Sound Engineer David Ruddick recently joined Dr Joyce Poole, an elephant behaviour
expert, and her brother Bob Poole, a wildlife cameraman for National Geographic,
to work on a documentary on elephants to help re-establish safe tourism in the park
following the Mozambique civil war and the reduction of ivory poaching.
|In order to record audio for ‘War Elephants’, which aired in April 2012, David needed to find portable audio gear that would hold up in the rugged terrain and extreme climate of Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, and chose Sound Devices’ 552 Production Mixer.|
|To work on the documentary, Bob Poole rebuilt a Land Rover and made an elephant-proof roll cage to help prove his and his sister's theory that the Gorongosa elephants could learn that not all humans in vehicles visiting the park are a threat. The plan was that when a vehicle encounters a group of elephants, instead of driving away, honking horns or screaming as an elephant charges, they would keep their position and remain calm. Once the elephants were assured that the vehicle and people inside weren’t harmful, they would behave naturally and not be aggressive. The theory worked, but there were tense moments and close calls involved in the process.|
|On location David did not ride in the elephant-proof Land Rover. Instead, his separate sound vehicle followed the Land Rover with the 552 set up in the passenger seat with two shark fin antennas attached to the wireless receivers. He had transmitters on Joyce and Bob and plant mics in the car. The mix was then sent to the camera via a wireless link.
“The film presented several obstacles for recording great dialog,” said David. “Relying on wireless transmission from the hero car to my vehicle and also sending a stereo mix to the camera, and driving at the same time could get very challenging. When we were filming elephants, we had to position the sound vehicle in just the right place to have good wireless range and be out of the shot, while leaving an escape route just in case we met a rogue elephant who wanted to smash the sound vehicle.
|“We drove over 1,500km on incredibly bumpy 4X4 roads and elephant paths so anything that was not well made, including cars, fell apart. Temperatures were hot and dust was always a problem. But having the 552 next to me made mixing and recording easier. It is built like a tank, and didn’t miss takes in demanding situations.”
Sound Devices’ 552 Production Mixer records analog and digital, in a lightweight, power-efficient mixer that works in simple mobile applications or in complex multi-input, multi-output production setups.
The 552 contains five precision high-dynamic-range transformer-balanced microphone inputs with expanded gain and headroom. Each input accepts audio sources of various types and levels. Inputs have their own limiter, sweepable high-pass filter, and pre-or-post-fade direct output.