Production Sound Mixer Mark LeBlanc Relies on Sound Devices Recorders, Mixer
As a Production Sound Mixer and owner of Louisiana Film Sound, Mark LeBlanc’s credits include the 2013 Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild, GI Joe Retaliation, American Horror Story, and the recently released Zipper. After 25 years in the industry, LeBlanc understands the importance of capturing pristine quality audio, and that’s why he relies on the 788T and 702T Portable Recorders and 664 Field Production Mixer from Sound Devices, specialists in audio and video products for broadcast and film production, for his recording needs. He also utilized several additional Sound Devices accessory products including its MM-1 Preamplifier, its CL-9 Linear Fader Controller for 788T and its CL-WIFI for 788T.
LeBlanc has been using Sound Devices gear since 2007, when he first incorporated the 788T into his rig. “I decided to switch to a standalone recorder from my previous computer-based one, and selected the 788T over other options, based primarily on the features of the operating system,” he says. “I also really liked that I could access the menus and customize shortcuts from a standard USB keyboard. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the extensive metadata information and the fact that you can go back at any time and edit.”
His primary cart rig consists of Sound Devices 788T with its CL-9 controller and CL-WiFi accessories. Sound Devices 664 works perfectly for his car/boat insert work, and its extended battery life comes in handy on those long days in the field. Being able to move CF cards between the 664 and 788T is a real time saver for him. He sets up identical folder structures; this way he doesn’t have to spend time at the end of the day consolidating files. He also has a Sound Devices 702T on hand for those times when he needs to run out and grab sound effects. The rest of his kit consists of Lectrosonic wireless mics for the talent, Comtek and Sennheiser receivers for IFB with the AKG CK69 shotgun and Sennheiser MKH50 doing the heavy lifting for mics, along with Mozegear for timecode boxes and Denecke for slates. In addition, he uses an iPad Mini to connect to the CL-WiFi for metadata entry and a small USB keyboard to access the 14 keyboard shortcuts mapped to his most-used 788T functions, such as Scene Name, Track Name, Delete, False Take and Advance Scene Number. LeBlanc’s long-time boom operator, Matt Champagne, also uses Sound Devices MM-1 Preamp fed into Micron Wireless Transmitters, because it helps protect against overloading the transmitter input.
Having recently turned to Sound Devices for the now-wrapped American Horror Story Freakshow, LeBlanc used his 788T to capture B-unit sound for the characters Bette and Dot, Siamese-twins played masterfully by Sarah Paulson. Those familiar with the show know there are moments when the sisters communicate telepathically. For these situations, LeBlanc had to feed prerecorded dialog into an in-ear system so Paulson could more easily respond to the dialog of the opposite sister he was recording. LeBlanc relied on the internal routing of the 788T to create a mix-minus setup where Paulson heard only the pre-dub from the playback system, but not her live dialog, while at the same time everyone in production could hear both, all while ensuring that the pre-dub was not picked up in the recording.
LeBlanc also incorporated the use of multiple Sound Devices recorders (788T and 664) into his kit when he mixed the movie Zipper, which was in competition at the 2015 Sundance Festival. Prior to production, he loaded both machines with identical track names, folders and roll information. This cross-compatibility really paid off, because he didn’t have to spend any extra time organizing files during production.
One of the aspects of the Sound Devices equipment that LeBlanc really likes is the abundance of options. “The robust file system allows easy cross-file pollination between any one of my three Sound Devices recorders,” he says. “Sound Devices’ non-proprietary file format system allows me to take the CF card and use an iUSBPort device to wirelessly transfer the .csv sound report from either my 788T or 664 to my iPad and MovieSlate app to generate and send a PDF report to production. Also, with the CL-9, I don’t have to give up an input for a mix track from an analog mixer.”
LeBlanc also enjoys the customer support he receives from the company. “Support is one of the most underrated functions of a company, and Sound Devices has it nailed down,” he adds. “A perfect example of this is when I was shooting Hatchet 3 deep in the swamps south of New Orleans. I had a situation where a bug crawled into one of the faders of my CL-9 and got crushed while I was shooting. Sound Devices sent me a loaner the next day, as my bug-filled CL-9 headed to the factory for some cleaning. That’s service!”