Mike Westgate (left) and Jean-Michel Cousteau.
Production sound mixer Mike Westgate relied on Lectrosonics’ 200 Series UHF wireless receivers and MM400a Digital Hybrid wireless miniature transmitters to record rare, protected species of birds for Jean-Michel Cousteau Productions’ documentary Voyage to Kure, an episode within Cousteau’s PBS series Ocean Adventures.
Kure is the most remote of the northwestern Hawaiian islands and the northernmost coral atoll in the world. The island is a nesting area for several species and also a wintering area for a variety of migratory bird species from North America and Asia. During the course of this expedition, Westgate spent six weeks at sea and traversed roughly 2,200 nautical miles.
While on Kure, Westgate was asked to capture the sounds of a very small, nocturnal bird called Bulwers Petrels without disturbing them. “To foster breeding,” he says, “the U.S. Wildlife Service placed a number of rearing boxes for the birds to call home. Since it was the sound of the chicks we wanted to record, the only way to accomplish this was to place a radio mic by one of the boxes and a microphone inside. This way, I could capture the birds from a remote location without scaring them. I couldn’t possibly have done this without the Lectrosonics equipment. Further, because of its diminutive size and rugged design, the MM400a was absolutely perfect for this task.”
An upcoming project will take Westgate to India, Hong Kong, Borneo, New Zealand, Australia and Zambia. “I’m planning on adding a Venue system,” Westgate adds. “Like my 200 and 400 Series products, the Venue system really excels in the area of available frequency spectrum. When you travel to different countries, you become acutely aware of radio frequency conflicts because you share spectrum with television channels and other services, so you have to work around these transmissions. My Lectrosonics gear enables me to choose from a wide spectrum of frequencies and their ability to scan for an open frequency is very important. This way, I can find an available gap and set the system to work there.”