Denver, CO (June 1, 2022) — Bruner Dyer and Jeff Asell have the tastiest gig in location sound. They record and mix Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, the smash hit travelogue series in which Guy Fieri visits the best restaurants across the country serving up off the hook dishes. Like the cooks preparing the meals, they often must get everything right in one go. That’s why the dialogue, the sizzle of the pans, and perhaps even the burbles of satisfied stomachs pass through their Lectrosonics wireless rigs. Currently, that includes two DCR822 dual-channel digital receivers, half a dozen SMQV Digital Hybrid transmitters, a pair of SMDWB wideband transmitters, and even four UCR411a receivers purchased in 2006. IFB is covered by DCHTs sending to DCHR and M2R units. Between bites, they told us about their workflow and equipment.
What challenges are unique to working on a food travelogue show like this one?
Jeff Asell: A restaurant is not a studio or even a film set. There are so many noises that are not under our control. Doing these jobs in hostile environments with steam, heat, and vaporized oils, we need our gear to be pretty agile and it cannot be delicate. It needs to be able to withstand some abuse. We take care of our gear but that doesn’t mean that the people wearing it always do!
Bruner Dyer: We do the best we can to get everything in one take. When we are shooting, I treat it like a live show. The gear has to work.
In terms of your jobs, how is a typical episode set up?
JA: When we come into a town, we shoot with twin crews. Bruner is on one and I’m on the other. So, the frequency agility of the DCR822 means that if someone on camera goes from his set to my set wearing a body pack, we can pre-coordinate that. We don’t have to change the pack or interrupt the action at all. The same features also make it very easy for people listening on IFB to switch between Bruner’s set and mine.
Due to the wideband capability?
JA: The 822 takes it a step further where it can knit blocks A1 and B1. That lets us bounce between many different body packs. Guy doesn’t use scripts, so catching organic moments is key. It is a reality situation, so “Wait, I have to change this up or mike that person” doesn’t work. It also helps that everything is so interchangeable, and the newest receivers are backward-compatible with the older transmitters.
BD: Lectro does not let their customers down in that respect. For the longest time I had the 200 series, before they moved to Digital Hybrid. They made sure that everything I had worked with all the newer gear as much as possible.
The kitchen sounds of the show make us just as hungry as the sights. What’s your approach to capturing those?
BD: We get a tiny bit of that through people’s lavs, but for the most part we try to get B-roll ahead of time with a closer mic on the action. We briefly shut down vent hoods, refrigerators, basically anything that makes noise. We literally turn these noisemakers off and on all day, as needed, so we can capture the wonderful sounds of the food being prepared and cooking, while not harming the contents of the refrigerators, and not making it so hot in the kitchen that no one can tolerate it. The day Guy is there, though, it’s all wireless lavs in the kitchen. You’ve seen how tight some of those kitchens are, right? Shelves to the ceiling, people working a foot from you. You’re not going to get in there with a boom.
What’s in your bag right now?
BD: Mine has two DCR822s, an SRc in block 941, and I keep four UCR411a around for when I need to expand because they’re such dependable workhorses. I always trust the 411s.
How about on the transmitter side?
JA: We’re now using the SMDWB, the wideband transmitter with dual-battery packs. If we visit a city we haven’t been in for two or three years, the spectrum may have changed completely. So, these things are a lifesaver. For many years, I used an SMV on Guy. You could pound a nail with it, and it would still work.
BD: I still use my old SMD, the first SM-series transmitter I ever purchased, as one of my primary transmitters. It works great. Of course, I have some wideband going as well.
We’re hearing durability and dependability as a theme. Do you have any good horror stories about Lectrosonics surviving the abuse of the road, on this or another show?
BD: I was on a shoot on Living Alaska. This father-son duo was going to be canoeing across a river. I asked, “Are you gonna get wet?” and they responded, “Nope, we’re not going in!” They were both miked and we’re shooting them from the shore. The next thing you know, they’ve dumped it in the middle of this river. One of the transmitters got soaked — and this was day one of seven in the wilderness! It did stop, but I was able to remove the batteries, dry it out, and it worked the rest of the week!
JA: Similar story here. I was in the northern woods of Minnesota. I had a small bag on my chest, and we were following these international Arctic explorers. That’s where they train with their dog teams. I was going to drive this snowmobile, but as I turned the handlebars, my audio bag pushed on the throttle. I rocketed into a tree, flipped the snowmobile, and my bag got full of snow. I would have been running with probably four or five 411s at the time and a couple of transmitters on the exterior of the bag. I dumped as much snow out of the bag as I could, got back to my cabin, got out the hair dryer, and everything kept working.
BD: People are constantly dropping IFB receivers. I don’t know why — it’s like they just can’t help it. I’m never scared of what I’m going to find when I pick an M2R or R1a back up. I’m much more afraid of dropping my phone.
You both work on a lot of shows that are outdoors, or that cover lifestyles like people setting out on the road or into the wilderness. Does this present range issues, and if so, how do you handle them?
BD: I was working on a Food Network show called Last Cake Standing. At the last minute, the production changed the setup from me being in the room, to me working remotely from a control room a good distance away from the stage. I had no time to plan and build. I set up 16 UCR411s being fed by a Radio Shack RF distro I bought that weekend. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. There was an RF noise floor reading at about 35 percent, and the 411s just pulled right through it. It wasn’t the best set up, but we made six one-hour episodes with it, without issue.
JA: We did a road trip show a few years ago that involved the host skydiving. I turned the transmitter output up to a quarter-watt and daisy-chained a PDR [since replaced by the SPDR and MTCR] to the host to capture anything he said while out of range, as the idea was for him to do the show open during the dive. I set up a secondary bag in the plane that was taking in the radio transmission, which I thought they would have up until he jumped out. My primary bag was on the ground, and looking up, we were surprised at how quickly he came into range. So, between the wireless and the PDR, we got broadcast-quality sound for a show open during free-fall!
Have you ever had to coordinate an absurd number of channels?
BD: A number of years ago, I coordinated 40 wireless mics, plus 8 IFB channels, for a Kingsford Invitational BBQ competition. I used a combo of Lectro Venues with VRT modules, and UCR411s on a distro on the receiver end.
There’ll be a show premiering on June 3rdat 9pm on Food Network, Guy’s All-American Road Trip. It’s a road trip with Guy, along with family and friends, traveling in seven RVs across the Pacific Northwest. It was pretty wild. We had five cameras with operators, drones, GoPros, and 22 talent members. We used 18 recorders, a combination of PDRs and MTCRs. For the travel sequences, we put PDRs on everybody in the RVs, and the camera department rigged GoPros in the RVs. And when the RVs would show up on location, we would transition from the PDRs to transmitters. We found the timecode jammed PDRs and MTCRs very reliable, and our post department had no issues with them. These little recorders proved to be invaluable tools in our arsenal of tricks.
JA: I had 12 channels of RF in my bag and Bruner had another eight. Then there were the 18 PDRs and MTCRs. At any given moment, any cast member could be sucked into a scene, and we were trying to just not affect the flow. If an organic moment happened, we had to be ahead of it. So, we had the micro-recorders going and were monitoring our primaries on another 20 channels. There were also some situations where radio mics weren’t an option, whether it was dune buggy riding or zip-lining or something else.
BD: That show spoke to Lectrosonics’ ruggedness as well. We were in some pretty hostile environments. There was a lot of fine sand, and some scenes with jet boats on the water.
You have a lot of equipment. If you could single out one piece of kit that’s made your life easier, what would it be?
BD: The 822 is the receiver I have been waiting for. It has the robust front end like the UCR411 that I count on, but in a modern dual-channel format. Another feature I like is the recording capability. I use it as a backup for a number of reasons. It has saved my butt before. I can’t tell you how happy I am Lectro came out with this product.
Aspiring sound mixers and especially filmmakers sometimes perceive Lectrosonics as expensive. As guys who had to break into this business, what is your take on that?
JA: You know what’s expensive? An entire TV crew waiting around because you’re trying to get your gear to work the way it says it does. That doesn’t just cost money and hurt the production — it hurts your soul!
BD: Point being, with Lectrosonics, that just doesn’t happen. My reputation is worth more than the $500 or $1,000 I might save on a piece of wireless gear. I will never invest in wireless gear that is not best in class. My wireless mics are the most important components in my audio kit. Period.
We have to ask. Do you get to sample the food made on the show?
JA: Absolutely! You try to take a couple of bites and walk away. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuffed.
BD: We’re shooting in New Jersey right now and just today I’ve already had barbecue ribs, brisket, and sausage.
What advice might you have for people who want to do what you do?
JA: You have to be flexible mentally and willing to keep learning. If you start getting into set parameters, it’s going to turn around and bite you.
BD: Don’t be afraid to step up and get in the hot seat when opportunity arises, but of course, don’t offer to fly the plane if you’re not a pilot. At times I have said to myself, “If these guys can do it, I can do it.” And that thought has pushed me to learn and continually challenge myself. Now I get paid to travel around, eat great food, work with great people, and play with radios and microphones for a living. It could be worse.
So, don’t get into sound mixing if “what you really want to do is direct”?
BD: Hah! That, and use Lectrosonics!