After a wait of 30 years, Mad Max fans are revelling in the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth in this exceptionally successful action adventure film series. Already garnering high praise from critics, Mad Max: Fury Road was filmed on location in Namibia and Sydney and directed, produced and co-written by George Miller. It stars a host of internationally famous actors including Tom Hardy (who takes over the title role from Mel Gibson), Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
DPA Microphones is delighted to have played a key part in capturing the sound for this high octane movie. Award-winning Production Sound Mixer Ben Osmo chose the company's d:screet™ 4063 Miniature Microphones with low sensitivity and low voltage to record dialogue during the shooting of action scenes that involved fast, furious and bumpy chases across the Namibian desert. He also used DPA d:screet 4062 Miniature Microphones with extra low sensitivity for cabled recordings of various vehicles, and these were held firm inside each vehicle by DPA magnet mounts.
When it comes to film sound projects, Ben Osmo has enormous experience. He has worked on every George Miller film since 1987 (including Dead Calm, Lorenzo's Oil and Happy Feet 2), and has won numerous awards including a Golden Reel Award for Babe.
On Fury Road, his brief was to record dialogue and FX while in motion. "We set up three multiplex systems to give me range of 1 to 3 kilometres," he explains, "but after the first run through, when the vehicles in the film took off at speed, it became apparent that I needed to relocate my equipment into a small 4WD van and follow the action. If you watch the film, whenever you see vehicles travelling through the desert, we were there in an adjacent vehicle or hidden with the cast and stunts. It was a wild ride!"
The choice of DPA microphones was an easy one to make as Osmo has used them many times in the past and had always been happy with their durability and their sound quality.
"I love DPA mics because they have a transparent sound and are the best for wind noise," he says. "For this film, Leon Hart at DPA's Australian distributor Amber Technology, suggested I use d:screet 4063 Miniature Microphones because they matched the voltage outputs of my Lectrosonics SMV and SMVQ transmitters. I have been using DPA lapel mics for many years because they have the most transparent sound of any lapel mic currently on the market."
Osmo says that on Fury Road, the vehicle noises often drowned out the dialogue, particularly if actors were in the vehicles or standing near them. The only way to get usable guide tracks in these situations was to close mic everyone.
"We used low sensitivity d:screet Miniature Microphones to mic the eight principle cast members who were inside the War Rig cabin and these provided all dialogue and all transmitted sound FX," he explains. "At the same time we placed a lot of hidden DPA d:screet mics in the cabin for FX and for catching the action. We also positioned them around the engine bay, near the exhausts and transmission and up on the top of the War Rig, and they were used in other vehicles and on the vast supporting cast."
Although the film did need a substantial amount of ADR, Osmo says that a decision was taken early on to provide as clear a soundtrack as possible to facilitate ADR in the future.
"There is limited dialogue in this film, so George preferred to have the action real," Osmo says. "Even when on simulated travel, the wind machines were blowing a gale and the Special FX motion of the vehicles was also very loud. The point, though, was that we all had to hear something, so George could make creative and performance decisions. We were able to provide George, First AD PJ Voeten and Cinematographer John Seal with their own radio mics and IFBs, so George could have conversations on the move and in different vehicles - sometimes 500 meters to some kilometres apart. At this point, the camera operators and assistants were also in the mix so that they could receive instructions and acknowledge them.
"The system worked really well as George could be in his van with a few monitors, travelling behind the action and still be able to discuss shots with PJ and John and with the Edge Arm crew who were shooting other angles. Sometimes George would be in the Edge Arm vehicle to set up shots, while PJ and the crew were on the War Rig or other tracking vehicles. This was also good for some cast members – for example Immortan Joe (Hugh Keys Burne) would be in the extremely loud Gigahorse vehicle and would have a DPA d:screet 4063 Miniature Microphone and an ear piece inside his mask. This would allow us to have conversations with him, despite the noise."
Placing the DPA Miniature Microphones inside the actors' costumes so that they remained invisible was the task of 'costume genius' Andrea Hood who was present for all of the African shoots.
"We worked together on previous projects including Peter Pan and the Sapphires where we also had challenges hiding microphones in costumes," Osmo says. "She was an immense help on Fury Road because she would sew the mics into costumes and make small pouches on the key costumes, especially those worn by the wives and Furiosa. We came up with a couple of interesting positions to place them in Max's jacket and inside his t-shirt. We couldn't tape them to his outfit because it was covered in oil and dirt, so Andrea sewed them into the back of his shirt. Location Assistant Brendan Allen and Andrea came up with suggestions of where we could place the DPAs in his jacket and we trialled them all, with me listening for rustle and wind noise. Finally we decided to place two Miniature Mics on each side of his jacket so that when he turned around he would still be on mic. The high wind fluffies were also used and these were instrumental in keeping he wind at bay."
Osmo adds that the DPA d:screet Miniature Microphones were never a problem for the actors and certainly didn't get in the way of their performance.
"We just needed to be inventive in the pack placements," he says. "Charlize Theron had a good outfit for hiding the pack and she would pre-set her mic in the costume department. When she arrived on set, we were able to quickly place the pack inside her leather belt pack."
Filming an action movie in a place as inhospitable as the Namibian desert did present some issues for the sound equipment, but Osmo was on top of this and ensured the equipment was constantly maintained.
"The earth had extremely corrosive qualities, but fortunately most of the hardware was either encased in temperature controlled road cases or inside my van. But the radio mic transmitters and DPA and Boom mics were always out in the elements, all being hidden inside costumes or blimps. We never lost a mic due to the environmental conditions – they performed very well."
On Fury Road, Ben Osmo's Namibia Location Sound team included key boom operator Mark Wasiutak – a man with many years' experience and indeed the boom operator on the first Mad Max movie; assistant Bendan Allen; Action Unit mixer Derek Mansvelt and boom operator Ian Arrow. Oliver Machin, a Brit who now lives in South Africa, was also drafted in to assist and Osmo gave him various responsibilities including setting up the time code for multiple cameras and recorders. Towards the end of the six months the crew spent in Namibia, Machin took on the task of recording specific vehicles away from the main filming locations.
"Overall, the DPA d:screet 4063 Miniature Microphones were definitely the best choice for dialogue," Osmo says. "I've been using them for a few years and they are fantastic. In fact, since finishing Fury Road I have used DPA to record two television miniseries in Australia – Return to the Devil's Playground and The Kettering Incident. Both these projects have required minimal ADR. The feature film, The Sapphires, also had live vocals blended with playback and the mics worked very well at capturing this."
After his recent hectic film schedule, Ben Osmo is currently happy to be working on TV commercials before he gets started on his next project later this year.
At DPA Microphones we’re passionate about acoustic truth. That’s why every DPA microphone combines ingenious audio engineering with brilliant design and is crafted with more than 200 hands-on procedures at our own facilities in Denmark: to get as close as humanly possible to honest sound. www.dpamicrophones.com