Compact Audio Meter Ensured Clear and Consistent Dialogue for Fraternity Hazing Movie
SAN FRANCISCO, OCTOBER 24, 2012 – When audio engineer Russ Long was tasked with mixing the sound for He Ain’t Heavy, an independent film that sheds light on the darker side of fraternity hazing, he turned to the TM3 TouchMonitor from RTW (AES booth 1144), a leading manufacturer and distributor of professional audio metering and control devices for studio recording, radio and TV broadcast applications, to keep the audio levels in check. The film’s director and producer, Jeff Obafemi Carr, shot the film in the style of a documentary, using prosumer camcorders and such devices as cell phones, security cameras and flip camcorders, to capture the gritty reality of the intense subject matter. [caption id="attachment_39229" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Cast of "He Ain't Heavy" Left to right: Robert Fitzgerald II, Terrence “TK” Kendrick, Joel Diggs, James Rudolph and Bralyn Stokes."][/caption]
He Ain’t Heavy is a fictional story about the brutal and sometimes deadly rituals that often take place during fraternity hazing on college campuses across the country. While the film’s cast is made up of professional actors, what Carr depicts in it is very real. Seeking to give audiences a “fly-on-the-wall” perspective, he used non-traditional camerawork to capture the actors’ reactions to the hazing rituals as if they were going through it themselves. Carr and his cinematographer filmed without audio support or much equipment on site, save for a few boom mics, the onboard camera mics and other devices used for shooting. Without an audio engineer on site to make sure the sound was being properly captured, a large percentage of the dialogue was incomprehensible, making the use of RTW’s TM3 necessary.
“The audio was rough,” says Long. “I had to do a lot of restoration and I used iZotope plug-ins and hardware extensively to try to pull out some intelligibility from the footage. As I started to put it together, building the actual mix, the metering became extremely important because of the inconsistency of the audio. I set up RTW’s TM3 right in front of my computer monitor, watching it at all times. It was critical to create a consistent and uniform mix. Because of all the background noise, if you are just listening to and mixing for the dialogue it is easy to find yourself pushing things too much or not pushing enough and ending up with an inconsistent mix, so keeping a close eye on the meters throughout the process was very helpful. Plus, it helped me maintain clarity without being too loud or too soft.”
In addition to the TM3’s concise metering, the compact size of the TouchMonitor device was perfect for Long’s small studio. The compact, portable meter fit right into his Pro Tools rig, making his workflow much easier. “With an external device that is completely independent from the computer, such as the TM3, you never question the accuracy or the point in the signal path at which you are measuring things,” he notes. “Also, it is really easy to compare levels to a reference mix or a previous mix that is coming off another playback source that is totally separate from my Pro Tools rig. When using the TM3, I never have to second guess levels because this meter is accurate and is sitting right in front of me all the time.”
Pleased with the outcome, Carr, who first heard the final mix when the film premiered at the Nashville Film Festival this past summer, was also pleased that the film’s viewers felt the same way.
“Russ had quite the challenge, taking all of those different audio sources and making them come out clean and consistent,” says Carr. “He did a phenomenal job of it and I know the TM3 was a true asset to him in order to properly monitor that audio all the way through. To date, we have not had one complaint about the sound quality of the picture.”
The RTW TM3 is the latest introduction in the company’s successful range of products, marking the next generation in compliant professional audio signal metering. It includes features of the larger TM7 and TM9 TouchMonitor versions and is controlled using a touch-sensitive display. With its budget-friendly base price, a 4.3-inch touch screen and stylish exterior allowing for horizontal and vertical placement, the TM3 is a highly appealing, compact solution ideal for editorial offices, edit suites and small control rooms.
Featuring PPM and true-peak instruments, the TM3 offers comprehensive loudness metering in compliance with all globally relevant standards, including EBU R128, ITU BS.1770-3/1771, ATSC A/85 and ARIB. Instruments include single-channel and summing bar graphs, an LRA instrument and numerical displays. The basic version handles analog and digital stereo audio, while the 5.1 option adds the support of six-channel digital input.
He Ain’t Heavy is currently making the film festival rounds. More information about the film can be found at www.heaintheavymovie.com.
RTW, based in Cologne (Germany), has more than 40 years of experience in designing, producing, and marketing advanced recording-studio systems. The company focuses its business on professional audio signal metering tools that are in use in the leading recording studios as well as by radio and TV broadcasters worldwide. The current product portfolio highlights the TouchMonitor range, a new series of tools for visual signal analysis and comprehensive loudness metering. The TouchMonitor combines the highest of flexibility and modularity with an intuitive user interface and touchscreen-based multichannel-analysis features, integrating exceptional surround-signal visualization using the unique and groundbreaking Surround Sound Analyzer. The high-end SurroundControl series of products with fully fledged loudness measuring combines the convenient metering options of the RTW surround display devices and the control functions of an eight-channel monitoring controller.