Now I’ve owned a fair few second hand cars in my time, some of which have been better purchases than others. When perusing the classifieds however, I’ve never come across anything with an elephant proof roll cage fitted. According to liveproduction.tv one such adornment was required during the filming of ”War elephants” for National Geographic channel.
For the documentary, cameraman Bob Poole rebuilt a Land Rover and made an “elephant proof roll cage” to help prove his and his sister Dr. Joyce Poole’s theory, that the Gorongosa elephants could learn that not all humans in vehicles visiting the park are bad. This was done as an attempt to help re-establish safe tourism now that the country’s civil war has ended and ivory poaching has been recently abated.
“The film presented many obstacles for recording great dialog. Relying on wireless transmission from the hero car to my vehicle and also sending a stereo mix to the camera, and driving at the same time could get very challenging. When we were filming elephants, we had to position the sound vehicle in just the right place to have good wireless range and be out of the shot, and leaving an escape route for the vehicle just in case we met a rogue elephant who wanted to smash the sound vehicle. I had a lot going on but having the 552 riding shotgun next to me made mixing and recording second nature. The 552 is built like a tank, sounds great and is always reliable in demanding situations, it didn’t miss a take.
Commenting of the challenge of Mozambique’s extreme temperatures and terrain David stated:
“This was one of those jobs where sound equipment took a beating. We drove over 1500 kilometers on incredibly bumpy 4X4 roads, as well as driving down elephant paths so anything that was not well made (including cars) fell apart. Temperatures were hot and dust was always a problem. The one piece of gear I could always count on was the 552. It never flinched.”
David also bestowed the virtues of his 552:
“Being able to record nice clean ambient sound directly on the 552 was very liberating. Having a perfect back-up recording to synch dialog when things went wrong (and they went very wrong more than once) changed my whole outlook on direct-to-camera wireless recording. The director on this shoot was adamant that he wanted my best mix recorded to camera. I did what he asked but boy was I glad I had the back-up recordings when I found out that the wireless link had issues (broken cables and bumped levels, etc.). The National Geographic elephant shoot in Mozambique was a success. The Sound Devices team created an incredible piece of equipment. The 552 is amazing—in the world of documentary sound, it has no equal.”
So far we’ve been to mountainsides, the icy tundra and the rainforest recording audio. Now the plains of Africa can be added to the list of extreme locations to record sound in. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more profiles of sound recordists around the world.
Also, this has made me look at my current car and wonder if it really is up to the job. I know there aren’t any elephants on the prowl round here but parts of rural Yorkshire can get pretty wild. Maybe it is time to flick through the classifieds for a roll cage.