- Auto-Mute feature provides the option of automatically silencing the X1-X4 outputs when in stop mode.
- Rare event where takes disappeared after renaming has been eliminated.
- Known Issues
- Auto-Mute timecode modes output timecode for a few seconds after booting up from a full shutdown.
- Sound Devices has worked directly with Delkin to identify an intermittent Media I/O issue with newer Delkin CF 500x and CF 700x cards. Delkin has confirmed that a recent change to these two cards is most likely responsible for the errors. Cards containing KZ in the serial number are susceptible to this issue and should not be used. Cards containing VB in the serial number will function correctly and are approved. Deklin CF 1000x and 1050x cards do not experience this issue and may continue to be used. Click here for the 6-Series Approved Media List
Sound recordist for the Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip looks back on his own professional sound career and what role Sound Devices played in his success.Continue reading “David Silberberg”
Production sound mixer, Jeff Deeth, survives extreme production locales for Discovery’s Naked and Afraid series with his trusted, robust “tiny little mixer” — the Sound Devices 633.
Minneapolis, MN – Production sound mixer, Jeff Deeth’s unique journey into the audio entertainment industry began simply with a love of music. An accomplished musician and saxophonist, his first steps into the world of sound recording were taken as a teenager in Onalaska, Wisconsin.
“Pretty early on…I’d done some jingle-type production work in my hometown,” Deeth says. “There was a studio there (in La Crosse) actually, being run in part by one of Prince’s old band members, Dez Dickerson. I had the opportunity to do some things in that recording studio when I was a teenager, but it wouldn’t be until many years later that I spent some time working with Prince himself, once I had moved to Minneapolis.” Chuckling, he adds, “That’s a whole other story, at a different point in my career.”
He went to college as a musician, but quickly became “that guy”—the one producing the records and engineering the recordings. Upon moving to Chicago, he remained well-established in the music world as both musician and sound engineer. Over the years, his resume would include having worked with such entertainers like Prince, Adele, Lyle Lovett, and Willie Nelson to name a few.
“I have found that the most truly gifted people are often some of the most thoughtful people,” he says. “So, obviously, anytime you get to work with someone who’s really good at what they do…and you want to do well, you better yourself. You learn something.”
A chance encounter with someone making a TV show opened the door for Deeth to delve into other production environments where his audio experience proved vital. “I really didn’t know much about production sound for film and television—how it worked, technically—I mean I could record good sounds, so I was like, ‘Of course, no problem. I can do that.’” He laughs, adding, “And I don’t remember what that first job was, but I do remember showing up with equipment that wasn’t really what was used to do that type of work. (Somehow) I made it happen.”
Before his next film project, however, Deeth queried other industry professionals about their kits and was introduced to Sound Devices.
“It wasn’t too much later that I acquired my first 442,” Deeth says. “My first experience with any Sound Devices gear was immediately, ‘This thing sounds good. It sounds really good. I can work with this.’” His deep background in music helped him determine what tools he needed for the various production demands he faced. “I have owned lots and lots of gear, and when it comes to production audio, field mixers and recorders—I’ve tried everything, I’ve used everything at some point, because sometimes I’ve not always used my own kits on a production—but I’ve pretty much never left being a Sound Devices user after I started. I’ve worked in so many different areas of audio…and Sound Devices gear may be some of, if not the most, reliable pieces of audio equipment that I count on.
“I know that in my recording studio, when I plug a bass guitar into my old Ampeg B-15 flip-top amp, it just sounds great. I’m no tube amp expert, but when a good tech comes over and biases the tubes, it sounds even better. That’s a piece of gear that’s never leaving my studio, and it’s similar with my Sound Devices stuff,” Deeth says. “In my recording studio right now, my 442 is still on top of one of my racks of gear, within reach. It lives in my recording studio.”
In addition to Deeth’s 442, his kits now include other Sound Devices equipment, such as 788T recorders and a couple of the newer, compact 633 mixer/recorders.
“(The) 633, it’s one of my most favorite little pieces of gear that I’ve ever owned. It’s small, obviously, but it does everything that I need a mixer or recorder to do in a small package.”
Deeth’s portfolio includes such productions as Shark Tank, the Daily Show with John Stewart, Peter Jackson’s “West of Memphis” documentary on the West Memphis Three, and Davis Guggenheim’s “From the Sky Down” with the iconic band U2.
“For a while I was working on a show called Border Wars (for National Geographic), which was following the border patrol agents on the Mexican border with the U.S. so I’ve done some of that physically challenging stuff, as well.”
As a professional sound mixer, Deeth’s work has taken him from the demanding corporate world in big cities to extremely remote natural environments. It’s the latter that’s seen him traveling farthest from his Midwestern roots. “I kind of became somewhat known for that type of work, so I’ve been all around the world quite a bit in a lot of demanding environments, from deserts to jungles to mountains, extreme cold, extreme heat, all that kind of stuff. The Sound Devices gear that I bring has always worked.”
The 633 accompanied Deeth when he went to work on season 2 of a popular and challenging television series produced for Discovery. “When I first came on the show, (the crew) were using Sound Devices of course, but they were running around with 788s, and at that time, I think, the 633 had just come out, and I had bought one of the first units. When I saw that product announced I thought, ‘That’s what I want. That’s a great little box.’ So, I brought that out for the very first episode of the show that I worked on, and almost immediately all of the teams shooting Naked and Afraid converted to 633.”
As the show’s name implies, the two cast members—selected for having some level of expertise in survival skills—are nude except for a small burlap sack slung over a shoulder, around the neck. The “Afraid” part comes into play because the pair of strangers are placed together in a harsh, remote setting and given one dangerous challenge: Survive for the next 21 days.
“It’s just a very interesting program to film because of numerous elements, from what the cast goes through to what the crew goes through in these less than ideal conditions,” Deeth explains. “Cast members usually come in extremely confident; you’d have to be to take on that kind of a challenge. Pretty quickly, each cast member is plunged into their own personal journey that’s about more than just getting bit by bugs and trying to find something to eat. Being stripped of everything, having few tools at hand, and no protection from the elements because they’re naked, it quickly becomes very real…. It’s unique and an interesting and intimate experience.”
Both cast and crew have had to deal with natural extremes, from heat to cold, even hunkering down in a shelter to ride out a hurricane just one day before shooting was slated to begin. One might think a hurricane is the worst danger faced during production, but no.
“The very next day, the storm is over, the jungle is a bit disturbed, and we’re hiking in our cast members to begin their challenge,” Deeth says. “They’re wading in a small stream, and there’s a fallen tree all the way across the stream. We come walking up and meet face-to-face with a Fer de Lance on the log. That’s an extremely venomous snake in Central America. Of course the cast members were probably thinking, ‘Oh, there’s dinner.’”
Deeth says, “Working on a show like this, of course you are responsible for all elements of the production. Your director of photography has to get the shots. Your sound mixer has to collect the audio appropriately, but at the same time, you’re in a very real situation. When you have a 16-foot boom pole hanging out over a cast member, while you’re forging across a river over rocks, it’s an out-of-control environment. There may be a scene occurring that’s important to capture, but you still have to make sure you’re not stepping on a snake. It takes a certain kind of person to work on a show like that, someone who’s self-reliant and capable, who’s also watching out for everyone around them for those same reasons.”
It’s also important to have “the most rugged and most reliable” gear one can count on to work. For Deeth, who’s worked on Naked and Afraid (now in its 8th season) as well as the spin-off series Naked and Afraid XL, that means, “In the last few years, a lot of the filming I’ve done has been carrying a sound bag with (my) 633, a backpack on my back, boom in one hand, and I’m crossing a river or hacking through the jungle.”
About the 633, Deeth admits, “Yeah, there’s a limitation on the number of channels, but you have 6 input channels on a tiny little mixer that is robust and rugged. I mean, I abuse the gear! I’ll be honest. I’m not nice to the gear, especially considering some of the production environments I end up going into.”
“The equipment on (Naked & Afraid) takes a beating. There’s no way around it. You need stuff that’s going to work. My last location was extremely arid, windy, hot and dry, and I was there for two months, doing two episodes, and we did not see one drop of rain. So lots of dry, dusty crud all over everything, and in the field, I have a continuous roll going for 10 hours or more because of the nature of the challenge and the nature of what’s happening to these people. You don’t know what’s going to occur. You keep a roll going all the time, so those machines get a workout.”
Paired with his 633, Deeth uses Sennheiser MKH 416s on boom poles, Lectrosonics wireless and DPA or Countryman lavs. “The cast members on Naked and Afraid have a necklace on, and we’re mostly using DPA or Countryman microphones inside those necklaces—the necklace is a microphone. And I have a transmitter that lives inside the classic Naked and Afraid burlap sack that’s carried around all of the time. So that is a key piece to a lot of our audio. Now, granted, there’s times when that equipment can’t get submerged in water. If the cast is going hunting, fishing, or swimming, that all comes off and is replaced with non-electronic versions of the necklaces and sacks, and a lot of boom mic comes into play then.”
At night, plant mics are used as part of an IR camera system. “We have a customized Pelican Case system that has something like eight large Dionic batteries that power (the system) constantly for 12 hours or more. There’s actually two (Video Devices) PIX 240i decks inside of a case, two cameras, and plant mics on set, all to get that nighttime footage of what’s going to happen in the middle of the night while the crew is sometimes not there.”
Twenty-one days of twenty-four-hour recordings is a lot of footage. With all of those files, Deeth uses the free Sound Devices Wave Agent software program to write notes about the audio. “Now that’s a perfect sound report for post-production and editors…. It’s something that I’m trying to implement to make things easier in post so some of that great sound we’re able to get out in the field actually can be used. Particularly when it comes to nat sounds and ambience—things that are recorded separate from camera rolls—those things now have a way to be found and used.”
His advice for those just starting out in the highly competitive industry is, “Remain calm under duress,” and, “Use quality gear. There’s going to be enough challenges in any type of production environment that you don’t want to start by not having the proper tools at hand. That’s kind of a given, but worth restating.
“The skill set of recording audio, it’s not really rocket science… It’s really a pretty simple process, the technical process of recording sound. What’s not as simple is having awareness of your surroundings and what’s happening around you, and how your sensitivity to that can bring something to the recordings and the overall production.”
Looking back on all of the work he’s done—from music and concerts to film, documentaries to reality TV—and all of the places he’s been to, one thing stands out. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with quite a few people who are really good at what they do, and I think that those people have all the knowledge and technical facility to operate a camera and manage a production, to make a movie or play an instrument, but the people that are really good transcend those production-based skill sets, and they bring something bigger (to the production).
“I feel like… I hope that’s the attitude that I’ve always taken in all of my production work…. If you’re not fully engaged, you’re not giving yourself the full experience, and it’s an opportunity.”
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For more information on the series Naked and Afraid visit Discovery’s website at: Discovery.com.
Oscar® nominated sound mixer switches to Sound Devices 6-Series mixer/recorders (688,664 and 633) to overcome intense production and environmental challenges on location for films – The Mountain Between Us and The Revenant.
A Career in Audio
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA – Chris Duesterdiek, CAS has had sound running through his veins from an early age. Starting with a job in radio in his native city of Winnipeg when he was 17, Duesterdiek has taken every opportunity to keep learning, both from technical practice and from veteran sound mixers willing to share their insight.
“Sound was always a bit of a natural curiosity for me,” he says. “The basics you learn before you get into film sound still apply… Understanding signal flow, pickup patterns of microphones, gain structure, and how to record good sound from a source without over modulating.”
After a brief stint as a musician and live sound mixer for music festivals and theater companies, his career progression into production sound mixing for television and feature film was a logical next step. Fast forward over 20 years in the film industry, with several TV series and movies like Snow Walker, The Interview, The Company You Keep, and Night at the Museum 3 under his belt, Duesterdiek got a call for the Oscar-winning film The Revenant. Duesterdiek had become familiar with a variety of audio recorders for his projects over the years. For The Revenant, he knew that a gear upgrade would be necessary to capture audio for several of the scenes, which would feature nine characters talking.
“I wanted to have wireless mics on nine characters, but I also wanted to have the boom and potentially room for either a couple plants or an MS mic for atmosphere 100-feet off in the bush in the other direction.” When he started looking for the recorder that would serve this job best, he noticed that most of his peers were using Sound Devices, a brand of equipment he had not used up to that point. After a trip to his local audio shop, Duesterdiek decided on the Sound Devices 664, an analog 12-input mixer with integrated 16-track recorder.
New Gear & New Plans for The Revenant
For the movie, Duesterdiek planned on using his cart rig as his main setup, with a bag rig prepped that he could use as needed, every now and then. Once on set, however, he quickly realized that his original plans were not going to work. “When I got to set and started, it became obvious that I couldn’t get the cart anywhere. We were crossing rivers, doing 360 degree shots where I had to be mobile and hide behind trees or crouch behind bushes, and there was no way to do it other than to be portable.”
In addition to the 664 in his bag, Duesterdiek used Lectrosonics 411 receivers—opting for more range above comfort. Though his bag was heavy, the receivers allowed him to get further away and to hide out from the shot. For mics, his team used two Schoeps CMIT 5U shotgun mics for double booming, as well as a pair of Schoeps MK41 for booming and plants. Whenever that those were too high profile or large, he also had a few Sanken CUB (01)’s on hand. The Sanken COS11s were the preferred choice for lavs, and finally he used both a Pearl MS8 microphone and an H2-Pro 7.1 surround sound microphone system for ambiance and atmosphere.
After the conclusion of filming, Duesterdiek spoke about the 664 and his experience as a first-time Sound Devices user. “Sound Devices equipment worked flawlessly. It was easy for me to learn; I basically took it out the box and started working with it and did the movie. And it performed great. We spent nine months in nature. We didn’t do a single studio day. Every day was out in the elements. We got out there before sunrise and wrapped after sunset…and it worked in the cold, it worked in the moisture, it worked in the dust and the wind…. Yeah, I was quite happy with the 664. Fantastic first experience.”
For their work on The Revenant, Duesterdiek and his team were nominated for numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing. They also won a BAFTA Film Award for Best Sound and a Cinema Audio Society (CAS) award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures – Live Action.
More Gear & Automixing for The Mountain Between Us
Based on such positive results, when it came time for Duesterdiek to upgrade his kit again, he once more turned to Sound Devices. With so much location work for feature films, he wanted to stay mobile while still having the option to work from a cart. So, he moved his 664 to a backup, and upgraded the primary recorder on his cart to the 688 mixer/recorder alongside the CL-12 Alaia™ linear fader controller.
“I also added a 633 for my bag kit because with the six inputs on it, that’s enough tracks for most bag work. That allowed me to have all three of the 6-Series mixer/recorders, and I can go cart to bag on any given setup.” Duesterdiek finds using the entire 6-Series family of mixer/recorders and accessories for his workflow makes “everything just that much more seamless when you’re having to go back and forth. I’m really happy with how they work.”
The 633 is a compact digital mixer capable of recording 10 tracks of audio to CompactFlash and SD cards. Like the 664, the 688 digital mixer has 12-inputs and can record 16 tracks of audio. The 633 and 688 also have two-second boot-to-record capability with QuickBoot™ and can protect vital recordings with PowerSafe™, an internal 10-second reserve for safe shutdown in the event of unexpected power loss.
Duesterdiek says powering his gear has never really been an issue for him, even on location. “Although I run with two 7.2 L-type Lithium-Ion batteries, one lasts me a full day, and one NP-1 for all the wireless usually lasts me a full day, so I don’t even have to switch batteries, which is another mind-blowing part of it, because usually in the cold your batteries are a huge issue. I have plenty of batteries on hand, both NP-1s and L-mount, so even in the extreme cold, swapping an NP-1 at lunch is simple and I’m good for the day.”
One invaluable benefit of the 6-Series product line is that both the 688 and 633 have auto-mixing capabilities. They are the first and only portable field production mixer/recorders to include Dugan Speech System™.
Duesterdiek relied on his 688’s Dugan automixing feature when, in a particularly tight scene within the fuselage of a small bush plane for The Mountain Between Us, there was no room for booms. Duesterdiek had to use eight plants for three characters, and turned on automix. “Dugan automix was extremely helpful,” he said, “because it was very intuitive and easy to adjust. At the end of the day, all of the mics sounded like one microphone, which is the goal. Production was happy, and I was happy, and success all around at that point.”
He has also discovered that Dugan automixing has made him a better production sound mixer. “Dugan automixing is making me better,” he said, “and I’m also making the automixer better by manipulating the faders as we go. You think, ‘OK, if it’s picking up a signal and deciding which plant mic to open, and there are several people talking at the same time and so many plants in close proximity…’ I have a map in my head of where they (the plant mics) all are, and I know as they move around where it might focus more on, so I’m taking out the ones I don’t want it to focus on and the automix is helping to deal with what’s left. It’s a really great tool. It’s really helpful.”
Loving New Challenges
Duesterdiek continues to take on challenging opportunities, as he loves to keep learning and growing as a production sound mixer. “I really feel it’s important to keep challenging yourself whether it’s environmentally or technically. I don’t necessarily want to be hanging off the side of a mountain in minus 30 degrees weather; it’s not an easy way to work, but it’s challenging. I know that I’ve done enough outdoor shows where it’s pushed me to see how far I could go and how far the gear could go. I have a good idea of what I can do in these extreme situations. That’s great to get those challenges…. And sometimes you take a gig because it’s technically demanding, and you haven’t been pushed that far before in a technical sense with a show that’s stretching the boundaries, so I’m going to take it to see what I can do with it.”
As Duesterdiek continues to work in extreme conditions, he knows he will never be the one to hold up a shoot because of gear failure. “I’m working in these extreme working conditions, and I don’t have to use any heaters. I put it (the 6-Series mixer) in the bag, I strap it on, and it works, the screen works. It’s not slow, and everything is just fine. So I’m very happy with how it’s performed even in under extremely difficult conditions environmentally. As long as I’m not the weakest link in the chain, I feel fine. If it gets so cold that the gear stops working, it’s not going to be mine that stops working first. It will be the cameras. The cameras will die before my gear dies, and that’s always a good thing.
“On a film, they’ll take two hours for a lighting setup, but can’t take 10 seconds for sound. It seems to me, it is all physics, but I know that the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound, yet we’re still faster than light on a film set.”
- Support for Wingman app v2.00 which includes:
- Optional password-protected control of the 633
- Landscape orientation for iPad
- Various other fixes and improvements
- Added Wingman Password menu (in the 633 System menu) for setting a password that will then have to be entered in Wingman to gain control of the 633.
- Support for Wingman app v2.00 which includes:
- Media slow errors due to SD/CF card overfill.
- Rare event where white noise would appear on outputs and headphones when MixAssist was enabled.
- Known Issues
LOS ANGELES, CA – With a family in theater and radio broadcasting, Brendan Beebe, CAS, grew up in a house full of recording equipment and was destined for a career in the audio industry. “I grew up with recording gear and drama in my house.”
His journey began as a delivery driver for an audio rental supply store. “I was delivering some of the best equipment to the biggest shows in town to the top professionals in the world,” he says. “I stayed there for three years, learned all of the equipment, and then started my freelance career working as a sound utility for some of the biggest features in the 90s, Titanic being one of them.” The box-office blockbuster proved to be a big break for Beebe. “It all happened really fast. I was pretty much in the firing zone where I was trusted to handle all the communications for about six different camera operators, cranes, and there was a whole choreography of communications for filming the scenes.”
Since then, he has worked as a boom operator and production sound mixer, spending long hours behind the scenes of countless hit television series like House, The X Factor, ER, Scandal, and American Horror Story, which earned him two Cinema Audio Society (CAS) nominations. Having been exposed to a variety of audio products over his career, he recalls it was back in the early 2000s, on the set of the long-running reality show American Idol, when he first heard of Sound Devices.
“I discovered the 442,” he says. “Someone else was using it, and I jumped on it. I bought one right away, my first purchase. It was the best sounding bag mixer of its time.”
As he gained experience over the years, one thing remained the same. He stuck with Sound Devices, owning three 788Ts, a CL-8, a CL-9, and a 664. His gear now includes two 633s, a 688 mixer/recorder with a CL-12 Alaia™ linear fader controller, and the Wingman wireless interface application, running on an iOS-based mobile device.
“For my cart, I like to be pretty light and power efficient, so I’ve got the 688 with the CL-12. I’m also running a 633 for ISO backups,” Beebe says. “For the television I do, I’m able to get 12 tracks, which is plenty for me. I can always use my 633 if I need a few more tracks.”
Whether working on a scripted drama or unscripted reality shows, Beebe turns to his second 633 in a bag when he needs mobility in a hurry, and he credits the interchangeable nature of the 6-Series product line for making it possible.
“Being in reality TV has helped me become a bag mixer very quickly. I carry a full bag rig on my cart…. Within probably one minute, I can leave the cart and be mobile, which I had to do this year on a TV show for HBO called Big Little Lies,” Beebe says. “We were in a house filming all day, and the director liked the sunset, so they wanted everyone out on the beach. Right now. The cameras never cut. They started running out of the house. I always have CF cards loaded and ready. I just turned the 633 on, put the SD card in, jammed timecode from my 688, ran down to the beach, and we filmed for an hour and a half.”
Beebe adds, “They’re faster, more forgiving recorders that are capable of doing multi-tracks. The power-up options, where you can start recording within a second, the QuickBoot™ is incredible. And the power efficiency—right now I can run my cart for 20 hours on batteries alone.”
Also part of the Sound Devices 6-Series product line, the 688 is a 12-input mixer with an integrated 16-track recorder, while the 633 is a smaller, compact 6-input mixer with 10-track recorder. Both record polyphonic or monophonic broadcast WAV files or timecode-stamped MP3 files to SD or CompactFlash cards. Both are compatible with the CL-12, and both can be monitored and controlled from the Wingman app.
“I’m using Wingman on an iPad mini for the larger display and to create sound reports and send them off to my cell phone when in the field. It’s a great extension of the 688,” Beebe says, but he admits the CL-12 Alaia is the accessory he was most eager to have. “When the CL-12 Alaia came out with the P&G faders, that was exactly what I was looking for, waiting for, and asking for. I needed a separate slate mic input, and the P&G faders were just the icing on the cake that sold me on it right away. It’s such a good feel, having all the menus at my fingertips on the board. With the amazing analog limiters on the 688, it’s just a powerhouse combination.”
For Beebe who just wrapped up work on another season of American Horror Story, the limiters are the most impressive and helpful feature found on a 6-Series mixer/recorder, especially when dynamic personalities are mic’d up.
“Working with an actor like Lady Gaga, you don’t know if she’s going to scream or whisper at any second,” Beebe says, “and these (Sound Devices) recorders have such fantastic limiters that I haven’t experienced clipping in years.”
While Beebe uses the 688 predominantly as his cart-based mixer/recorder, he recently utilized its portability on the set of American Horror Story.
“The producers asked me to actually be in the show because they were going to shoot documentary-style of a show being made. So I’m well featured in episode 6 of season 6 wearing the 688,” Beebe says with a chuckle. “I had 9 ISO tracks and two mix tracks in the bag as I’m running around on camera, acting, and we had zero looping…. The 688 allowed me to get all of those tracks and do everything I needed with eight actors in a scene, including me. It’s so efficient, and the limiters are so forgiving that it’s just a pleasure to work with.”
Beebe has also finished production on G.L.O.W., an upcoming American comedy-drama series for Netflix, for which his trusted Sound Devices gear was put to the test once again on set, but he also admits he plans to expand his setup this year to include the SL-6, a powering and wireless accessory for the 688. “I think Sound Devices (gear) has evolved the same way that television has evolved production-wise. So, I’m excited for what the future holds from Sound Devices because it just gets better.”
Beebe recently started production on HBO’s upcoming series Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams, with Jean-Marc Vallee directing.