Sound Samurai Michael Williamson Mixes Shogun with Lectrosonics

I don’t think I would have depended on anything but Lectrosonics for making it through Shogun in one piece!

Vancouver, BC (June 25, 2024) — Michael Williamson, C.A.S., has mixed some of the most popular thrills and chills of the past three decades. If a film or TV show was suspenseful, there’s a good chance he was there, beginning with iconic paranormal mystery series The X-Files in 1993. Williamson has been a go-to staple for contemporary horror maven Mike Flanagan on Midnight Mass and The Midnight Club, and mixed such recent hits as The 100, Man in the High Castle, and Yellowjackets, just to name a few. Now, his talents turn to historical fiction on FX and Hulu’s reimagining of Shogun, in which marooned sailor John Blackthorne finds himself in the center of a power struggle in post-medieval Japan. With dialogue and action constantly overlapping, Williamson turns to his time-tested Lectrosonics wireless rig, consisting of original Venue and Venue2 modular receiver systems, SMQV and HMa transmitters, and ALP650 antennas. For communications, he sets up IFB-T4 transmitters and provides R1b receivers for all. While Shogun is his latest accomplishment, Lectrosonics has seen him through every key hurdle in his career.

“We’ve done a lot of big things in Vancouver, but we were amazed at the size and scale of Shogun,” notes Williamson. “Much of Shogun was shot anamorphically, which means boom operators can’t get in where you want them unless they’re swinging 25-foot poles — which we actually did. That puts more onto the radio mics [wireless] to do the job. I was glad to have the ability to mix a boom and a wireless together and try to make it sound like one microphone.”

If all this sounds like shooting an action movie, it’s even more demanding. “There’s a lot of action in Shogun to be sure, but in most action films, dialogue is shot up close,” explains Williamson. “In Shogun, you could start with people waist-deep in water tugging something out, then they walk onto the beach, the shot gets closer in, and there’s dialogue the whole time. Capturing all that involves a lot of RF complexity. I don’t think I would have depended in anything but Lectrosonics for making it through Shogun in one piece!”

One reason for Williamson’s confidence is Lectrosonics’ tenacity at finding, retaining, and isolating clean carrier frequencies — something he relied on well before Shogun. “On the first season of [the 2018 Netflix series] Lost In Space, not only did I have to wire the entire cast, but each actor needed their own IFB so they could talk to the director while they had their space helmets on. Grips and electric crew had to have IFBs to hear their various cues. It all got tricky because you’re working around camera and their wireless video. I thought we’d be running into some serious issues simply because of all the RF in the air. Again, I found the isolation of the Lectrosonics gear to be just great. I never got a single complaint from any of the actors about their comms. Over the years, I’ve been in lots of studios where there are multiple crews shooting at once, everyone is on wireless, and I’ve never had a problem with crosstalk — either getting stepped on or stepping on somebody else.”

Given Shogun’s maritime and seaside settings, Williamson also praises his Lectrosonics equipment’s ability to face the elements. “The resiliency of these things to winter and wet weather is amazing,” he says. “When we were shooting The Grey [a survival movie about oil workers stranded in Alaska], we were about 10,000 feet up on a mountain. It was 20 degrees below zero. There was never a failure. We had failures with practically everything but our radio mics.”

When demands for extreme range arise in, both the tenacious reception of the Venue systems and the high output power of the SMQV come into play. “On The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, we had a walk-and-talk where camera was using a 1000mm lens because the actors were almost a kilometer away,” recalls Williamson. “You could barely see them, and I told production, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get the sound on this.’ It turns out we had them right from the start all the way to the end of the shot. I was amazed at how Lectrosonics held up with no dropouts, noise, or interference.”

By way of advice to junior mixers who aspire to Williamson’s level of accomplishment, he highlights the importance of reliable gear. “When a production keeps adding more and more elements and things get complicated, I power through by keeping things simple,” he explains. “That’s where it gets fun for me. A lot of factors figure into that, but one is that you must be able to trust your equipment. That’s how you protect yourself. That’s how you move yourself forward.”

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.

* This text and image content are for Editorial Use Only and may not be used in any kind of commercial or promotional material or advertising without written permission.