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Production Sound Mixer Stu Chacon Goes Around the World with Lectrosonics

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“I always have the peace of mind of using rock solid gear I know is not going to let me down.”

Los Angeles, CA (February 23, 2021) — Many of today’s most popular reality TV shows film in different locations around the world. This is the bread and butter of production sound mixer Stu Chacon, a veteran of such series as Hot Ones and Sneaker Shopping. For thriving in the ever-changing RF situations brought on by constant international travel, he depends on wideband wireless from Lectrosonics: the all-new, all-digital DCR822 dual-channel receivers paired with SMWB and SMDWB Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitters. His kit is rounded out with UCR411a receivers, plus IFB-R1a receivers and legacy UM400a transmitters for comms.

“Currently I’m working on a hit show about international romance, one partner moving to be with the other, that kind of thing,” says Chacon. “We travel internationally about 90 percent of the time.”

The DCR822 is part of Lectrosonics’ latest generation of digital wireless but can receive signal from any Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitter made in the past 18 years. This made Chacon’s choice of wideband as easy as it was necessary. “For a long time, I’ve used the SMV and SMQV for talent mics, and they’re great,” he notes, “but going wideband has just been a thing of beauty.”

Chacon goes on to describe one among many instances where having the ability to retune quickly across multiple blocks saved the shoot: “We once had to shoot in a hospital in Africa. I had scanned and done my frequency coordination in advance, but we were just outside the building. The minute we went inside, everything went haywire. Of course, this is because medical equipment wreaks absolute havoc with RF. Having the wideband definitely helped me acquire new, clean frequencies on the spot.”

The DCR822, SMWB, and SMDWB can all double as stand-alone recorders, capturing audio to an internal MicroSD card. This has made a difference at times when the production has needed to minimize the impact on its surroundings. “With the travel and international romance themes, we shoot more than a few scenes in airports,” he explains. “Airports are also notoriously full of RF, and of course you don’t want to interfere with tower communications, so the MicroSD recording makes an ideal backup plan. Also, being in an airport with an audio bag full of gear can make people nervous when they don’t know what it is. Recording right onto the wideband SMs or the 822 lets us keep a lower profile.”

When working with an international and non-professional cast, the IFB (audio monitoring and comms for producers, directors, and other crew) carries a new wrinkle: translation. Chacon points to the flexibility of the R1a beltpack receivers for this application. “We often have translators on set,” he explains. “Since you can tune the R1a really quickly, I’ll have the production mix on one channel, then different banks of R1a for the translators. I am looking to upgrade to the R1B, though, because with the digital readout and room for ten frequency presets, it will make things even faster.”

Range, audio quality, and durability are what have caused Chacon to stick with the R1a for so long. “I do a lot of car scenes,” he notes, “and for these I’ll usually just drop the entire audio bag on the floor of the back seat. But producers still need to listen in from a follow car, and for this the R1a is just incredible. There have been so many times I thought the picture car was going out of range, but we had no dropouts. There have been as many times I’ve seen an R1a dropped — literally bouncing off the pavement — and we just picked it up and kept using it.”

Even on shows that let him stay closer to home, Lectrosonics’ quick setup has been a professional must-have. “On shows like Hot Ones, there’s usually A-list TV or sports talent and once they arrive to set, it’s go-time,” says Chacon. “I have very little time to ensure everything is as it should be before we start rolling. As always, I need to know my gear won’t fail me, and as I mentioned before, this is where Lectro shines among many reasons.”

Chacon sees more all-digital wireless in his future. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the UCR411a because it’s been the king of sound quality,” he says. “But the DCR822 looks to be the ‘new 411’ in my opinion. It fits in the same mount but has two channels instead of one, so that’s easier on my bag and my back. I currently have two 822s and will eventually replace them in for the rest of my 411s. I’m also eyeing the DCHT for hops and the DSQD receiver for my audio cart.”

At the end of a 14-hour day, Lectrosonics’ legendary reliability is what makes Chacon a diehard fan: “We’re often shooting in locations where you’re not going to find a replacement if something breaks. With Lectrosonics, I always have the peace of mind of using rock solid gear I know is not going to let me down.”

About Lectrosonics

Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theatre 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 received an Academy Scientific and Technical Award for its Digital Hybrid Wireless® technology and is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

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