Calrec speaks with Max Dighton, owner of Blanket Sound
Max Dighton has worked as a sound supervisor on many high profile projects including the BBC FA Cup, BT Sport Rugby and ITV Football. He has been an avid user of Calrec consoles for 10 years and worked as a sound supervisor on the BBC’s annual BAFTA Award winning wildlife series Springwatch.
How did you get started in professional audio and what attracted you to the pitch?
I started out as a stereotypical teenage guitarist in a band. My parents generously gave us a PA and from that point on I was more interested in mixing the band than playing. I studied music systems engineering at UWE and as part of From that degree, I spent a ‘sandwich year’ at the Tunbridge Wells Forum concert hall mixing bands live five nights a week, which was a hugely beneficial experience. I ended up making sound for a lot of promising people, including Adele! I tried other jobs, but 10 years later a friend who worked at Arena asked me if I would like to work in broadcast.
We know that you have been working as a freelance for two years. Is Blanket Sound your company? More precisely, what does your current field of work consist of?
Blanket Sound is my company, so called because I “cover everything”. I mainly work as a Sound Supervisor but I also do Sound Guarantee. Being self-employed means that I do a lot of different jobs each year / month / week. However, my regular sound oversight roles include: BBC FA Cup; BT Sport Rugby; BBC Cricket; ITV Football. The freedom to freelance also means that I can work occasionally at the Tunbridge Wells Forum.
What was it like working as a sound supervisor on BBC2’s Springwatch series? What was your role in the project?
It was fantastic to have the opportunity to be sound supervisor in the absence of Louise Wilcox. I usually work as a Guarantee on Springwatch and the ‘Watch’ family and learned a lot from Louise. It was great to be able to put that knowledge into action. In addition to the live presentation elements – four presenters in three locations – there are boxes / nests / wild areas alive. These are cut out during the show to highlight what is happening in the UK’s wilderness.
The program audio came from satellite streams. With presenters in different locations across the country and satellite audio arriving at different times, a “quick listen” was introduced into each presenter’s program flow to help make conversations between them smooth and transparent. This was created using AoIP, which arrived much earlier than satellite audio. Being able to instantly link the faders and send audio to so many different outputs made the whole process so easy.
We know that Timeline TV and Cloudbass were also involved in this project; can you explain what their roles were and how you all worked together?
Cloudbass provided the wildlife cover for the show. They were based in Chew Valley, just south of Bristol, and had over 15 cameras each with audio streamed to the Apollo office in Timeline. Timeline provided the gallery to Ealing and the uplink trucks in each presentation position. This was the first major remote production I was involved with – the delay page was used a lot during TX’s three weeks!
We know that Springwatch 2020 won a BAFTA Award in the Live Event category; How did you live this experience?
It was, and still is, very exciting to have been a part of such an important show. It took place during the lockdown, and I think it really brought something uplifting to people’s homes at a very difficult time. On a personal level, it was great to still be able to play a part in the creation of the show and to have a sense of normalcy at a time when the live events had indeed been canceled. We missed the specific Sound Craft BAFTA, but to be nominated in such a strong category was an absolute honor.
Can you describe a typical broadcast audio workflow that you use?
The workflow in a OB van is very simple for me. Calrec Hydra2 floor-mounted networking boxes provide approximately 90 percent of the outdoor audio facilities reaching the office. On some jobs, multis are still used, but the ease of connecting to Calrec makes installation quick and easy.
In a remote location in a studio gallery, audio can arrive in several ways; for example, AoIP via many equipment from different manufacturers or integrated satellite power supplies. These are easily transmitted to Calrec via AES / Dante / MADI and even analog for backups.
When did you start working with Calrec products?
I started working with Calrec products when I joined Arena in 2011, which was my first time working in broadcast. With Calrec being so user-friendly and intuitive, I was able to use and secure with them very quickly.
Which Calrec consoles have you used over the years and for which projects?
Omega: The first Arena OB trucks had Omega Bluefins. I have used them extensively on sports and LE. It is the real workhorse of OBs.
Artemis: When OB11 was built in Arena, we installed an Artemis. It continued the useful user interface but with an updated look.
Apollo: The new OB workhorse was introduced to me when I joined NEP. More than just a “bigger Artemis”, it’s an audio mixer that everyone wants to see when they show up for work.
Summa: Wimbledon uses Summa desks for the outdoor courts, which I have been doing since 2019. One screen to rule them all; it’s so easy to stay in control.
Brio: I have used Brio desks a lot over the last year, both plug and play and in an installed gallery. By working with Tall Audio, we can set up a Brio and get it running in any location in a ridiculously short amount of time. I used one in the BT Tower as well as the old Dragons’ Den building in London. Timeline has a Brio in Ealing’s gallery G, which I used for BBC Cricket Highlights last summer as well as many jobs in between.
What is a recent example of a project where you used Calrec technology?
With two channels simultaneously covering the Paralympic Games on Channel 4, we hooked up an Apollo in Timeline’s UHD 2 and an Artemis in their new facility in Ealing. Linking them together is easy and helps us share facilities.
What are the technological advantages of the Calrec console (s) you are using?
The handy operating system on all consoles is definitely a standout feature. Touching a button leading you to everything you need means everything is immediately accessible. Basically mixing is easier knowing you can relax.
What do you think of AoIP and where is the industry at? What do you think this means for the future?
It is vital. More broadcasting is remote every week. Why have a production on site if they can all be together in a gallery near their home, especially with the recent need to travel less.
How do you see audio evolving over the next five years?
It’s already happening, but I can see it’s becoming the norm for supervisors to mingle at home.