New History Channel doc’s ‘huge challenges’ overcome with DPA

When Nico Ruderman, president and owner of Spinrad Sound, was named audio supervisor for the History Channel’s new reality documentary, The Selection: Special Operations Experiment, he knew he was about to take on a grueling and demanding job.

Ruderman would have 42 wireless lavs on a large campus and in a variety of extreme elements. In order to deliver unrivaled audio throughout the rigorous production, Ruderman relied on DPA Microphones d:screet 4061 Necklace and d:screet 4061 Miniature Ominidirectional Microphones.

“In looking at microphones, we needed a solution that would allow us to be hands off with the 30 participants,” he said. “Due to the nature of the show, we had zero access to them. They had to be able to mic themselves quickly. We also needed something extremely durable and DPA necklace mics were the best solution for this. Since we wanted the microphones to easily blend in with the participants’ uniforms, we selected DPA’s all-black d:screet 4061 Necklace mics. The director, Grant Kahler, and I love the sleek look of the mics and, of course, I love how they sound. With the instructors, we had to hide the lav, so we used the d:screet 4061 omnidirectional mic to match the necklace mics.”

One of Ruderman’s biggest challenges was that the participants were under extremely harsh conditions and wearing the necklace mics 24 hours a day for two weeks straight. “From our desert location where temperatures reached sweltering triple digits, to the water and sand of the beach and ocean, they were almost always miked, even when they were sleeping,” he adds. “The DPA necklace mic’s resilience was impressive. Most of the mics were wet at one point or another during the show, but dried out and worked just fine.”

Another problem Ruderman faced when capturing the audio was the instructors’ varying vocal ranges. “The instructors would be whispering one minute, and screaming the next. The d:screet Necklace mics handled the varying levels of the instructors’ audio incredibly well,” continued Ruderman. “We never had any clipping on the mics and, overall, they handled remarkably well. The DPA mics definitely have a great range.”

Ruderman used his DPA mics with a combination of Lectrosonics and Zaxcom kit. “Another cool thing with DPA mics, and another reason why we went with them, in addition to their amazing sound, is that we could easily swap out the transmitters as needed,” says Ruderman. “The Microdot connectors were a lifesaver as they allowed the participants to easily swap transmitters when needed. When they were on base, we would use Lectrosonics but when we left base, we would swap over to Zaxcom because of its time-stamped integrated recording. We left the adaptors attached and taped into the transmitters. The participants would have their two transmitters and would simply change over from Lectrosonics to Zaxcom, and vice versa as needed. It cut down on the mics we needed in half, which was amazing. The fact that DPA mics are compatible with all major companies is a plus when working on a project of this magnitude.”

In addition to his DPAs, Ruderman also used a Yamaha CL5 as his main mixing board, seven Sound Devices 970s for his multi-tracking across different wireless zones and Sound Devices 688s out in the field. Ruderman also used Wisycom receivers for their wideband capabilities, in addition to the Lectrosonics receivers.

“This production presented huge challenges and thanks to DPA, we were able to deliver fantastic audio for what turned out to be a really great show,” explained Ruderman. “The show went off without a hitch and I also want to thank Travis Franklin, the nighttime A1, who was a huge asset to the show. This show didn’t only test the participants, but all of the production personnel and equipment, and I’m thrilled with how my DPA gear performed. I will definitely use DPA again.”

The Selection: Special Operations Experiment is a new History Channel series that places 30 men and women with no military background through the most intense physical and mental challenges of their lives. Instructing the 30 civilian participants are six combat veterans that range across various US Special Operations units. With the instructors pushing them to the limit both mentally and physically – with tear gas, interrogation simulation and psychological warfare among other tests – the participants are driven to breaking point. It is not a competition series – there are no cash rewards – only a test against oneself to see if the mind has the will and strength to push the body to complete the tasks.