07/20/16

DPA MICROPHONES BRING NEW MEANING TO THE PHRASE ‘IN-CAR AUDIO’

d:screet™ Miniature Microphones were used to record clean, clear dialogue for the film American Honey, where much of the action takes place in a van.
Production Sound Mixer and Sound Recordist Rashad Omar has been using DPA d:screet™ Miniature Microphones and d:dicate™ Recording Microphones to capture dialogue for a number of high-profile feature films include American Honey, which recently won the 2016 Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by Andrea Arnold and starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough, the film is set in the American Midwest and tells the story of a teenage girl who joins a travelling magazine sales crew. As their journey progresses, she gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love.

A great deal of the film’s action takes place inside an American Passenger van with up to 15 characters in it at any one time. For much of the time the characters were also listening to music played through the van’s sound system, which incorporated an exceptionally loud sub-woofer.

“The style of filming was very freeform with the possibility of anybody speaking at any point,” Rashad explains. “The van was being driven for real, so it was obvious from the start that I had to place mics around to try and cover all parts of it. We also had to ensure that all mics and cables were hidden because it was possible to see any part of the van at any time.”

d:screet™ 4060 and 4061 Omnidirectional Miniature Microphones proved crucial because they were small enough to be hidden, yet capable of delivering the clarity Rashad needed for dialogue.

“I always like to keep things as real as possible during these type of scenes, so I relied on a selection of d:screet™ microphones because they sound equally good on dialogue and music,” he says. “I decided that the best solution was to take out the whole head-lining moulding of the van and rig cables behind it so I could get mics inside the air vents in the van’s roof. This meant I had to modify the vents so they no longer worked, and by taking them out and stretching black lycra over them, I was able to stick the d:screet™ microphones behind the lycra where they couldn’t be seen.”

Fortunately, the vents ran the full length of the van so Rashad was able to get microphones above each row of seats.

“I still had to cover some areas of the van without vents so I hid d:screet™ 4061’s in the joins in the heading fabric and connected them using MicroDot extension cables. All the cables came out at the back of the van where I was positioned - mostly ducking down behind the last row of seats,” he adds.

The difference in sensitivity between the two d:screet™ variants was especially useful as Rashad was able to use lo-sensitivity d:screet™ 4061s at the front of the van where the music was the loudest and high-sensitivity d:screet™ 4060s further back.

“As all the cables in the roof were rigged with XLR connectors, I could swap to compact, side cabled d:dicate™ 4018 Supercardioid Microphones whenever I needed a fuller and more isolated sound,” he says. “Thanks to the side cable mic pre-amp, I was able to use them for other car scenes because I could rig them above and around sun visors. I have noticed that they reject more engine noise than other supercardiods that I have used due to the reduced pick up pattern at the rear of the mic. They are now my new favourite for dialogue in cars!”

Given the complexity of the car scenes Rashad was recording, he was delighted to have such a wide range of microphone solutions at his disposal.

“These situations call for a bit of everything because you can’t rely on one thing to work all the time,” he says. “Sometimes I just quickly taped a Lectrosonics radio pack with a d:screet™ 4060 and mini windjammer to the back of the seat in front of the actor to grab a bit of dialogue. The fact that the d:screet™ 4060 and 4061’s can work as radio mics or plant mics for both dialogue and music is fantastic.”

Coming into feature films from a documentary background Rashad describes the importance of ‘real’ as opposed to a more constructed sound, with Andrea Arnold’s film ‘Fish Tank’ offering a great opportunity to record in this way.

“My main aim when I approach a scene is to think about all the elements that make up the full ‘sound picture’ of the location. This is especially important for me in real locations, so I am true to that place. Then I think about how the dialogue sits within that scene. I like to use as many options as possible to capture dialogue to give the various sound editors the material they need to make the scene work. That means not only booms and radio mics but also plant mics and atmos mics to capture the range of sounds within a scene.”

Rashad has used DPA d:screet™ Miniature Microphones on many other movies, including The Lady in the Van, Rush and Bridget Jones’s Baby, which is released later this year.

“Production Sound Mixers today have a plethora of equipment at our disposal,” he adds. “For me the most important part of the chain is the microphone, the first thing the sound hits. So I make sure I buy the best I can. The radio mics I use now are much better and more reliable than they used to be, which means we can mic up every actor who has dialogue and in conjunction with the booms and plants there are many different sounding options for the mix. My collection of DPA microphones allows me to do things I wouldn't have been able to do in the past and this really improves the overall sound quality for feature films.”

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