Leeds, UK – Liam Gilchrist seemed headed for a career in music, going so far as to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Sound Technology, but a short introductory course into post production sound at the University of Portsmouth altered his plans. “I just absolutely loved that, so I ended up taking a Master’s degree in Sound Design for Film and Video from Northern Film School / Leeds Beckett University.”
At the Film School, Gilchrist was first introduced to equipment designed and engineered by Sound Devices.
“I used the Sound Devices 664 and 552, and looking through the resources and reading through the user manual and playing with the gear and having background in music sound helped there,” Gilchrist says, adding, “The 552, coming from someone who’s used a Zoom H1, was pretty intimidating; I’m not going to lie…. (It was) definitely a step up from what I was used to. What caught me off-guard was that the limiters were super soft, and it kind of just played itself. The 664 again was a bit more confusing at the time, but… once you use it for like a week it becomes very simplistic and intuitive really.”
Higher demand for audio personnel led to immediate offers to do post production sound, but he quickly realized he had more of an affinity for location sound. “It’s been about 14 months since I graduated, and after graduating I just thought I’m going to try production sound, because I enjoy it more. You can get outside, it’s much more active, and in my opinion it’s just healthier getting outside to work rather than sitting inside all day.”
Despite prior experience with Sound Devices, Gilchrist admits price played a key role when buying his first kit. “I always wanted a 664, to be honest, but was unable to, because I’ve been building up my kit with wireless and what not. I couldn’t afford to pay money on a much more expensive piece of kit.” He adds, “I used the F8 for a bit because of price point.”
Another key factor for Gilchrist, as a one-man-band mixer just starting out, was having a lot of channels. “I find that if I’m doing film work instead of corporate work, I’m on my own or with one boom op. I want to get as many mics as I can into the room so if one mic doesn’t sound as good as I want it to, or in post production they have options.”
When Sound Devices introduced the new MixPre Series, Gilchrist again considered returning to Sound Devices. “I remember looking back at those (MixPre-3 and MixPre-6) and the price points were fantastic, but I really didn’t want to be locked into anything that had less channels.” Then came the MixPre-10T. “I looked up reviews on it—a lot of people compared it to the F8 because it’s in that price range. But I don’t think it is (comparable). It’s definitely a step up from it, especially the limiters.”
Compared to other Sound Devices gear, Gilchrist says, “Having used both, it (10T) also runs very similarly to the 664 in terms of the menu and everything. I find the 664 is much easier to mix just because of size… (but) when I’m in lower budget stuff, I have to set and forget my levels…(The 10T) is a bit more fiddly if you’ve got large hands on the faders, but for me — if I’m lugging around a 664 on my waist or chest along with 3 to 4 to 5 radio mic and stringing a boom at the same time, the actual dedicated faders won’t be getting that much time anyway because I can’t actually micromanage that many things at the same time. The fact that it (the 10T) is a lot lighter makes it easier to maneuver around a room and in tight places… I think the smaller form factor to me as a single sound person is positive because it makes your whole kit and sound bag a lot smaller and easier to manage.
“So I bought the 10T just before going on the job…a low budget feature…and a dialogue heavy drama.” For his recent work as a recordist on the feature film—Suicide Kelly by Idle Work Factory — Gilchrist’s setup included the MixPre-10T with three Sennheiser G3s, all with Sanken COS-11D lavs. He also used Audix SCX1-HX cardioid mic along with a Rode NTG3B. “It was quite a basic, minimalist setup, but I feel the 10T helped me so much. I didn’t have to worry about levels as much because the limiters were kicking in. When you got three wireless actors, you’re booming, and you got a plant setup, you just can’t afford to be checking levels all the time.”
The MixPre-10T’s built-in Bluetooth Smart® and Sound Devices free Wingman™ app also helped lighten his load. “The way I set up my bag, it (Wingman) was vital really. I’m using Wingman to check timecode, which makes it so much easier when I’m talking with the AC….Using it to rename tracks is so much easier. I used to carry around a USB keyboard for sound reports; now, I’m using Wingman for just about everything.” Laughing, he adds, “In a nutshell, YES (I’m using it) a lot!”
With his kit in place, Gilchrist has high hopes for his future. “I’m quite happy about the experience I’m getting,” he says, adding, “I’m managing to get my name attached to things as a recordist. I’d like to get on more stuff as a trainee and assistant, because making contacts within the industry generally leads to more work and higher scale work…. End game, I would really love to be a production sound mixer on a high end TV show. Really love working on feature films, but…TV drama is just more exciting, especially for people like me who find dialogue exciting. The dream is production sound mixer.”
Follow Liam on Instagram at @liam.daniel.gilchrist.