Feature: Scaling new heights
Feature: Scaling new heights
A full selection of Sennheiser audio capture equipment aided intrepid adventurers scaling a rock formation in Armenia, discovers Simon Luckhurst
The task of capturing environmental audio in unique and undocumented environments must be one of the most rewarding, if at times highly frustrating, jobs on the planet. You are at the end of the day, attempting to bend physics to your will all the while nature does its best to set your best laid plans to waste. Any equipment to make the job easier is a must.
An intrepid team of experienced mountaineers recently travelled to the Republic of Armenia to embark on just such a mission – discovering new routes for climbing fans and document their adventures for their community. In order to achieve this, high-quality audio capture equipment was required to match the big-budget visual quality of the production, yet be portable and flexible enough to not restrict the mountaineers as they scaled rock formations. The team turned to German manufacturer Sennheiser and its Polish partner Aplauz.
The destination was a formation approximately 15km long near the town of Dilijan. Due to its beautiful surroundings, the region in the province of Tavush is fondly known as “Little Switzerland” by the locals. During their stay, the team marked three sectors of the sandstone rocks, which rise up to 400m high and which have never been climbed by professionals. In total, they defined 22 climbing routes and documented them thoroughly for the community.
“Many climbers restrict themselves to routes that are already known – but, personally, I take much more pleasure in exploring places that have so far been ignored,” explains Aleksandra Wierzbowska. Together with a climbing partner, Wierzbowska was responsible for the audiovisual documentation of the project, which lasted for several weeks in total. The key components of the equipment were DSLR cameras for photos and video recordings, a portable multitrack audio recorder and microphone equipment from Sennheiser, including wireless systems, wired shotgun microphones and headphones. The video recordings were made in HD quality, with the aim to produce a 40-minute documentary that would not only be of interest to climbers but would also bring to life the country and its people for a greater audience.
For their journey, Wierzbowska and her colleagues packed four evolution wireless ew 112P G4 wireless camera microphones, a ready-to-use set including an SK 100 G4 bodypack transmitter, an EK 100 G4 portable receiver and an ME 2-II lavalier microphone, as well as a camera adapter and the necessary connecting cables.
“We operated the wireless systems in Dilijan in the range around 525MHz and there were no problems at all with the local authorities. Aplauz had advised us in advance to select the A band for use in Armenia,” she explains. “No unexpected interference occurred, although of course we weren’t in a big city but in a thinly populated rural region without much wireless traffic.”
The wireless systems were primarily used for interviews with the locals. The interviewees were professionally fitted with ME 2-II microphones that were included in the sets. “During the wireless transmission, we never experienced any interruptions or undesired artefacts,” recalls Wierzbowska. “The operating period of the transmitters and receivers with fully charged batteries was always more than sufficient.”
The wireless systems were also supplemented by wired Sennheiser MKE 600 microphone models. Besides interview situations, the MKE 600s were used when filming the climbers on the cliff face. “We regularly used the MKE 600s in situations where we didn’t want to mike up our interview partners with an ME 2-II, but still wanted to clearly record what they said without any surrounding noise,” Wierzbowska furthers. “Sometimes, we also employed the MKE 600 in scenes that we did with climbers high up on a cliff face – and, of course, the MZH 600 windshield always made sure that wind noise was kept to a minimum and wasn’t an issue.”
For monitoring of the recorded audio tracks, the team stuck with Sennheiser, using HD 25 Plus headphones. “Their closed design enabled us to reliably monitor the sound recordings, even under the most challenging environmental conditions,” Wierzbowska explains. “It only became a bit more complicated when we were wearing our helmets at the rock face – although,” she adds with a smile, “one can hardly expect the developers at Sennheiser to predict such an unconventional job for their headphones.”
Perhaps the unique expedition will set cogs in motion in the manufacturer’s R&D department.
Like many other events, the audiovisual documentation of the climbing project was put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic. “As soon as it’s possible to enter Armenia again, I will set off back to Dilijan to round off the project with further video impressions and interviews and then go into the postproduction phase,” Wierzbowska concludes.