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Audio supervisor Marcos Contreras with some of the Lectrosonics wireless gear he employs to capture "Selling Sunset."

Audio Supervisor Marcos Contreras Turns Real Estate Into Reality TV With Lectrosonics

Employs SMWB and SMDWB bodypack, SMQV beltpack and Hma plug-on transmitters, as well as SRc portable and DSQD digital receivers in capturing the sound for "Selling Sunset" and "Selling The OC" on Netflix.

Audio supervisor Marcos Contreras, CAS is capturing the sound for the Netflix TV Selling Sunset as well as its upcoming spin-off Selling The OC with a range of Lectrosonics wireless gear, including SMWB and SMDWB miniature wideband bodypack, SMQV beltpack and Hma plug-on transmitters as well as SRc portable and DSQD digital receivers.

Selling Sunset is one of the most popular shows on Netflix,” Contreras explains. “The show demands a lot. The wireless must be reliable every time. Lectrosonics is up to the task — no dropouts or interference even over big, open spaces.”

A native of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Contreras has been doing production audio for 15 years since moving to LA right after graduation. He gained familiarity with Lectrosonics products such as the UM400 while pursuing a BFA in Film and Television at the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD).

Over the years he’s had to deal with what he terms “rowdy cast members” in various productions; in factor, one person even tried to light some pieces of his gear on fire.

Selling Sunset has a cast of 10 while the upcoming OC show’s cast totals 11. The West Hollywood and Newport Beach offices of the Oppenheim Group, the realty agency at the heart of the show, serve as live sets for the shows, and the homes on location are featured prominently as well.

Contreras faces the unusual challenge of occasional runaway cast members, as in wandering from the production scene. Still, he can often pick up a signal from the SMWB or SMDWB transmitters and by listening, gets a sense of where the talent has gotten off to in order to regather the group and continue the shoot. Being able to get a signal and PFL a channel has proven to be valuable on numerous occasions.

An identifying characteristic of the two shows is that the cast members are mostly female real estate agents who tend to wear body-conscious minidresses. Hiding the wireless transmitters on such wardrobe can be a challenge, but the miniature size of the Lectrosonics pieces helps as they can be belted to a leg, hidden in the small of the back or any other bodily location they might improvise. His main go-to units are the SMDWB, which are basically a double-battery version of the SMWB, that he typically mates them with a Sanken COS-11D omni lavalier mic but sometimes with a DPA 6060 or 6061. In the LA/OC area, he uses the Block 22 frequencies.

The SMWB and SMDWB transmitters also include a built-in digital recorder that produces a .wav file designed to be compatible with practically any editing software and stored on an internal microSDHC card. Contreras recalls one last-minute call to work on a job that involved a shot with an actor at a difficult long range. Recording the actor right on his SMDWB transmitter saved both setup time and the shot itself.

He has 18 SRc portable ENG receivers, and in a typical shoot uses six of them in a bag feeding a Sound Devices Scorpio portable mixer-recorder. He describes the setup as “really quick” on the transmitters and receivers. In fact, such ease of use is a highly desirable feature when he hires an assistant or when he rents out his equipment to other productions. “Everybody knows how to use Lectrosonics,” he points out, and the company is easy to work with, especially its customer service that Contreras says is “crazy good.”

Other Lectrosonics apparatus that he keeps at the ready are five SMQV belt-pack transmitters and two HMa plug-on transmitters. A rolling equipment rack houses three DSQD digital receivers, more SRc receivers, a mixer and recorder, and a diversity antenna system, especially useful for location work.


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