AGOURA HILLS, CALIFORNIA: Working for the last year-and-a-half with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society to help educate people about the critical role of the world's oceans in the planet's well-being, has taken sound engineer Gary Holland from TV-saturated areas to regions dense with Marine Band radio signals. Throughout his travels, which have taken him from the southernmost tip of Baja Mexico to the Arctic Sea and to every corner of the United States, Holland has relied on Lectrosonics' UCR411a Digital Hybrid Wireless compact receiver systems. They cut through the RF clutter and deliver pristine audio of scientists discussing critical environmental issues.
"I've been using my UCR411As extensively as they have proven to be totally reliable, from their basic performance to their 'cat-like' frequency agility," reports Holland. "Since acquiring my UCR411As my worries over mic drop-outs and RF hits are virtually and even realistically gone. The 411A system has made life in the field for sound engineers, like myself, a whole lot easier. We are now able to perform work never before attainable, and certainly much quicker, with much more confidence that our work will be of the highest quality and be RF problem-free."
An RF spectrum analyzer is built into the UCR411A receiver, which tunes across a 25.6MHz range and displays RF activity on an LCD screen. The display helps alleviate the challenge of finding usable frequencies in the increasingly congested RF spectrum, as Holland details. "Upon arrival at a location, typically an area near a large urban setting where there are many HD television sources and usually a vast amount of Marine Band RF traffic, I go through my menu settings to seek out either completely clean frequency channels or ones with the least amount of activity. These are all clearly observed and easily understood by way of the 411A's display. I can then set my units up to those clear frequencies."
He continues, "Once out in the field and on the specific location I open these channels to listen for any other problems. If I'm clear, I continue then to solve any location problems I may face, such as compressors, generators, engines or other sources of noise not critical for the mission that I may shut down. I also look for an area that may be more wind protected than another. If I find there is an RF problem once on location, it is a simple fix to seek out another clear channel for that setting. I then set my low-frequency roll-offs and match all of the radios to the most useful of those on the transmitters and away we go!"
The dense RF spectrum would wreak havoc with any of the previously available professional wireless mic setups, according to Holland. "These interviews feature world-leading scientists talking about rather complex issues that require clean and discreet audio for clarification. Too often I would be forced to use an 'open mic' technique and suffer from the various noise factors of generators and compressors and any of quite a number of sound nuisances that would detract from the pertinent information being discussed by our team members, researchers and scientists."
The Lectrosonics UCR411A has made it possible to close-mic participants every time, ensuring intelligible audio every time, he relates. "While an 'open mic' does sound excellent and conveys realistic interpretations when recording ambiance or wildlife sound effects, and even dialogue in a more controlled environment, a close body mic sending information over a wireless system is typically the salvation for the majority of my top-side recordings of interviews and scientific discussions."
In fact, the Lectrosonics system has proved to be a boon even when using 'open mic' techniques, says Holland. "I use my 411As to plant my 'open mics' when the situation calls for it. I feel confident that I will lose none of the dynamic range or frequency response in the Lectrosonics' processing of the audio signals no matter what mics or applications I choose. That is a good feeling to have when in the field, whether you are recording scientists, bears or whales, the signal will be clear, reliable and dependable."
Prior to this expedition, Holland spent nine years working with the Captain, Jacques Yves Cousteau. Then he moved into making feature films, and now is back to his first love of making National History Documentaries, such as the Grey Whale Documentary airing on PBS this summer and the National Marine Sanctuary Film in the fall.