In February 2012, the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) began looking for new location sound recording equipment to train the next generation of USC media makers – especially graduate level students working on their documentary thesis films. In order to get a look at the latest and greatest location recording gear, USC Chief Audio Engineer Buddy Halligan and Richard Hyland, USC Sound Department Manager, invited Glen Trew, president of Trew Audio (www.trewaudio.com), and Glenn Sanders, president of Zaxcom (www.zaxcom.com), to visit the campus and demonstrate the newly released Nomad audio recorder from Zaxcom.
The demo was well received and the Nomad was placed at the top of the list for inclusion in the School of Cinematic Arts’ Sound Department’s vast equipment center. At that point, the SCA team wanted to know how Zaxcom would fit in with their current gear and systems, so Trew Audio’s senior product specialist, Ryan Coomer, came to the campus to help set up some real-world hands-on workflow testing.
Coomer elaborates, “We fed the Nomad with one wired boom and two wireless lavalieres and used Zaxnet to distribute scratch audio and time code to two different cameras. We then took the files to an editing bay to check sync and audio quality. Buddy, along with the School of Cinematic Sound Department were impressed with the system and particularly liked the ability of each ERX to set a unique time code offset and audio delay to compensate for differences in camera processing. We put together several system configurations for them, and adjusted them to suit both their budget and capability requirements. And they were really impressed with the system. Unfortunately, the budget wasn’t there, so the decision was tabled.”
By the spring of 2013 the budget situation had changed. Coomer had a conference call with Hyland and Halligan. The need for portable systems for documentary use had become a top priority. The department had a June deadline for the close of the fiscal year, and wanted to make sure the proposed systems were still state-of-the-art. Says Coomer “More than a year had elapsed since our initial demonstration project, so, naturally, we wanted to confirm that our recommendations were still the best fit for the graduate doc students.”
Halligan, Hyland and Coomer reviewed the Zaxcom-based system, as well as other solutions that had been released in the previous year. Coomer helped them weigh the differences in the systems, such as capability, size and ease of use. Ultimately, the power and flexibility of the Zaxcom-based system made it the obvious choice.
Indeed, the Zaxcom Nomad is both compact and powerful. It features up to 14 combined analog and AES digital inputs, 6 output busses, and up to 12 recorded tracks. The Nomad also features built-in Zaxnet, a technology formerly available only with an external control box. Using the 2.4 GHz frequency band, Zaxnet wirelessly distributes IFB audio, time code, and remote control commands to TRX series digital transmitters and ERX series digital IFB receivers.
Trew Audio delivered four full sound bags, built around the Nomad 10 and ERX2TCD in June 2013. Over the summer, anticipating the roll-out of the systems for the fall semester, Coomer offered support in person and over the phone, working with the staff on advanced configurations and operations, so the department would be ready to support their students.
Trew Audio is a new vendor to USC, and Halligan was impressed with the company’s service. “Ryan Coomer has been great, and an integral part to getting these systems right. He was a big help with the bag configuration and all the little questions that come up. Plus, Trew Audio came through with really high quality custom cables. And the Remote Audio Power Distribution system really makes it sweet.”
Trew Audio’s commitment to the needs of real world location sound mixers stems from Glen Trew, the company’s founder and president. With more than 30 years experience as an audio professional, Trew started his career as sound mixer for the iconic TV show, “Hee-Haw.” He recently served as sound recorder for the baseball scenes in the film “42” and currently works on the hit TV series “Nashville.”
Says Trew, “We were thrilled to supply USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, the top rated film school in the country, with innovative products from Zaxcom. It’s a great match for their needs, and it allows us to demonstrate our commitment to the art of location sound recording, by providing hands-on service before, during and after the sale.”
The bags went out and are in the field for the graduate level documentary production class this fall semester. But Halligan is already sure the time spent developing and testing the systems was well spent. “These bags and custom cases that we designed are really a godsend – they’re much lighter, portable and powerful – which is just what we want.”