Lectrosonics On Location With 'The Next Food Network Star'

Wireless equipment and audio processors key to audio production


Michael Bergman of the Food Network with the Lectrosonics DM SeriesNew York, NY – March 2008… When it comes to producing The Next Food Network Star, the last thing the show’s technical staff needs are wires getting in the way of the contestants and others involved in creating the show’s many unique recipes. To address the complex requirements of the show’s production while facilitating freedom of movement to the on-camera contestants, independent audio engineer Michael Bergman, who serves as the show’s sound supervisor, was committed to a wireless solution. With assistance from Peter Schneider at New York City’s Gotham Sound, the ideal audio system was created with key components coming from Lectrosonics and JazzMutant’s Lemur control surface.

According to Bergman, “During taping, as many as 14 people may appear individually or collectively and they are followed by 6 handheld cameras roaming the kitchen-equipped studio. Conversations can include all contestants or they may be broken down into smaller groups. In addition to recording the production audio to two Fostex DV824 digital 8-track recorders, the producers wanted to have an individual audio mix for each camera, but they did not want mixer personnel roaming the floor. The solution was to send wireless mixes to each camera from a central mixer. In the past, this meant potting up and down from a myriad of rotary Aux sends on the console—a method which proved inefficient and frustrating.”

Peter Schneider at Gotham Sound, a leading NYC equipment sales and rental house, designed an elegant and sophisticated system—the first of its kind—that met the show’s unique audio production requirements. “When the show’s producers described their requirements for recording audio on the upcoming season, Michael and I realized no off-the-shelf solution existed that was capable of doing what they wanted,” said Schneider. “With a combination of Lectrosonics equipment and JazzMutant's Lemur touch screen surface controller, we designed a custom solution that enables one sound mixer to quickly route any of sixteen microphones to six automixes on the fly—saving the show both time and money.”

In the show’s control room, the sound department views the images from all six cameras on a six-split video screen, with cameras 1-3 on top and 4-6 across the bottom. The graphics on the Lemur are arranged accordingly, with the names of all individuals wearing microphones appearing as ‘buttons’ contained within each camera's graphic parameters. The audio mixer sees who is appearing on each camera and, using the Lemur to route audio through two Lectrosonics DM84 digital matrix audio processors, switches each mic on or off for each camera mix individually—creating individual camera mixes that are then wirelessly transmitted to each corresponding camera.

For The Next Food Network Star, the Lectrosonics wireless equipment amply demonstrated its robust performance characteristics. The show uses a combination of twelve Lectrosonics UM200 and twenty-six UM400a beltpack transmitters in conjunction with three fully stocked Venue modular receiver systems as well as eighteen Lectrosonics UCR211 and twenty UCR411a receivers. Additionally, a Lectrosonics IFBT4 compact IFB transmitter was used by the producers to communicate with talent. With the talent wearing wireless transmitters, wireless feeds to the cameras from the board, wireless feeds to the cameras from ENG mixers that may be working concurrently, wireless communication between production and the camera operators, and wireless for control room monitoring, there are at least 68 individual wireless frequencies operating in addition to the walkie talkies.

Bergman described the performance attributes of the Lectrosonics wireless equipment in what can only be described as a heavily congested RF environment. “The Lectrosonics equipment performed extremely well. With people wandering about, we had transmitters walking away from one setup and into another, yet we encountered no downtime in a variety of environments over the course of a six week shoot that included RF heavy New York. Out of 68 working frequencies, we only had to reprogram 3 units during the entire run, which is nothing short of terrific. The Lectrosonics gear proved indispensible.”

About Food Network
FOOD NETWORK (www.foodnetwork.com) is a unique lifestyle network and website that strives to be more than cooking. Food Network is distributed to more than 90 million U.S. households and averages more than seven million website users monthly. The Next Food Network Star is produced by CBS Eye Too Productions. The E.W. Scripps Company (NYSE:SSP), which also owns and operates HGTV, DIY Network, Great American Country, and Fine Living is the manager and general partner.

About Lectrosonics

Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theater 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 is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.