On the set of Downton Abbey
2014 was a very busy year for David. He finished off the second series of ‘Endeavour’ for ITV and then went straight on to the fifth series of Downton Abbey. This series took 6 months, filming at Ealing Studios, Highclere Castle and Alnwick Castle. A very demanding shoot with a large cast. Dinner parties with twenty cast were not unusual. He then went on to film an adaptation of a children’s book called ‘Professor Branestawn’. Directed by Sandy Johnson and staring Harry Hill this BBC drama was broadcast on Christmas Eve. David finished off the year working for Wall to Wall on the period drama ‘The Woman in Red’ Another adaptation of a book, staring Natalie Dormer, Shaun Evans and Aneurin Barnard this one off ITV special was directed by Sheree Folkson and produced by Madonna Baptiste.
David has just finished work on series 6 of Downton Abbey.
‘Over the years I have exclusively used Rycote products for microphone suspensions and wind protection. I’m a firm believer of using companies that value their customers.’
My journey into TV Production
At 23 I was late to the industry having spent five years working in the travel business. I had no formal training, just a love of playing and recording live music. My first job in TV was working for a small facility company in London called Fox Television. 2 years and one redundancy later I found myself trying to make a living as a freelance sound recordist.
My first kit purchase was a SQN mixer, Sennheiser MKH60 microphone, Panamic boom pole and pair of HD25 headphones. I was able to use this kit for a number of years working as a documentary sound recordist. The only addition being a couple of Audio Ltd VHF radio mics.
The move to Drama
I decided to move into drama about 13 years ago. With the advent of small broadcast quality cameras a lot of my documentary work was being done by self-shooters. Instead of doing a 4 week documentary shoot I found myself doing 2 days with a presenter while the rest of the programme was done by a director filming and recording sound on their own. I got my drama break after going to see a production manager at The Bill. I left him my CV and 2 days later he was on the phone asking if I could take over from a mixer who had damaged his back. I spent the next 3 years working there as a freelance sound mixer. It was an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and meet up and coming directors. With the experience gained I managed to pick up more drama work in both film and television.
Working on Downton Abbey
I am currently working on series 6 of Downton Abbey and have just taken delivery of two Cyclones for my Schoeps Cmit 5U mics. The exterior scenes are filmed at Highclere Castle in Newbury. It’s on the top of a hill and very exposed. We have been experiencing gusts of approximately 30mph. without the fluffy windjammer there is a little bit of wind noise and whistle. However when the windjammer is added the wind noise disappears completely. Even with the windjammer on the sound is transparent. There seems to be no loss of any high frequencies. We also use DPA4071 mics, which we place in DPA concealers. To help with the wind noise we put an Overcover on the top of the mic. The interior scenes are filmed inside the castle and at Ealing studios. For these I use my Sennheiser MKH50’s with Rycote Suspension units.
I decided to move into drama about 13 years ago. With the advent of small broadcast quality cameras a lot of my documentary work was being done by self-shooters.
‘Rycote sent me a number of off cuts of high wind covers and Windjammers to help me. I used these to put over microphones I had placed around the car as it did 200mph around the track at Imola in Italy.’
Life on the set of a TV Production
The dog ate my basket
Over the years I have exclusively used Rycote products for microphone suspensions and wind protection. I’m a firm believer of using companies that value their customers. The service I have received has been exceptional. I once purchased a new basket for my MKH50 microphone. On my first job with it I moved from outside to inside so removed the basket and left it in the corner of a room while we continued filming. 10 minutes later I looked out into the garden to see a dog trying to eat my brand new basket. I managed to retrieve it but not before it had been half eaten. I phoned Rycote who found the whole thing hilarious and promptly put a new basket in the post free of charge.
On a drama a called The Great Outdoors I was called upon to record a cast of seven ramblers on the cliffs tops of the Jurassic coast. Budget and time restraints meant that ADR was not an option. The kit had to be small and mobile due to the locations. I decided to capture all the sound using my two Scheops Cmit’s in Rycote baskets with High Windjammers. The radio TX’s on the booms were attached to the handles of the Rycote suspension. I found that I could hear the sound of the wind as it passed over the transmitters and Rycote handle. I solved this by wrapping the handles in old Rycote windjammers. We managed to record all 4 episodes without a single line of ADR being required.
Bespoke Wind Protection
On another occasion I needed to make some bespoke wind protection for a particular job involving filming a Ferrari Formula One car. Rycote sent me a number of off cuts of high wind covers and windjammers to help me. I used these to put over microphones I had placed around the car as it did 200mph around the track at Imola in Italy
In drama I go through a large number of overcovers and undercovers often of a particular colour. It wasn’t practical to buy the small packs so I called Rycote and they were happy to put together a special bulk order for me.