Capturing <I>WandaVision</I>'s production sound
Chris Giles, CAS
Issue: November/December 2021

Capturing WandaVision's production sound

As the production world becomes more dynamic, distinguishing which details deserve attention is paramount to maintaining the authenticity of a performance. This level of expectation goes for audio just as much as it does for visual. Productions continue to grow in complexity, requiring more channels, expanded tool sets and an increased urgency to perform. As modern environments require more adaptability, our tool sets need to be more flexible and intuitive as well. This helps ensure that the harmony between the solid engineering and artistry of performance avoids being muddled and buried to the point someone proclaims, “Just fix it in post!”

While we can and do “fix it in post” when necessary, a significant magic is undeniably lost as we cut, mold, edit and redo dialogue and sound. I suggest our generation of filmmakers focus more on using technology for “capturing the performance at the time of execution,” then “fix it in post” only by design, or when we reach the limitations of modern filmmaking technology.

As a professional sound mixer, I get to work alongside some of the finest artisans, creatives, engineers and craftspeople, capturing high-quality audio in various types of production environments. While recently working on Marvel’s WandaVision, I made certain I could capture the best performance, so I brought the best tech I have found to the table. 

I own and operate multiple Aaton CantarX3’s, a premier on-location audio mixer/recorder with unmatched ergonomics and pristine fidelity capable of capturing world class concert halls down to the smallest independent projects. I use the CantarX3 alongside the Shure Axient digital wireless system, Shure’s Wireless Workbench software, Shure’s AXT600 spectrum manager and AD610 ShowLink wireless access point. Altogether, I’m running audio on a collection of wireless, Dante networks, analog and/or AES, as is required.  

What these pieces of equipment really do is turn hours (or even days) of work— which includes preparing for large cast counts, synchronization and coordination of all wireless systems, and audio channels — into mere minutes with a few quick scans and mouse clicks. The intuitive digital routing destroys the insane time crunches of yesteryear. The added bonus is this equipment does it all and delivers quality that is virtually unmatched.

Specifically, I appreciate how the Shure Axient AXT600 can alleviate the stresses of an increasingly-wireless production. Before the AXT600, I would worry about rogue frequencies interfering with recording, and having to stop production (if possible) to adjust a bodypack or change a frequency. The AXT600 paired with the AD610 has changed that, as it automatically deploys frequencies to each transmitter. You no longer have to go and grab the performer wherever they may be; as long as they are in range of ShowLink, it will automatically make the adjustment, before you even have to think about it.

Another benefit of the AXT600 is its egalitarian nature; if one needed to, they could input the number of frequencies needed for a unit from an entirely different manufacturer, and the AXT600 would calculate that for you, too. 

When working on Wandavision, this sort of multi-platform approach allowed for greater accessibility and flexibility, especially amid the digital transition.

The bar has been raised. Axient digital wireless systems allows mixers like my team and myself to be more hands-on, so we are able to be fully “in the mix.”