Audio-Mixing Veteran Tony Smyles Relies on Sound Devices Gear
Production sound mixer Tony Smyles has amassed an impressive resume during his long and illustrious career. A 30-year veteran of film, television, and commercial genres, Smyles turns to the expertly crafted, reliable equipment from Sound Devices for his audio recording and mixing needs.
With an array of Sound Devices equipment, including two 664 Field Production Mixers, a 633 Compact Mixer, and a 788T Audio Recorder in his inventory, Smyles custom designs his state-of-the-art sound recording packages based on each project’s specific audio requirements. “I have been really happy with Sound Devices since day one,” says Smyles. “From the time I picked up the 442 until today, the company’s products continue to work flawlessly. All of the Sound Devices gear is packed with features that I need and use. I know each one is going to work well and provide top-notch audio.”
Smyles utilized the 633 and 664 mixers on the recent independent film, Broken Links. He used the 664 in his audio cart, while the 633 served as his portable ENG-style rig. Featuring no more than five speaking parts at a time, the majority of the first week of filming took place in a house, mostly depicting the lead actress making several Skype calls. Many of these scenes featured this one-sided conversation with a lot of sound effects. Smyles relied heavily on his 633 to capture both dialog and effects, while also being as portable as possible. When more cast members became part of the production, Smyles turned to his audio cart equipped with the 664.
The 633 is a compact, six-input mixer with an integrated 10-track recorder. The 664 mixer has 12 analog inputs, four output buses, and is capable of recording up to 16 audio tracks as either 16- or 24-bit Broadcast WAV files. MP3 recording is also available for transcription applications.
On a week-long project for an upcoming one-character film tentatively titled How Not to Kill a Woman, Smyles worked solo to capture the audio he needed. He was responsible for booming and fast-paced power takes on the project, which often flew through several pages of the script in a short amount of time. To stay on top of the action, he used the 633, along with the Schoeps SuperCMIT 2 U shotgun microphone. “This was an intense five days,” adds Smyles. “It was a project unlike anything I have ever done before. The portability and the light weight of the 633 worked out really well.”
For his work on the reality show Hardcore Pawn, Smyles deployed his Sound Devices 788T in the control room, where it recorded eight tracks of audio all day, nonstop. Ten antennas were strategically placed throughout the 50,000-square-foot building where shooting took place, and were combined with Professional Sound Corporation RF MultiMax! antenna couplers, which fed two Lectrosonics Venue racks connected directly to the 788T.
When Smyles began Hardcore Pawn in Season 2, the show was being captured using an audio bag rig. He chose the 788T because of its overall versatility and reliability under run-and-gun situations. When the change was made to a control room setup, the 788T performed beautifully, recording nonstop six days a week from 9am to 7pm. The 7-Series recorder’s signal outputs and routing options were indispensible as each of the eight inputs could be sent to the Mackie console for control room monitoring.
Smyles worked mainly in the control room, where he coordinated and supervised the participants’ mic placement, and monitored the quality of the audio. He also put together on-the-fly sound reports, while his three-person floor crew manned the three audio bags, which included two Sound Devices 664s and one 633. In addition to the Sound Devices products, the audio crew also had four Lectrosonics UCR411a radios and Sennheiser MKH 416 boom mics. The three bag rigs sent a courtesy mix, plus boom audio, to each crew member’s respective camera. They also recorded ISOs when they would go off site or film from the parking lot.
“I like that on the 633 and the 644, you can record to SD as well as CompactFlash® cards, and to different file formats,” adds Smyles. “I make sure that each mixer always has two cards. This way, if I’m downloading from somebody’s card and an urgent situation comes up, we always have the other one to record onto. I have used and owned many Sound Devices products over the years and am very happy with them. I find myself replacing my older Sound Devices gear with their latest and greatest. I’m looking for a good excuse to get a 688!”
At present, Smyles is in Houston relying on his two 664s and 788T to capture audio on Sisters In Law, a new reality series for WeTV. “Even in hot and humid Houston the 664s have been up to the task,” he says. “Whether recording audio for GoPro driving shots in the Houston Court House or run-and-gun on a golfing range in the blazing heat, I know I’m using high-quality, trouble-free products, and that helps keep me cool.”