HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 2009: So far this year has been all about change and ABC's telecast of the 81st Academy Awards on February 22nd was no exception, as producers radically reworked the show to attract more viewers with a new, more intimate production design and a previously untried host, triple threat - actor, dancer and singer - Hugh Jackman. But behind the scenes, both onstage and out on the red carpet, there was at least one constant: Sennheiser and Neumann microphones.
Orchestra mixer Dan Wallin was in charge of all of the live and pre-recorded music. Working in Remote Recording's "Silver Studio" backstage, Wallin selected Neumann TLM 193, TLM 170 and Sennheiser MKH 8040 wired mics to capture the orchestra. This year, the orchestra, conducted by music director Michael Giacchino, was moved from the pit to onstage in order to recreate a 1940s nightclub ambience. Once again, Ed Green mixed all of the stage vocal and dialogue mics. On the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre, Burbank-based wireless specialists Soundtronics fielded four Sennheiser SKM 5200 RF handheld microphones and four SK 5012 miniature transmitter belt packs with lavalier mics for ABC pre-show hosts Robin Roberts, Tim Gunn and Jess Cagle as they greeted and interviewed arriving nominees and attendees.
Wallin, a veteran, scoring mixer who has worked on over 500 films so far in his sixty-year career, used a very similar collection of microphones at Capitol Recording Studios during the days leading up to the telecast for the show's prerecorded orchestral music. Sennheiser MKH 8040 cardioid mics, introduced last year, were positioned over the woodwind/saxophone sections, the harp and the timpani. For the recording, he also used Neumann TLM 193s on the trumpets, trombones and French horns, with TLM 170s on the piano, guitar, drum overheads and the string entire section. Wallin elected to use his personal collection of TLM 170 Jubilee mics at Capitol. "The pattern is right on it, and the Jubilees have such a sweet sound," he explained.
After some experimentation at the Kodak Theatre, comparing the Sennheiser MKH 8040s to the MKH 40s, Wallin discovered that the newer mics suited his preferred mixing style of allowing instruments to 'leak' in from adjacent sections. Indeed, reported Wallin's assistant engineer, Mike Aarvold, "Dan had me raise the MKH 8040 woodwind mics about three or four inches to get a bit more leakage and increase the apparent size and excitement of the overall sound. Dan really liked the uncolored, off-axis leakage of the brass into the woodwind mics."
Remote Recording president David Hewitt, returning for his sixteenth Academy Awards broadcast, agreed that the Neumann microphones, especially the TLM 170s, performed very favorably on the telecast. "They're so transparent and smooth," he said. "A lot of it has to do with the proper off-axis response of those things, so that the leakage doesn't give you a lot of colored sound. What leakage you do get is complementary to the overall mix."
In past years the string overhead mics were balanced with individual clip-on mics, but this year there was almost no need for them. He elaborated, "I was surprised, because (without naming names) the mic we usually use does seem to bring up way too much drum leakage. But the MKH 8040s on the overheads were tight enough that they didn't bring up all the drum leakage and wash us out. What leakage there was, was coherent and added to the overall mix without detracting because of phase cancellation."
Wallin enjoyed working for the first time with the MKH 8040s on the Oscar telecast: "The last few years, Sennheiser has come out with some really sweet microphones, first with the MKH 800 then the MKH 8040. The MKH 8040 is a really a good mic - really smooth, really flat, and really solid, almost like an MKH 40 on steroids. I can see me using them a lot, even on drum kits, because there's so much headroom," he concluded.
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PHOTO CAPTION The 81st Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 22nd featured a gorgeous blue-hued stage, framed by a glittering 92,000 Swarovski-crystal curtain, and an onstage orchestra beautifully miked with Neumann TLM 193, TLM 170 and Sennheiser MKH 8040 wired mics to capture the magic. (PHOTO CREDIT: (c) 2009 Getty Images)