When Sound Mixer Bob Tiwana sought a new boom microphone to record the seventh season of National Geographic’s Border Wars, he turned to DPA Microphones’ 4017B Shotgun Microphone.
Already familiar with the quality of the DPA brand, Tiwana connected the microphone to his Sound Devices 788T digital audio recorder to record and profile U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents as they patrol the nation’s southern ports of entry from the air and on boats and horseback.
Tiwana records on location in the hot, humid weather of Texas, Arizona and southern California. Having never used the 4017B in the field, he took a chance that the microphone would work as well in the elements as it does in the studio.
“I already knew the DPA 4017B would sound great because I’ve heard it before and have used it in more controlled environments,” says Tiwana. “For Border Wars, I went out on a limb and took it out in the field to see how well it does. I was a little apprehensive because it’s not an expendable piece of equipment, but I didn’t baby the microphone.
“After the first couple of days, I came back with stunning results. It worked very well in the field and in all the situations I put it through.”
Designed for a broad range of applications, the phantom-powered DPA 4017B is ideal for broadcast, ENG and film booming, among many other uses. The highly directional supercardioid pickup pattern of the DPA 4017B, obtained using a supercardioid design with an interference tube that provides excellent off-axis rejection, is extremely accurate. It also offers a great amount of clarity.
The size of the DPA 4017B makes it exceptionally convenient for field use. This is essential for Tiwana and his team, who regularly experience physically grueling and sometimes dangerous field conditions and must keep their gear to a minimum.
On any given day, the team might need to hide in the brush or along water banks or run through cactus-laden fields. Like the agents that the show follows, Tiwana’s team also faces life-threatening situations, such as gunfights with cartels. To keep safe, everyone must wear heavy Kevlar vests and be able to move on a moment’s notice.
The combination of the DPA 4017B with Sound Devices’ 788T provides Tiwana with a portable, high-quality recording setup.
“The mic-pre on the mixer and the impedance on the DPA are well matched,” he continues. “I didn’t have to use a lot of gain to get my desired results from the boom. I plugged it right into the XLR input, applied phantom power—which the 788T does in a lovely way—and used the 10k boost and high-pass filter to avoid handling noise in case I was running or it was windy.”
With the latest 788T software upgrade, Tiwana is also able to create sound logs at the end of each day. This enabled him to provide reports to the production team of time codes and the duration of each take, as well as notes and track assignments.
“I’ve been working with Sound Devices since their first recorder, the 744T,” concludes Tiwana. “When they introduced the 788T, I made a point of adding it to my arsenal. I bring both units with me in the field. As for the DPA 4017B, this is the first time I’ve used it in this type of setting, and I’m really impressed that it took everything I gave it on the show.
“It was very grueling in south Texas, with 95- to 100-degree temperatures and humidity at 75 to 80 percent every day. The microphone performed flawlessly. I’ve had others that haven’t performed as well in the humidity. I’m really impressed with the DPA mic, and if they call on me again next year to record this show, I’m bringing it with me.”
Bob Tiwana is a multitalented production professional who has been involved in audio for nearly 30 years. A seasoned vet in live performance, studio and on-location recording, his experience runs the gamut from television and film to post production. His long list of credits includes work for Avatar, Moneyball, Grey’s Anatomy, House and the 2012 ESPY Awards. He has also worked on commercials for several large companies, including Sony, Bank of America and the Chicago White Sox.
Border Wars is an American documentary television series that airs on the National Geographic Channel. The program follows agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other divisions of the Department of Homeland Security as they investigate and apprehend illegal aliens, drug smugglers and other criminals violating U.S. immigration and customs laws. Season 7 will begin airing this fall.