Tag: 633

Chris Duesterdiek, CAS

Chris Duesterdiek with his boom op on set of Mountains Between Us

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.”

Chris Duesterdiek with his boom op on set of Mountains Between Us
A beautiful day on the job for Chris Duesterdiek in Canadian mountains. Photo credit:Kimberly French.

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.”

Chris Duesterdiek sound bag on location for The Revenant

Duesterdiek on location for The Revenant… Photo credit:Kimberly French.

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.

Chris Duesterdiek sound bag on location for The Revenant

Amid rugged terrain, Duesterdiek mixing audio for The Revenant. Photo credit:Kimberly French.

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.”

Chris Deusterdiek with 633 in bag on site for Mountains Between Us

Duesterdiek with 633 in bag on site for The Mountain Between Us. Photo credit:Kimberly French.

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.”

Chris Duesterdiek's cart on set of Mountains Between Us

Chris Duesterdiek with his cart on the set of The Mountain Between Us. Photo credit:Kimberly French.

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.”

Chris Duesterdiek with his boom op on set of Mountains Between Us

Chris Duesterdiek with his boom op, Jon Lavender, on location for The Mountain Between Us. Photo credit:Kimberly French.

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.”

Products Mentioned

633 Firmware v4.51

  • New
    • 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.
  • Fixed
    • Media slow errors due to SD/CF card overfill.
    • Rare event where white noise would appear on outputs and headphones when MixAssist was enabled.

Brendan Beebe, CAS

Brendan Beebe, CAS

Production sound mixer relies on an arsenal of 6-Series gear – 633 and 688 mixer/recorders, and CL-12 Alaia – for hit TV shows, including Big Little Lies and American Horror Story.

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.”

Brendan Beebe, CAS

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.

Brendan Beebe's sound cart

Shot of Brendan Beebe’s sound cart featuring the 688, CL-12 and Wingman app for American Horror Story

“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.”

Brendan Beebe mixing on the beach for Big Little Liars

Action shot of Brendan Beebe mixing on the beach for Big Little Lies

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.

Brendan Beebe sound bag on the set of Big Little Liars

Brendan Beebe sound bag on the set of Big Little Lies.

“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.

Brendan Beebe mixing by the oceanfront

Brendan Beebe mixing by the oceanfront.

“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.

Products Mentioned

633 Firmware v4.50

  • New
    • Auto Mixer
      • Dugan Auto Mix
      • MixAssist
    • Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut to toggle tone On/Off
  • Changed
    • High-Pass Filter now returns to last used value when toggled on and off rather than always reset to 150Hz.
    • Recording of 192 kHz monophonic wav files is no longer allowed. In previous firmware, recording was not prevented even though it was classed as an unsupported mode. Set to polyphonic when recording 192 kHz.
  • Fixed
    • Long file names on exFAT formatted media are truncated.
    • Factory Option for Scene Name can be overwritten by user if Scene Name is edited during record. This can cause Scene Increment Mode to stop working.

Products Mentioned

Products Mentioned


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