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Emmy-Winning TV Comedy Captures The Laughs With Lectrosonics

Bryan Day, sound mixer for "Schitt’s Creek," deploys Digital Hybrid Wireless equipment that includes Venue and Venue2 receivers, LR belt-pack receivers, HMa plug-on transmitters, and SSM transmitters to capture the show's audio.
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Sound mixer Bryan Day with the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless gear he utilizes for "Schitt's Creek."

Bryan Day, sound mixer for Schitt’s Creek, a comedy television show produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and distributed by Pop TV in the U.S., utilizes Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless equipment that includes Venue and Venue2 modular receivers, four LR belt-pack receivers, three HMa plug-on transmitters, and eight SSM micro transmitters to capture the show’s audio.

Schitt’s Creek just set a new record for the most Emmy Awards won in a single season: nine, including Best Comedy Series. Co-creators and stars Eugene Levy and son Daniel picked up Best Comedy Actor and Best Supporting Actor, with Catherine O’Hara garnering Best Comedy Actress. In the show, the fictional Rose family’s riches-to-rags misfortune finds them living in the titular town they once purchased as a joke. Given the Levys’ creative hand, the show is chock full ad-libbing.

“I got the call to do season six literally two days before production was scheduled to begin,” says Day. “It was literally, ‘Wanna do Schitt’s Creek?’ I said, ‘Schitt yeah!’ Since so much of the script is ad-libbed, we rely heavily on boom mics, for which we use the HMa plug-ons. Then, every actor in the scene is also wearing an SSM. If one of them says something that’s just priceless and the boom doesn’t capture it, the SSM does. I depend on them without hesitation.”

The SSM has Day’s preferred transmitter due to its small size and consistent performance “The first thing I love about the SSM is the size,” he explains. “I can hide them almost anywhere. For example, the character Alexis [Anne Murphy] is a tiny woman, and there are often scenes where her wardrobe is pretty revealing. With Catherine O’Hara, her costumes are so much part of her character that you’re almost scared to disrupt that. So, the SSM’s size is really a savior.”

“My other favorite thing about the SSM is that you can literally plug any type of mic into it and optimize the settings. There’s this menu on it called the Bias menu. It’s easy to find and logical, and it tunes the bias voltage, the phase, and the polarity for a variety of popular lav mics. So, whether you have a Countryman, a Sanken COS, a DPA, even a line-level input, it’s going to sound perfect.”

The pervasive ad-libbing makes for unpredictable dynamic range in the actors’ voices. Day says that the ability of the Venue and Venue2 receivers to host up to six dual-channel receiver modules help him stay prepared. “I’ve had plenty of times where Dan Levy or another actor was shouting one second and then whispering the next, and again, it’s not scripted,” he explains. “First of all, the noise floor of the receivers is so good that amplifying soft-spoken dialogue is usually no problem. However, what I usually do is pair one transmitter with two receiver channels. These have different gain settings and I double-track everyone’s voice. This approach has never, ever let me down, no matter what the talent comes up with.”

LR receivers come into play for motion shots. “The Lectro LRs are super simple and super reliable,” he notes. “They live in my bag, and we use them for walk-and-talks where we’re not going to roll the entire audio cart down the street.”

Production realities on Schitt’s Creek make for crowded RF airspace, which Day navigates using Lectrosonics Wireless Designer software. “For big scenes, we might have up to 15 wireless mics going at once,” he points out. “On top of that, we’re on a soundstage next to other soundstages, so there might be 50 radio frequencies in my environment. Wireless Designer helps us coordinate with the other productions, so no one is stepping on anyone else. Beyond just being a display tool, it also lets me tune the receivers in an intuitive, visual way. It’s a saving grace.”

Day concludes, “To say to the talent and the producers, ‘We can make this work without you changing what you do’ — that’s the Holy Grail for any sound guy. Lectrosonics lets me proceed with absolute confidence that I can do that, day in and day out.”

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