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Wall of sound

by Chris Newbould on Jan 6, 2013

 Many cinemas require a 5.1 mix in order to screen a new film.
Many cinemas require a 5.1 mix in order to screen a new film.

When location sound recordist David Thirion signed up to his latest feature project, he was making a little bit of regional history too. Champ of the Camp holds the claim to the title of first feature recorded in full 5.1 surround sound in the region.

Set for completion by the end of this year, Mahomoud Kaabour’s Champ of the Camp will be the first feature in the region to have been filmed in full 5.1 surround sound.

Indeed, what better way to record the ambiance and excitement of a huge singing competition featuring an audience of thousands, amidst the construction and chaos of Dubai’s labour camps?

It was a first for the region, and it was a first for sound recordist David Thirion too, who despite being one of the most sought-after sound recordists in the UAE, had to do his homework before he got to work on his latest project.

Thirion explains: “There’s never been a 5.1 shoot in the region that I’m aware of, and it was the first time for me too. I had to look into what gear we needed to use, and then of course finding that gear in Dubai was a challenge too.”

Fortunately, Thirion was not alone in his quest, as the film had some helpful backers from among the regional industry: “We were lucky as we had sponsors,” he says.

“NMK and Melody House were right behind the project, and they’re the distributors for DPA and Sound Devices in the region. The mic you need for a 5.1 shoot is fundamentally different to what’s required for a typical stereo shoot, and certainly not something you’d get on a typical Sony camera or similar.

Recording in 5.1 gives you six channels – left, centre, right, left surround, right surround and low frequency effect (LFE). The recorder, meanwhile, is much the same as a normal one, but of course you’ll need more channels.

“We went for the DPA 5100 mobile surround microphone. It’s five microphones integrated into a single unit. It’s a bit bigger than my usual equipment, but surprisingly not too much – it’s still mobile, as the name says, and it’s fairly easy to carry around.

DPA does also offer a ‘surround tree’ around which you can set up five mics exactly how you want them. That’d be great for features where you have lots of time for sound design, but we don’t have that luxury on most documentaries.

There’s neither the time nor the budget for it. Of course we did a certain degree of sound design, but we certainly didn’t have three months to try out shooting sounds and find exactly the right one.

“Alongside that we used a Sound Devices 788 recorder. It’s a flash memory device, not a hard disc, so its much lighter and has much more storage – 256 gigs, which is plenty for audio.

Sound Devices also sent us a CL-8, which is a fader you can attach to the recorder so you have proper faders to play with – it’s much easier to play with them than without. We’ve been really spoilt by Sound Devices and DPA, who really believed in our project, and it was great to have them on board.”

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Well documented article. It's a good start that surround audio is gaining ground in this region. What would be nice to


Readers' Comments

Clyde DeSouza (Jan 7, 2013)
United Arab Emirates

true Node tree 5.1 or Wheel and spoke?
Well documented article. It's a good start that surround audio is gaining ground in this region. What would be nice to see is more mastering houses take root here. The last short film (animated) I was involved in, I remember the sound designer said that final Dolby mastering would have to be done outside the UAE! This was truly surprising to me. Getting back to this article, I would (in my humble opinion) not classify it as true surround recording, even though technically it is, given that the mic used is capturing sound from different directions. I still think of this as a Wheel and Spoke design however, and the ambient sound is not being recorded from within the "trenches" as it were. I would rather prefer a Node and tree design to capture of ambient, environment and sounds from the "wings" by implanted discrete mics in there. Yes this would require a sound desk for mixdown, but that is only if it were a live to air production. Docu film-making in a cinema verite style such as this production, could with some added planning, have the benefit from true satellite capture of sound from the location. The current DPA solution, can't hope to capture subtle nuances in environment and audience sounds as would a dedicated implanted node mic. Again, this is just my opinion. It's a great Stride in the right direction though! Best Regards.


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