The One Perfect Sound: A Guest Blog from John Servedio

John Servedio from Servid Sounds, Inhouse Create, and the audio team at Photo Number 6 took some time to tell us about his experiences using RØDE Microphones on set.

Lorne, Victoria, December 2016. I was on a weekend retreat with my team from Inhouse Create. I had received a phone call to notify me that our pilot for Photo Number 6 had been approved, and we had received funding for a first season. I thought 2016 was a big year, but boy, 2017 was promising to be EPIC on a global scale.

Photo Number 6 is a reality television program combining the thrill of adventure with the joy of photography. Host Alan Fletcher explores the world looking for that elusive photo - that one perfect shot - which encapsulates the humanity and geography of the connections he makes. View the trailer here.

But first, a little about me.

Ever since my old man introduced me to a guitar, I knew I couldn’t turn back. It started simply enough, but something had been unearthed - a powerful desire to create. I would learn a few instruments and play in bands, but things evolved. I would eventually go into production, and that’s when everything changed. My passion, I discovered, would always take me beyond playing instruments. Creativity would meet a knack for problem-solving.

Being an engineer means you have logistical responsibilities - you have to know your tech, and you have to be adaptable. So when it came to devising the sound design for Photo Number 6, I knew a portable, robust rig was the only option. When the job is travelling and run-and-gunstyle recording, you need to be ready, always.

That’s why I start with the NTG3. It’s my go-to for clarity and build. Mixed inside a Rode Blimp and paired with a Boompole Pro, this microphone proved simple enough to serve as the backbone to my rig. Take the following case study - it’s easy to see how the NTG3 came into its own:

You’re on a kayak on a glacier in Iceland. It’s minus 15 degrees celsius. You’ve spent around two hours paddling to find a glacier hole, and by that time, a lot of equipment is failing. Your V-Lock batteries are going from 100 per cent to 10 per cent in five minutes; snow particles are filling your camera lense; and the boom pole is so cold it hurts. Tough conditions, you bet, but the gear soldiered on. Without a rig robust as ours, the whole shoot would have been compromised.


Onto wireless systems. I have a sizeable range, but again, simplicity was the mantra, so I added a couple of RodeLinks to my setup. You can turn them on, press two buttons, and have a pair synced and ready to go. The first shoot using the RodeLinks was going to be a trial by fire, but its 2.4GHz digital transmission with 128-bit encryption gave me confidence. And it was put to use:

We were in bustling Los Angeles, shooting onset with The Bold and the Beautiful at CBS Television City. You can imagine the frequencies going through each TV set - we needed our own channel so we wouldn’t interfere with any of the signals ping-ponging about. The fix proved simpler than I could have imagined: I grabbed the RodeLinks from my bag, synced them up in seconds, and we were shooting with the cast in seconds without any interference. It simply wasn’t feasible to have talent waiting while we sort out technical issues, and the RodeLinks made us record-ready fast.

As a second boom, the TX-XLR suited my setup perfectly. I was not fortunate enough during this production to have an assistant or boom swinger, so as you can imagine, having to record, mix and swing at the same time proved challenging.

Having a lot of coverage with microphones helps, though, and having a TX-XLR paired with an NTG3 as a second boom on standby was essential. I had another input I could rely on, another track I could mix in post. That’s what it’s all about - getting the best sound possible and having post-production in mind. Creativity is key, too. The camera team like their cinematic wide shots, which makes it hard for my boom to get close, but there is always a place for the TX-XLR to stand and deliver.

Ask me more about rig necessities and essentials, and I’ll automatically go to the RØDE Invisilav. They have become my discreet go-to microphone holder and mounting system for most of the lavaliers I use onset. They not only help protect the microphone, but can be easily taped to or mounted on any surface. And if you do happen to lose one, or have a camel chew on one (true story), you have a whole pack on reserve.

We still have a lot of content to shoot and post-producing to do but Rode certainly made my job easier onset. I would advise anyone to have a play with the systems I’ve mentioned above. I’m about to take the NTG8 and NT4 for filming the last few episodes of Photo Number 6 Season One and cannot wait to see what situations we get into together.

Tune into Channel 10 In February 2018 for Photo Number 6.
Make sure you watch the trailers and join our journey here -
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