Wireless technology used to capture automobile’s sounds
Los Angeles, CA… In the world of exotic sports cars, Audi’s R8 is a winner. Lauded by critics and aspired to by automotive enthusiasts everywhere, this is art on wheels. With drop dead gorgeous lines and a 5.2 liter, 525 horsepower, mid-mounted V10 engine that rockets the car from 0 – 60 in 3.9 seconds, this automobile delivers pulse pounding adrenalin with every breath. For Audi’s latest R8 commercial, the task of capturing the ambient engine sounds of this beast was no small endeavor. To ensure success on the project, LA-based sound mixer Bob Tiwana employed wireless technology from Lectrosonics.
A seasoned audio pro with a background that encompasses a wide range of experience, Tiwana has served as a guitar tech, mixed monitors and FOH (front of house) for acts such as The Greg Kihn Band, Jefferson Starship, and Santana, and provides both location and studio sound services. Lately, he’s been working as a location sound mixer on Skyline, a new feature film from Greg and Colin Strause. With credentials like these, it comes as no surprise that he was called for the Audi R8 project.
Capturing the R8’s ambient engine sounds was no small affair—considering this car was moving very fast much of the time. Recognizing that wireless microphones were the only real choice for this endeavor, Tiwana knew that, in addition to solid audio performance, robust build quality and dropout-free performance were critical. For this reason, he used five matched sets of Lectrosonics UM400 beltpack transmitters and UCR411 compact receivers—both of which employ the company’s legendary Digital Hybrid Wireless® technology—in conjunction with Lectrosonics ALP500 shark fin and SNA600 dipole antenna kits to ensure the best possible reception.
Tiwana discussed the challenges of the project. “We filmed the commercial at the decommissioned Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, near Irvine, CA,” notes Tiwana. “Since this commercial was intended to showcase the vehicle’s performance capabilities, I was responsible for capturing all automobile sounds, including high speed passes, the engine’s compartment’s high-revving tone, exhaust sounds, as well as the sound in the cockpit. To do this, I paired the Lectrosonics transmitters with Heil Sound PR 40 and PR 20 microphones, as these handle high SPL’s (sound pressure levels) really well and sound very much like studio condenser mics. Since one moment I’d be recording the engine at idle speed and the next as it was driven fast, I needed a wireless transmitter with the ability to handle the dynamic range of the SPL, that provided first-rate sonic clarity, and could take a fair amount of abuse. My UM400’s were the perfect choice.”
“For the engine compartment sounds,” Tiwana continued, “I wedged the UM400 transmitter in between the radiator and the body of the car using some foam pack. The transmitter got really hot— in the 150-degree range. I must admit I was concerned about this, and yet I encountered no problems at all. The UM400 delivered great results. I also had a mic/transmitter combination on the back end of car for exhaust sounds and another such setup in the car’s cockpit.”
For the drive by recordings, Tiwana set up midpoint between the start and the end of the run and used a stereo microphone to capture the sound in motion as it raced past the camera. “I was positioned about 35 yards or so from the start and end points,” he said, “and the sound of the car moving across the sound field was pretty spectacular. At one point, I had a channel operating that was a good 140 yards from my location and, throughout the entire period, I experienced no dropouts. The Lectrosonics equipment has great range and performed flawlessly.”
In addition to his location and studio sound projects, Tiwana is also an accomplished guitarist whose music has found its way into a number of TV and other spots. Here, too, he uses his UM400 transmitter and UCR411 receiver—only now with Lectrosonics’ MI39A guitar cable. “This is a great sounding wireless guitar setup,” he reports. “My Lectrosonics gear doesn’t compromise the top end like some wireless systems do. The sound is very natural with a very present low end. I get great results—virtually indistinguishable from using a guitar cable.”
Be it sound for TV, films, music, or commercials, Lectrosonics wireless technology keeps Tiwana at the forefront of his business. “For the Audi project, the feed I sent to the camera was so good; my client said they didn’t need to do anything to the sound,” he explained. “They loved the way I mixed going straight to camera. In this business, you only get one chance to get it right. I’m not one who believes in fixing everything in post. I want the sound as close to perfect as I can get it up front, and my Lectrosonics gear helps me deliver that.”