Sound Devices spoke with location sound mixer GongYao Wang about the routing power of his 833 and SL-2 combo, his passion for sound design and the art and science of audio.
SD: How did you get started in location sound?
When I was a child I wanted to be an engineer. I was influenced by my father who is an expert in signal processing and electronic engineering. I studied classic piano performance for more than 15 years which must have cultivated my interest in music and sound. I was trying to find a major or job that could combine engineering technology and my appreciation for art. I was fascinated by seeing a waveform as audio when watching it on an oscilloscope, and then hearing the waveform as sound when listening on headphones. I believe location sound mixing is the ultimate combination of these two passions. I started my career in location sound because it allows me to travel, use a variety of equipment, and I get a sense of accomplishment in recording.
What features on the 833/SL-2 help with your work?
I got my 833 in October 2019 and have been using it on my jobs since then. The preamps sound really good and as an audio bag solution the 833 has enough channels for most documentary and reality shows. My favorite feature is free routing which is kind of a mini patch bay where I can route the signal wherever I want.
The SL-2 integrates very well with the wireless system and supports active antennas, which can improve a weaker whip antenna and add gain to the RF signal quality when using multiple transmitters at the same time.
What made you choose Sound Devices?
Sound Devices gear is trusty, durable, and is very similar to the signal flow of an analog console which is very important to me. I learned on and operated SSL and Neve consoles a lot so I believe Sound Devices operation logic is very easy to use for most mixers.
I always have a soft spot for Sound Devices having experienced Sound Devices 744 and 788 when I was a student. I started my career with a Sound Devices 633 and 302, then I was operating a Sound Devices 688 with SL-6 system for a long time, and a MixPre-6 as a backup recorder.
Tell us about your sound design work.
In the beginning of my career as a sound designer, I was fortunate enough to be taught by Academy Award winner David Stone, who shaped a lot of my work methods and philosophy from an early stage. My concept of sound design is to bring the world into your film. I always thought that our world is very noisy, and to counteract the excess of noise, we unconsciously block many sounds. Through my sound design, I am trying to bring back the background sounds of our world in a natural way that doesn’t interfere with our daily lives.
I am constantly utilizing a boom mic on location to capture ambient sound. Most boom mics have the capability of recording beautiful sound and sound effects and you can definitely use them in your sound design sessions. It is also worth mentioning that the lavalier mic can also capture some beautiful sound effects and details for your sound design
What has been the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on? Why?
One of my most challenging projects is my work on The Thick House, recently released on The Shade Room on May 16, 2021. In this show, we have three judges and seven plus-size models in bikinis or custom-made suits, which made for a challenging lavalier set-up to record dialogue. I came up with several solutions like sticking the lavalier on accessories such as glasses or hiding the lavalier underneath a hairband in addition to relaying two boom mics to record the dialogue while hiding a DPA 4097 with a transmitter behind a prop. I am happy with the quality of the final recording.
What trends do you see coming in location sound?
I believe that highly-integrated systems and digitizing audio will be the future. As the demand for the number of wireless systems increases, highly integrated solutions or the ability to integrate will be an important indicator to measure product’s value.
The SL-2 represents the trend of location sound gear development and shows the ability to integrate different brand’s wireless systems into the Sound Devices system. As for digitizing, there is less and less debate about digital and analog, and now digital coding and decoding is very mature. I believe the future development of location sound will be advances in transmission, ambisonics, and storage.