Devlin selects the Nagra D for
are many challenges that lie ahead for the sound recordist of the future, as
in ďwhat bloody format should I go with? These are my most recent
experiences with the Nagra-D on the upcoming Oliver Stone Feature ďAny
Given SundayĒ. Before I go into that, I will digress slightly and share
with you why I settled on
I recorded for the first time in Dolby SR in 1991 I was convinced this
format would take-off, unfortunately it never seemed to be embraced by
Feature and Television recordists and that unfortunately is a great shame.
So in the early nineties R-DAT was offered up as another format that offered
the location recordist digital quality, portability and dependability?
Who hasnít faced the frustrations of a tape jam, PCM error warning or
other such jolt to the system that the analogue Nagra would never throw at
you! I jumped on the DAT format and at present I use a stelladat and a
Fostex PD4 as a backup. Now obviously this isnít the place to argue the
pros and cons of running back-up, Iím not ashamed to say
have always been aware of the Nagra-D and the endorsements of it by so many
renowned production mixers, Lee Orloff, Ed Tise, Ivan Sharrock, and Chris
Newman. Ed Tise was kind enough to spend a great amount of time with me on
the phone discussing the Nagra-D. However the machine was never an option
for me, number one because of the price and number two, the transfer
facilities that were handling the post on my films were set up for analogue
I was hired as the Production Mixer on ďAny Given SundayĒ, I was told
that Soundelux of Hollywood would be posting the show. I immediately knew
this was going to be the type of show that the Nagra-D would be an asset,
and the fact that Soundelux had their own Nagra-D meant there would be no
problems for post. Wylie Stateman who is the Post-Production Sound
Supervisor on the show was also very supportive of the four-track format.
The big challenge for me now that I was going to do the show on a Nagra-D
was finding one for rent! Well I contacted my good friend Glen Trew of Trew
Audio and told him of my plans and he thought the D was a great choice and
suggested I get in touch with Peter Weibel who rents Nagra-Ds on the west
coast. Well Peter was great and offered me the machine well ahead of time so
that I could familiarize myself with its operations. Both the machine and
Instruction manual can be quite intimidating when first read!!! Even lacing
up the machine for the first time can be a trauma. However once I got used
to the machine, hooked it up to my computer, and learned the menu system I
became an instant fan. However there are two changes I would like to be
made, and they are
1:The ability to put the directory on at the end of the roll.
2:When rewinding, the headphone output level should be reduced.
Given SundayĒ is a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional football team
called the Miami Sharks and is set in the near future. The coach is played
film has a huge cast, and was extremely challenging from a sound
perspective. My original idea for the Nagra D was to record Dialogue tracks
on 1+2,and M/S effects on 3+4,however that idea evaporated very quickly when
I saw how Oliver Stone likes to work. Almost half the movie takes place on
the field and this is where we faced many of our challenges. From the outset
of the show Oliver explained to me that this would be like a documentary and
sound wise we would be listening in on conversations on the field, that
meant we always needed to hear conversations in the huddle, on the sidelines
and in the booth were on of our actors would be relaying instructions to and
from Al Pacinoís character, to the Quarterback on the Field via the
Offensive coaches. All props had to work, all headsets and communications,
and that wasnít always easy with all the frequencies that we contended
with at the Miami Orange Bowl. We could have at any one time eight cameras
shooting, therefore it was critical that we were able to record dialogue in
every area simultaneously, Oliver would call this
we had a full time 2nd unit sound crew I decided to ask production to rent a
2nd Nagra-D since the show was growing into a multi-track situation with
multiple characters in different areas delivering dialogue. Our Producer
Clayton Townsend was very quick to agree once he heard the advantages it
would provide for post-production. Each scene shot on the field would
dictate different track assignments Track 1 would be a radio mic mix due to
wide and tight cameras shooting simultaneously, track 2 was a radio boom
which allowed my boom-op Kevin Cerchiai to follow either the Steadicam or
any hand-held cameras that would be thrown into the mix and tracks 3 and 4
left open for any additional surprises, and there were many. My 2nd Boom
operator Mike Schmidt was kept busy wiring any additional actors that would
suddenly have dialogue, or looking after our telex intercom system for the
actors to communicate.
unit would handle additional tracks that we needed to send them as well as
working with the second unit crew.
time we were on the field we would always build up to at least eight tracks
and on several occasions we would use the stelladat for an extra two tracks.
The transfer facility Magno Sound in New York did an outstanding job of
transferring our material even though we did not always make it easy for
them or the editors!
challenging area for us in the movie was that when we worked with extras,
Oliver always wanted them to be talking as they would in real life, he hated
extras miming dialogue, this he felt stagnated the set and did not create
the reality for the actors to work in. It was a constant battle to be able
to keep the background chatter down to a minimum and still keep the level of
our main actors up to a point where it was separated from the background.
we shot at the football stadiums we had playback at all times that could
create the sound of 70,000 excited fans as well as music to punctuate what
was happening on the field. Oliver is very insistent that sound on location
be able to create the environment that we were shooting in, and that at
times encompassed having various music to be available at all times, sound
effects if noted in the script would be played live and all telephone calls
had to work live.
can honestly say I would not have wanted to do this movie on any other
format. The Nagra performed very well and although it may not be necessary
to have four tracks on every show I feel that once you get used to filling
up the tracks you donít want to go back to a two-track format. It is a
great tool and I know that I have never had so many comments from crew
members who came over to look at a reel to reel machine. Many of them had
thought recordists donít use Nagras anymore!
Will the Nagra D survive as we move towards Hard disk recording systems? I
know those recordists that already own one will always use them, and
post-houses will have to facilitate them, however for the moment I will be
very content with the Nagra-D for any four-track recordings that I will be
doing in the future.
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