Sound Devices on the set of Doctor Who

As the production sound mixer for the hit BBC science fiction programme, Deian Humphreys is charged with recording clean, clear dialogue to reduce the amount of ADR needed. This proved to be quite challenging on the set of Doctor Who, where Deian battles with excessive noise from special effects such as smoke, steam, and snow machines, as well as a multitude of explosions.

For the BAFTA Cymru Award-nominated sound recordist’s on-set trolley rig Deian chose a number of Sound Devices kit including a 788T-SSD digital audio recorder and CL-9 linear fader controller. When the demands of the show force him to tone down his rig and go portable, he opts for a 788T-SSD and the CL-8 mixing control surface.

“One of the features that I really like about the 788T is that it allows me to easily switch between a Schoeps SuperCMIT digital mic and a Schoeps analog mic without the need for any peripheral equipment,” says Humphreys. “I will often have eight iso-tracks being recorded and two mixed tracks, so the 788T is being driven hard. It always performs incredibly well.”

Deian’s Rig on the set of Doctor Who

Deian also relies on the flexibility and versatility of the 788T offers especially when recording special effect voice modulations on a daily basis. The Daleks, the Doctors’ arch-nemeses, are voiced by Nicholas Briggs, who uses his own proprietary secret modulation equipment. “Nicholas will sit by me on set watching my monitors and I will take an output of his magic box and feed that into my 788T,” he says. “I am able to iso that and give him a clean feed of what is happening on the floor. I use the Sound Devices 442 as his monitor, so I’ll feed a clean output into the 442 and give him his Daleks voice on another channel, so he has independent adjustment of his tracks, which he will often mix himself. I can then take another output of his voice and feed it to a loudspeaker on the floor for the actors, and another for the animatronics controllers, who make the lights on the Daleks flash, which serves as a speech recognition tool when they talk. It’s actually quite amazing and all made possible by the 788T-SSD with the 442.”

The 778T-SSD also features some key metadata features, which Deian uses to keep in close communication with the editors at the BBC. He explains how when he first started on the show a year and a half ago, the dialogue editors requested that each track be match the name of the character who is speaking rather than just lay 1, lay 2, lay3 etc…

"I’m constantly in the 778T-SSD’s track naming menu and I’m re-labeling tracks when different characters come in on those particular mics," says Deian. "That’s such an important feature for me and for the editors, who need to know exactly who is on each track, so they don’t need to waste time pre-listening to tracks to find out who’s on what.”