Emmy award-winning sound mixer has relied on Sound Devices throughout storied career, including recent work on The Enfield Haunting and The Royals.
LOS ANGELES — When Simon Farmer started out in the audio industry 27 years ago, he was armed with a desire to learn and a passion for sound recording. Farmer began his career as a sound trainee before graduating to boom operator. He spent some time working on news and documentaries before landing a position with a production crew for a television drama. Now Farmer, a Primetime Emmy Award winner for his work on Pompeii: The Last Day, works as a production sound mixer.
For over a decade, Farmer has chosen Sound Devices for his go-to sound mixers and recorders on the job. “I was looking for a mixer with flexibility to provide the outputs I needed to feed multiple cameras and a DAT machine,” he says. “I stopped searching when I found the Sound Devices 442 mixer. This machine had all the outputs I needed with great quality, all at a reasonable cost. As the projects grew in size and complexity, I added a Sound Devices 744T recorder to the cart, replacing the DAT machine. I then added a Sound Devices 664 production mixer, along with a Sound Devices 702T recorder running as a back-up machine recording the mix tracks.”
This was the rig Farmer used for his work on the British drama series The Enfield Haunting, which earned him and the sound team a 2016 BAFTA Television Craft Sound – Fiction award nomination in 2016. The multi-track capabilities of using Sound Devices allowed Farmer to record a stereo mix track, along with ISO tracks for the boom and the actors’ radio mics, giving him the necessary tracks he needed.
After The Enfield Haunting, Farmer started his work on The Royals, E! Entertainment Television’s hit drama about a fictional English royal family. “The Royals is a multi-camera shoot with several different kinds of cameras being used, all of which need to be synced up,” says Farmer. “Sound Devices products have very stable timecode. Once we had set up the time on the 664, it was easy to run around with either Tentacle Sync or Ambient Recording timecode boxes. I also keep the Sound Devices 702T recorder on the rig, getting a digital feed from the 664. The ability to be able to keep track of the cast, by listing which character is on which ISO track, was very important on a show like The Royals because it was so fast paced. With my Sound Devices equipment, entering the important details is super quick and easy.”
After The Royals, Farmer moved on to Doctor Thorne, an adaptation of the Anthony Trollope Barchester Chronicles. With a large cast with dialogue on horses, in horse drawn carriages, and during large party scenes featuring dance numbers, Farmer had to be very adaptable. He could take the 664 from the cart and easily move to a bag setup to cover the interior horse drawn carriages. With custom presets he stored on the 664, swapping from cart to over-the-shoulder meant unplugging the 664 from the rig, putting it in his bag, and selecting the presets for bag mode. In a matter of minutes, he was ready to go.
More recently, Farmer bought Sound Devices’ new 688 mixer/recorder and CL-12 linear fader controller and reconfigured his cart for his next project, a film called B&B. “The flexibility the 688 provides in terms of setting up my rig up quickly is fantastic,” adds Farmer. “The 688 has a very easy routing matrix, making it quick to patch the various mixes I used into the machine. Once in, I can store all of the setups for instant recall. I really don't know how I would have done that set-up with any other mixer. The CL-12 was fantastic to use, as well. Its ability to quickly edit character names and take notes on the fly is brilliant.”
He also found the CL-12’s EQ feature very useful in helping him even out the radio mics and plant mics quicker. “The weather was awful on several nights with pouring rain, howling wind, and freezing conditions,” he remembers, “but my 688 and CL-12 continued to work perfectly. The preamps on the 688 sound lovely with multiple manufacturers’ microphones, and the flexible routing on the AUXs really made a difference. I am very happy with my Sound Devices rig. It’s extremely reliable, incredibly flexible, and something I plan on using for a long time to come.”