Review: New E-Book on Location Audio Is Must-Read for Aspiring A2s

According to the ancient wisdom, those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. But then there those who are adept at both when it comes to a specific topic, in which case they write a textbook about it.

That’s what Dean Miles, a veteran location audio engineer based in Vancouver, BC, did after a long career capturing sound in the field. It was the lack of information about his chosen field that frustrated him early on, compelling him to literally learn the art and science of location recording on the fly. Years later, it also prompted him to write Location Audio Simplified, an e-book and print book that nicely distills the intricacies of capturing sound in its native habitat and getting it right the first time, a mantra shared by everyone who works in broadcast-sports audio.

Location Audio Simplified is just that: a primer on the topic but one that doesn’t limit itself to the rudiments. It promises to be comprehensive and pretty much achieves that goal, in large part thanks to Miles’s liberal use of excellent interactive graphics and photos. Clearly labeled shots of front and rear panels of mixers are better than those in most high-end product operating manuals, and interactive pop-ups take you deeper.

Using a print format at all for the book seems rather pointless: the interactive bells and whistles aboard the iBook version, available through the iTunes Store, make the two-dimensional display in the print version seem less than quaint.

Over the course of two volumes, Miles covers the basics of various types of microphones and how they’re best chosen and worked with in the field, calibrating and using field mixers, working with talent, calibrating and using wireless systems, setting up a wireless hop, and the surprisingly detailed “art of using a boom pole” for audio, including detailed embedded video, one of 35 used in the book.

What I especially liked about the book is that, while it stays focused on its primary mission to convey technical information and concepts, it does so within the context of how the reader will apply it toward a career. As he points out in the boom-pole video, “becoming proficient with a boom pole will have you looking like a sound pro in no time — being able to collapse and extend the boom pole quickly kinda catches peoples’ attention, especially if you’re doing it with ease.”

The book has a few minor flaws; some are technical and endemic to the still nascent field of virtual books, such as getting stuck in a graphics loop. It would also have benefited from a once-over by a copy editor, who would have caught the fact that the phrase “a rookie location audio operator sticks out like a soar thumb” didn’t mean that his species-defining opposing digit was about to take flight. But it’s minor stuff compared with the accomplishment of illuminating one of the vaguer yet critical occupations on the closing credits roll, in the process not only imparting knowledge but doing so with the potential to inspire a career wielding a microphone. You can check out sample chapters and buy the book at (vol. 1, $39.95) and (vol. 2, $29.95).

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