Rian Engelen takes a break from putting microphones through their paces
B3 omnidirectional lavaliers frequently endure harsh environments
Los Angeles, CA – March 2016… The rough and tumble world of reality TV not only puts the show’s contestants through the wringer, it also subjects the equipment used in production to extreme conditions. Be it submersion in water, dirt, or who knows what else, the gear must work. Welcome to the world of Audio Supervisor / Sound Mixer Rian Engelen. Capturing the dialog of the contestants is challenging work that can be positively brutal on the microphones used. This is precisely why Engelen relies on the superb audio characteristics and robust performance of his B3 Omnidirectional Lavalier microphones from Menlo Park, CA-based Countryman Associates.
During the course of his career, Engelen has worked on a variety of reality shows, commercials and documentaries. He reports, “Quite often, the work we do takes place in the harshest environments and some of the toughest circumstances imaginable on electronic gear!” Having served 4 seasons as the Sound Supervisor and Production Sound Mixer for CBS’ highly popular reality show Survivor as well as 22 seasons as one of the Sound Mixers on the show, Engelen’s experience speaks volumes about knowing the ins and outs of location sound. Add in his experience working as Sound Supervisor for MasterChef South Africa on the Shine Network and Fear Factor India, a production of Endemol, and it becomes clear that Engelen knows what it takes to get the job done. He discussed his experience with Countryman’s B3 lavalier microphones.
“Survivor features 18 or 20 castaways who compete against each other with the same ultimate goal: to outwit, outplay and outlast each other,” he said. “Ultimately, one will be crowned the Sole Survivor and win the one-million-dollar prize. The show is hosted by Emmy Award winner Jeff Probst. We use 48 Countryman B3 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphones in Challenge and Tribal situations. These mics are worn by both the contestants and Jeff Probst. The Countryman mics are used with WM and SMQV wireless transmitters from Lectrosonics and, together, they make a great combination.”
“The Countryman B3 lavs never fail to impress,” Engelen added. “It is an extremely rugged mic and has proven itself time and again in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. The amount of abuse we’ve put these mics through is astonishing, such as submerging them in saltwater (with the cap on, of course). The red bands don’t distort—even with the talent screaming their lungs off, they provide an incredibly high SPL tolerance and yet still perform fantastically in low SPL sound capture situations. The B3’s frequency response is terrific, and the mic delivers what I feel is a beautifully transparent sound. I also like having the option of adding a little presence peak with the crisper response caps when I need it.”
Engelen was equally complimentary of Countryman’s customer and technical support services. “Countryman’s service and support is terrific,” says Engelen. “I approached the company with a design for what I’ll call a ‘water cap’ for the B3 that, I believed, would aid us in capturing sound from the B3’s—even after having been submerged in water. The challenge is making these mics clear quickly, of their own accord, once the contestants emerge from the water. Once a challenge is on we have no way of fixing a mic and may not interfere with the flow of the competition in any way. The day I called Countryman’s offices, I was put through to Chris Countryman himself, who, in a matter of days constructed a sample of this ‘water cap’ for me to test—a sample that he had personally made. It worked beautifully!”
As he prepared for the next day’s production, Engelen offered these final thoughts regarding his experience with Countryman Associates and their products. “It is evident to me that, as a company, Countryman is led by true audiophiles—people that are ever eager to explore and innovate. It is this sort of practice that has earned them the reputation as one of the most prestigious and progressive microphone companies in the business. It is quite evident that they dearly cherish us— the users—and for that principle, I take my hat off to them.”