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Discovery Canada’s “Heavy Rescue 401” Utilizing Lectrosonics PDR Recorder

Digital audio recorders capture conversations of participants in extreme weather reality TV series

By PSW Staff March 17, 2017

Production sound recordist Peter Hamilton on the set of Discovery Canada's "Heavy Rescue."

The Heavy Rescue 401 series on cable’s Discovery Canada channel, and production sound recordist Peter Hamilton relies on new Lectrosonics PDR portable digital audio recorders to bring viewers into the driver’s seat.

“We use multiple PDR recorder units for a specific application,” Hamilton explains. “They capture the CB radio and walkie-talkie chatter between truck drivers and rescue operators. We install one in the cab, or on the portable radio, of various drivers and workers involved in the show, which saves us a huge amount of resources as we don’t have to tie up a multi-track field recorder for the same task.

“The gain range of the PDR has proven to be a perfect match for the varying ‘line-level’ outs of today’s CB gear,” he continues. “We have never had a problem with the levels of recorded audio.”

The PDR records mono or dual-mono audio via a standard TA-5M input onto MicroSD cards at the broadcast-standard resolution of 24 bits and 48kHz, and has the same rugged aluminum construction and compact form factor as Lectrosonics’ wireless audio transmitters and receivers.

“We install them at the beginning of each shift, and sometimes they can run for up to 24 hours straight,” says Hamilton. “We can catch conversations of any trucker who’s running by an accident. And since they all jam-sync to SMPTE time code, we can collect them at the end of the day to assemble the sound clips for post-production, and everything is on the same page.”

Hamilton and the production crew of Heavy Rescue 401 are no strangers to Lectrosonics equipment. “I’ve been using Lectrosonics throughout my 20-year career,” beams Hamilton, “and virtually all of our wireless on this show is ‘Lectro,’ whether it’s transmitters or receivers piggybacked on cameras, whatever. So I’m a big Lectro fan.”

Though Lectrosonics is chiefly known for wireless audio, the PDR is not itself a wireless device, and Hamilton considers this a benefit: “The issues of RF spectrums are starting to weigh on everybody, and we are always worrying about room to work,” he says. “As the PDR is a local device that we can embed in any situation, we don’t have to worry about what further bands of spectrum we may be tying up.”

And, according to Hamilton, the audio quality has been great, even though in this case the folks using the PDR are preoccupied with an actual recovery situation: “The only potential downside to working this way is that it’s ‘set it and forget it’.’ We can’t monitor in real time, and have to hope for the best. So far, though, we haven’t had a single issue. Virtually all of the sound clips recorded have been crystal-clear when putting the show together.”

Discovery Canada
Peter Hamilton

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