed to two places, the Dante ISO inputs on the 970 and the channel inputs of the Yamaha QL5.

“By having access to all the stem elements, we were able to give editorial many ways to make sense of material recorded in a very hectic audio environment,” Stettner says. “The 970 made that possible—this is when its flexibility really opened my eyes to what a great tool it is.”

Stettner also had Sound Devices’ 633 on hand for over the shoulder locations.

After wrapping, Stettner praised not just the performance of the gear, but also the technical support that Sound Devices provided. “Anyone I ask says that Sound Devices, in terms of how they deal with people and how they develop products, is the place to be,” he says. “Any time we were stumped, there was a simple fix that they knew just how to implement.”

The Sound Devices 970 is the company’s first-ever audio-only rack-mounted solution. The half-rack, 2U device simplifies any application that requires high-quality, high-track-count audio recording. The 970 records 64 channels of monophonic or polyphonic 24-bit WAV files from any of its 144 available inputs. Available inputs include 64 channels of Ethernet-based Dante, 64 channels of optical or coaxial MADI, eight channels of line-level analog and eight channels of AES digital. Any input can be assigned to any track. It also supports recording of up to 32 tracks at 96 kHz.

Products Mentioned