Tropical Survival With Sennheiser
Wednesday, 11 July 2001
A whole range of Sennheiser audio equipment helped ensure the success of Planet 24’s recent production for ITV, Survivor, throughout seven weeks of filming on the remote desert island of Pulau Tiga in the South China Sea. Of particular note was the performance of Sennheiser’s new MKE-2 Gold lavalier clip mic, which successfully provided the principal means of recording broadcast quality sound in the extremely hostile and humid tropical environment.

The new mic is designed specifically for ‘high moisture’ resistance but provides the same acoustic performance as its industry standard counterpart design. "The conditions the microphones faced were very much a worse case scenario - humidity and salt water," explains Planet 24’s technical director Peter Johnston. 16 of the MKE-2 Golds were used, along with their associated UHF SK50 miniature belt pack transmitters and EK 3041 miniature diversity camera-mount receivers. The radio system saw extensive use throughout filming, with remote feeds to the camera crews as they tracked contestants and filmed impromptu links. Sound supervisor Steve Blincoe explains: "The freedom the transmitters gave sound and camera guys and producers was very useful operationally, as it allowed the beach and jungle scenes to be monitored and captured without the limitation of trailing cables. This became essential when we were filming in the surf as we had mixers on our shoulders and water up to our waists! Thankfully we had relatively comfortable accommodation a boat ride away, although we were surviving the conditions too, and this kit made our jobs a lot easier."

Sennheiser MKH 416, MKH60 and 70 mics were also used, with the MKH 416s used for general sound coverage and the MKH 60s and 70s used for "more range and less surf interference", during events such as rafting and fishing. The unique natural setting made unobtrusive micing a prime consideration and Steve Blincoe’s team of 11 sound recordists inventively made use of readily available local materials to accomplish this.

"We had to come up with a graceful solution during the one week rehearsal that would allow the contestants the freedom to carry out their tasks without our interference," continues Steve. "We settled on the use of short sections of bamboo and coconut husks in order to construct ‘Ethnic Radio Mounts’. That way we could leave them in-shot and close to the action. Our engineers managed to come up with some ingenious brackets to secure the mics and transmitters, although we did have to tell the contestants not to throw the coconuts with wires hanging out of them onto the fire!"

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