Sound Devices Travel Through Space & Time for 'Doctor Who'
Let's be honest here. All of us are guilty of a little bit of healthy gear fetishism -- it's an undeniably exciting time for the tools of the trade. For whatever reason, audio gear doesn't get nearly the same level of love, and that's kind of sad -- there's plenty of sexiness to go around in that realm, too. Sound Devices is one manufacturer that takes digital dual system technology very, very seriously. As such I was quite interested to find out Sound Devices make up the sound recordist's arsenal on one of my favorite TV shows: the BBC's Doctor Who.
Doctor Who is arguably the longest-running science fiction series in history, and depending how you're counting, one of the longest running shows ever. This is fitting, because the adventures of the last surviving Time Lord -- The Doctor -- cover quite a bit of space, and, you guessed it, time.
Also fitting is sound recordist Deian Humphreys' use of Sound Devices to capture the chrono-hopping chaos on set. In many of their professional digital recorders, Sound Devices utilizes timecode clocking technology from Ambient -- a Lord of Time in its own right. The following comes to us from CreativeCOW, which spotlights Deian Humphreys' crucial role on the set of Doctor Who -- as well as his completely awesome Sound Devices-centric rig (all material courtesy CreativeCOW, photo by Stefan Rice):
When BAFTA Cymru Award-nominated sound recordist Deian Humphreys set out to capture all of the dynamic dialog for the BBC hit science fiction television program "Doctor Who," he turned to Sound Devices 788T-SSD digital audio recorder, 442 field mixer, CL-9 linear fader controller and CL-8 mixing control surface to record and mix all the audio action. "[The] 788T... allows me to easily switch between a Schoeps SuperCMIT digital mic and a Schoeps analog mic without the need for any peripheral equipment," says Humphreys. "I will often have eight iso-tracks being recorded and two mixed tracks, so the 788T is being driven hard."
Eight inputs recording 24-bit at 192 kHz sounds impressive on a spec sheet for sure. What's more, though, is that the preamps and A/D conversion in a Sound Devices recorder create unbelievably clean recordings. This, coupled with the 788T's metadata input capabilites, facilitates everything down the pipeline:
Humphreys also appreciates the 788T-SSD's metadata features. "I had a long conversation with the dialog editors and one of the requests they had was to match the name of each character with each track. Not just lav 1, lav 2, lav 3, but the character name, so I'm constantly in the 778T-SSD’s track naming menu and I’m re-labeling tracks when different characters come in on those particular mics. That’s such an important feature for me and for the editors, who need to know exactly who is on each track, so they don’t need to waste time pre-listening to tracks to find out who’s on what."
Of course, the 'cleanliness' of production tracks can depend a lot on other factors. Practical special effects -- such as pyrotechnics -- can make it very difficult to save a scene from ADR, regardless of system SNR. However, having solid tools counts for a lot, and Deian has nothing but good things to say about his Sound Devices gear. If you want to read more about his work or his rig, be sure to check out the CreativeCOW write-up below.