Engineer Gary Baldassari has traveled the world to capture, record and translate high-quality audio for a variety of projects. There is no doubt that he has worked in some interesting and unique situations, but few of those can compare to a recent job where he was required to be quick and precise while floating in mid-air. Lectrosonics Wireless equipment were chosen for Gary Baldassari’s six-city Go for Zero tour, which simulated Zero G-force gravity for media and broadcast personalities to promote the X Prize Foundation.
To promote the X Prize Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation that encourages growth and innovation in space travel technologies, Zero Gravity Corporation and sponsor Diet Rite Cola staged the six-city Go For Zero tour. Zero Gravity Corp., which is approved by the FAA to conduct weightless flights for the general public, welcomed a variety of guests, along with television and radio personalities, to take their turn at being weightless. Flying on a modified Boeing 727-200 aircraft dubbed G-Force One, Baldassari and a camera crew were there to capture the action.
Gary Baldassari (right) mikes astronaut Buzz Aldrin with a Lectrosonics 200 Series Wireless and DPA headset for the Go for Zero X-Prize Foundation fundraiser.
To ensure that the gig went off smoothly, Baldassari and team took to the air prior to the event for equipment testing. After testing numerous products, Baldassari chose a Lectrosonics 200 Series Wideband UHF Wireless System. “Inside the plane, there is a lot of bouncing around and a lot of other equipment for the plane itself,” Baldassari recalls. “Nobody had the time to do a frequency sweep for us. We just went in there with four brands of wireless systems with the result that the Lectrosonics’ 200 Series transmitters and receivers came out on top. They were the most stable, so that’s what we used. It was a very simple system because it had to be simple.”
With so many media outlets onboard and so little time to record a zero gravity TV or radio report, fidgeting with a complex audio system was not an option. “We had everybody—from the Jimmy Kimmel Show to the Dennis Miller Show and the networks ABC, NBC and CNN—doing 30-second stand-ups,” Baldassari says, “so things not working well was a real fear of ours. First of all, the FAA didn’t really want us to do any of this, so we hid all the transmitters and receivers in our socks and clothing. Once the plane got to 10,000 feet, it was then that we could record something. So we had a total of 10 minutes to pull all this gear out, mike the people and be ready for our first zero G dive.”
Depending on the needs of the particular media personalities, Baldassari rotated between using DPA 4088 and 4066 headsets. “If they wanted a private interview, then we would use the DPA 4088 cardioid headset because its isolation is so extreme,” he explains. “Then if they wanted to hear the fun that was going on around them, we used the DPA 4066 omni headset microphone. That would bring in the hooting and hollering going on.”
Once G-Force One was at the optimum position, Baldassari had to work even faster. “In its lunge, the plane goes zero G,” he describes. “Of course, the engines aren’t running, so you fall 20,000 feet in about a minute at an angle of 60 degrees downward. In that time, I had to take two Lectrosonics systems and a DPA headset off the ABC people and put it on the CNN people; it had to be that fast. I essentially had one minute to de-mike and re-mike somebody, load them up and get them to talk intelligently. Plus, while all that is happening, you’re in a two or three-G state: If I normally weigh 175 pounds, I then weigh 350. Needless to say, moving around was a big deal!”