Mike Westgate Selects Lectrosonics for Hawaiian Expedition
Auckland, New Zealand – August 2006: From feature films including Roger Donaldson’s The World’s Fastest Indian and Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai to documentaries for Jean-Michel Cousteau Productions, production sound mixer Mike Westgate routinely faces some of the most extreme working conditions audio professionals encounter. With over 40 years experience on location everywhere from Africa to Asia, Westgate knows what it takes to get the job done, so when it comes to his wireless technology, Westgate looks to Lectrosonics.
Among his numerous credits, Westgate is particularly fond of his work with Jacques Cousteau and, more recently, his son Jean-Michel Cousteau. Westgate has worked for the Cousteau’s since 1986 and has handled location sound on more than eight expeditions. Among the many projects they worked on together, Westgate was involved with the documentary program Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures, which includes Sharks at Risk, Voyage to Kure, The Gray Whale Obstacle Course, and America’s Underwater Treasures.
One of Westgate’s fondest recollections is the expedition to the island Kure, the most remote of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the northern-most coral atoll in the world. The island is a nesting area for shearwaters, petrels, tropicbirds, boobies, frigate birds, albatrosses, terns, and noddies. It is also a wintering area for a variety of migratory bird species from North America and Asia. During the course of this expedition, Westgate spent six weeks at sea and traversed roughly 2,200 nautical miles. With projects of this nature, product reliability is critical, as Westgate explained, “Once we set off, there was no opportunity to simply pick up the phone and order replacements should any of my equipment fail. My Lectrosonics gear has proven extremely reliable under some the most difficult conditions, and that alone makes it worth its weight in gold.”
On the Voyage to Kure, the purpose of the expedition was to study the history of the island, its infrastructure, and man’s impact on the island’s wildlife, which in addition to the aforementioned birds that live there, includes the Hawaiian monk seals, which are a protected species. While on Kure, Westgate was charged with the task of capturing the various sounds of a very small, nocturnal bird called Bulwers Petrels. Since he couldn’t possibly risk disturbing the birds, Westgate placed his Lectrosonics 200 Series UHF wireless receivers and MM400a Digital Hybrid™ wireless miniature transmitters into service.
“To foster breeding, said Westgate, “the US Wildlife Service placed a number of rearing boxes for the birds to call home. Since it was the sound of the chicks we wanted to record, the only way to accomplish this was to place a radio mic by one of the boxes and a microphone inside. This way, I could capture the birds from a remote location without scaring them. I couldn’t possibly have done this without the Lectrosonics equipment. Further, because of its diminutive size and rugged design, the MM400a was absolutely perfect for this task.”
Westgate reports using Lectrosonics gear since 1997 for a wide range of projects, including documentaries, feature films, and television. “I’m a big fan of Lectrosonics,” reports Westgate. “I work under some very demanding conditions, so the gear takes a fair amount of abuse and it has to work consistently. The build quality, the logical menus, and the level of support the company provides are first rate. It all adds up to a very positive field experience.”
So what’s in store for Westgate in the near future? Apparently, he’ll be packing four Lectrosonics channels for an intensive shoot that will take him to India, Hong Kong, Borneo, back to New Zealand, and finally Australia and Zambia.
“I’m planning on adding a Venue system, which will be great for some feature film work I have coming up.,” reports Westgate. “Like my 200 and 400 series products, the Venue system really excels in the area of available frequency spectrum. When you travel to different countries, you become acutely aware of radio frequency conflicts because you share spectrum with television channels and other services, so you have to work around these transmissions. My Lectrosonics gear enables me to choose from a wide spectrum of frequencies, and their ability to scan for an open frequency is very important. This way, I can find an available gap, and set the system to work there. This is such an important feature for me—it’s absolutely invaluable, and makes the equipment easy to operate in the field.”
For more information about Mike Westgate, visit him online at www.mikewestgatesound.co.nz/.
Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theater technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company's dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.