In this issue of audiofile we speak to Stu Bruce who is a Royal Television Award winning Sound Recordist who works at SabSound Broadcasting.
He has travelled the world extensively and is fast to adapt to changing environments.
Stu talks to BFV about working with Gordon Ramsey and with some of the biggest broadcasters and production companies in the world.
Hi Stu. Thanks so much for agreeing to speak to audiofile.
Can you tell me more about SabSound and when it was established?
Sabsound was established in 1998 after leaving University in Newcastle. I worked for several drama mixers at the time and learnt the ropes as an assistant and Boom Operator and launched head long into a career in sound. As the experience and career development progressed over many years so did the company. I developed a diverse skill base working on drama, documentaries, entertainment shows, rig shows and developed many bespoke builds and got involved in large scale RF installations. Along the way I met and worked with many awesome people who were all very talented in their fields. From this a natural development started to build where work was being shared and calaborated on productions and the SAB Network was born.
The range of skill bases also meant the collective experience was huge and offered our clients a diverse range of skills and services, which grew and grew as the contracts came in. With guys spread throughout the UK we could offer Regional Crews or Multi Crew teams from project managed complete technical solutions to simple dry hire of the latest equipment. The key behind it was client relationships and customer service while looking at every production individually making the right choice for the production both technically and with the team. Now SAB Broadcasting manages multiple productions at any given time, crewing a diverse range of productions and offering our clients what ever they require within the Industry. We pride ourselves in being a one-stop solution for every scale of production and budget and also have specialist services for Drones and Skydive Cameras.
The firm has been involved in several projects with some of the biggest broadcasters and production companies, such as The Olympics, Formula 1 and Nike commercials. Each project must bring many different challenges?
Yes the Sabsound has been involved in a huge array of productions directly and through its members of the SAB Network who work across every genre of the Industry worldwide. The productions are all very different and for sure present different challenges but the answer for us is using the right people with the right skills for the production. There are often cross overs in these skills, which we utilise putting teams together working with client requirements to offer the best technical solution. An example of this is includes the challenge presented for a BBC2 Celebrity Car Rally crossing Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam. We used the highly skilled RF Technicians, to help create a Record and Monitor Box System, which enabled the Producers to press a button and hear any of the 4 Producer Cars up to a Km away driving at speeds of 100KM/hour. The combination of RF planning and our adventure based multi camera sound recording experience meant we could put together a full technical solution which integrated bespoke record boxes, Monitor boxes, PSC teams and self shooting directors. But your right the challenges are always different from a documentary to a large format multi camera rig show with integrated PSC teams. The challenges are not always technical but with the level of experience we offer we are able to cope with everything which could involve logistics of running shoots shot in multiple locations simultaneously, extreme environments or working with various budgets. Our aim is to work with our clients and deliver the best work while dealing with all the challenges presented. Despite the occasional rise in stress levels the challenges thrown at us keep us fresh and just improve what we can offer future clients for what ever production they are working on.
SabSound has some of the very best equipment – how do you know what is the best equipment to use for each individual project?
Each production is very different and we are not fixed to using the equipment we have on the shelf. Choosing the right equipment is integral to the success of a production and needs to be considered on several levels. It depends on the client’s technical requirements, available budget, shooting format and work flow for post production and other factors. Despite having the latest equipment on the market with several different manufactures offering different features that we select depending on the requirements we often find building our own bespoke solutions delivers the best results for the project.
For instance for the BAFTA winning show “Gogglebox’ the equipment needed to be fast to deploy and de rig and consistent while allowing the sound mixer to record and mix the various sends and returns, floor speakers and hidden earpieces while having a very rigid delivery format for post production due to its insanely fast turnaround. The system ensured the delivery format was always the same while being shot across multiple locations throughout the UK by multiple sound mixers swapping in and out over 30 weeks a year. Consistency and speed was key.
In contrast the build for the recently aired BBC2 show “Race Across The World”, required building a system that was robust, discrete, lightweight, simple to operate by self shooting directors. They were to cross the globe filming on multiple camera formats carrying all the equipment over their shoulders in a two-man team following an unpredictable route decided by the two contributors. The system we built allowed the self-shooting directors to control everything using 2 Apps, monitor mixes and record 3 microphones with back up recordings safe from frequency interference, crossing continents and have all camera formats in sync with Time Code. We also reduced the requirement for additional chargers to be carried by powering the entire system off the same batteries used by the cameras.
Two very different examples but with the same understanding that the best equipment will be different for every project and the key to technically supplying a solution requires working with the client right from the start, discussing the details and using our experience to offer up the best solution within the parameters decided in advance.
The firm has also worked with Gordon Ramsey. Can you tell me more about the work you undertook?
Yes the flagship show for National Geographic USA / UK produced by Studio Ramsey is coming to the end of its post-production process and due to air later in the summer. It was a demanding show to work on taking me all over the world to Peru, Morocco, Lao, New Zealand, Hawaii and Alaska for a 6 part series. The show was a mixture of adventure documentary and on location multi-camera studio style run at a very fast pace in some very demanding environments. I got on well with Gordon who I respected hugely as he was seriously professional and super focused. He’s been in the game for a long time and his energy commanded everyone to operate at the very highest level and deliver the very best work in some pretty tricky environments.
There was a great deal of pressure to think of all eventualities and rig the different adventure aspects of the shoot so everyone could be recorded and Producers hear content whether he was being flung around in the rapids in Lao, flying in helicopters in Peru, abseiling through waterfalls in Morocco, scaling cliffs in Alaska and a host of other adventure based scenes.
It was demanding and with three camera teams shooting on multi-formats capturing the sound as often a single unit meant I was often under pressure but required a good range of equipment to deal with it. I used the wide band Wisycom Radio Mics and Audio Ltd A10 Radio Mics to record the show with a mixture of Sanken Cos11 and DPA 4060 mic heads and Sound Devices multi track recorders and Time Code Buddy Systems.
As it was Series 1 there was an unpredictable nature to it while the format was tested and developed on location with very limited time and very ambitious schedule which required flexibility and often pre rigging different scenes with additional mics with Transmitters and onboard recorders to prevent slowing down the process, which often was a one take affair. I have been pleased with what I have heard from the edit and look forward to seeing the show later in the summer.
SabSound also has a comprehensive Drone service and you also work with some of the best pilots in the industry. Drones are becoming more and more popular and capture awesome, smooth video. Why do you think drones are proving to be more popular?
It’s no surprise Drones have take off over the years capturing amazing imagery at the fraction of the cost of traditional methods and we are pleased to be involved with this development. As authorized DJI and Ronin Dealers we have seen the advance in technology and reduction of costs matched with the talent that has come through to operate them. You can have the best brush on the market but that doesn’t make you an artist and like all technical skills Drones are no different. You need to be highly skilled to operate them and with the ability to lift large format cameras, licences and paperwork required for permits a skilled professional dedicated Drone Service adds huge value to a production with stunning imagery.
Drones can be packed up and taken around the World in relatively small boxes and launched with the right permissions and authorities to have huge impacts on the look of any production. Many of our DOP’s and Sound guys are licensed to fly Drones and get great results. Like any skill though it’s our dedicated Drone specialists who have the most impact and skills to fly where others can’t and use heavy lift aircraft for large format cameras. Drones are a key part of the Industry now and here at SAB Broadcasting we are well positioned to offer various levels of Drone services to match production and budget requirements.
Can you tell me about a project you are currently working on?
Sabsound has a few productions we are currently working on which are all diversely different. We supply the technical Solution and Crew for the award winning Series “Gogglebox” for Studio Lambert and Channel 4, which has just finished Series 13 and in production over the summer for a Celebrity Gogglebox Series.
We also installed a gallery Wisycom wireless system for Mini Cams working for Blast Films for a new Fixed Rig show that’s in production with 16 Channels of Radios needing to operate across the site for the different RF zones and filming areas. There was also the requirement for hidden in ear Phonak systems for presenters and the integration of self-shooting directors to dial into the rig frequencies to do individual interviews when required. We go through the usual onsite spectrum Analysis and Licencing process and hand over to the sound team who are were shooting over 6 weeks. We usually have several RF specialist productions like this or Dry Hire rack based systems to Outside Broadcast Suppliers or multiple PSC Bag based systems to large productions or freelancers.
Race Across the World Series 2 is going into pre production, which we are prepping for now for tests in the summer. I can’t say too much about that but after the success of the system for Series 1 the client is very happy to work with us again and look forward to working with the team to deliver another Series.
I like the variety of my projects which are constantly changing but with the support of the SAB Network and staff who run it I’m in a great position to still really love what I do and passionate about doing the very best job I can whatever I am doing.
What does the future hold for Sabsound? Any plans to expand?
It’s very exciting times for us at SAB Broadcasting. After setting up a very successful Sound Network of very experienced crew we are now expanding the SAB Network to the wider Industry and have developed and rolling out the new booking system early this summer. Our mission was to save production time and let them find exactly what they are looking for with different skill bases, hook the Profiles, Contact information and CV’s and check availability in real time directly with the members. As a closed Network, filtered by invitation, we are able to keep quality control and customer service high in our agenda supplying experienced friendly crew and saving a huge amount of time to Production Managers or Producers.
There are other large social media forums and open platforms and websites out there but it’s very hard to filter experience and personality. While watching Jobs being posted to the general Industry we saw the amount of time wasted by Production wading through replies to find the talent. We filter that from the start and then offer the technology and communication process to make that process super fast and easy from our App or your desktop. For example if your looking for a experienced Sound Guy, with Jungle experience with an I-Visa then three or four clicks you’ll have an answer with a post job direct to the persons handset and an answer from them if they are available while hooking their information and presenting it to you. You might need a DOP or a full camera team or a Producer experienced in commercials. What ever it is we will be able to help you and support you with a booking manager if you’d rather drop us a line and we’ll find what you need for you.
We will continue to grow the Network over the next years, which will include Production staff, Producers, Directors, and all the technical roles and keep investing in the development to add more and more useful features to help Production Companies find the right talent when they need it.
In addition to the Crewing and Project Management of a growing number of productions we are investing more and more in equipment for hire, staff and taking SAB Broadcasting out into the market and for the first time shouting about all that we can offer. Its been a long steady growth over 25 years with zero marketing but supplying and working on many high end award winning productions for many Broadcasters in the UK and Internationally.
Its exciting times to be taking our Company to the Industry Shows like the Media Production Show in Olympia in June and rolling out the new developments which have been worked on and thought about for many years. The hard work is paying off and is fantastic to have so much talent happy to bring their names and reputation to the SAB Network. With all the plans to develop and expand we have complete focus on maintaining the quality and well managed personable approach we share with each and every client we work with.