Sound designer James Currie has been using a DPA 5100 Mobile Surround microphone to capture the audio for a new feature film entitled Charlie’s Country, which was shot on location in East Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Directed by Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer and produced by Nils Erik Nielsen and Peter Djigirr, Charlie’s Country, starring iconic Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, is a tragi-comic portrait of one man’s struggle to define himself as an Aboriginal in modern Australia.
For James Currie, who has more than 100 feature films to his credit, filming Charlie’s Country provided the perfect opportunity to try a DPA 5100 Mobile Surround microphone for the first time. The microphone was recommended by Julius Chan, sales engineer at DPA’s Australian Distributor Amber Technology Ltd, who has given Currie advice on audio equipment in the past.
“Julius praised the microphone and, now that I have used it, I agree with his opinion,” Currie says. “We decided, before embarking on this production, that our basic post position was going to be Dolby 7.1 with a possibility of going to final mix with Dolby Atmos. A 5.1 microphone for recording atmospheres was therefore an essential item in the structure and vision of the soundtrack. The DPA 5100 Mobile Surround microphone was the instrument that allowed us to work with confidence and to approach the post production of Charlie’s Country with a strong degree of certainty.”
Currie adds that the subject matter and nature of the film also dictated his approach to the audio. He wanted a discrete array of tracks, along with clarity and a faithful representation of the sonic world of East Arnhem Land, so that no sounds needed to be introduced from elsewhere.
“The indigenous population of East Arnhem Land understand the natural world and their lives are tuned to that world,” he explains. “They make changes to their living conditions and proceed to ceremonies and other celebrations by obeying the change of seasons and the movement of nature and its sounds. The introduction of sound from elsewhere would be an insult to their understanding of the world and we would lose face within the community, to say nothing of a loss of confidence with the tribal elders.”
Filming in East Arnhem Land, which is deep into Aboriginal tribal land, came with its own set of issues. Currie describes the area as ‘Australian frontier territory’ and says only madmen and obsessive filmmakers would consider staying there for any length of time.
“Conditions in East Arnhem Land are character building at the best of times and, as this was my fifth production in the area, I knew it would be physically and mentally exacting,” Currie says. “It is a rugged, tough, tropical place, full of crocodiles, spiders of indescribable ugliness and large winged insects whose sole blood sucking purpose in life is to make working and sleeping entirely miserable for everyone. Charlie’s Country includes scenes that had to be filmed in the rain so we knew from the start that our equipment needed to be versatile and rugged in order to withstand the most demanding of conditions and locations. The DPA 5100 microphone gave excellent results and coped with all conditions remarkable well. Humidity is always an issue but the DPA 5100 sailed through without a problem, although its rain cover didn’t fare as well because quite a few bugs enjoyed its texture and ate holes in the fabric.”
Charlie’s Country is now in post-production in Australia where the mixing team are dealing with the 300+ atmospheres recorded on the DPA 5100 Mobile Surround microphone. It is due to premier at the Adelaide International Film Festival later this year and may well be the first Australian production to be mixed in Dolby Atmos.
Currie adds that he has nothing but praise for the DPA 5100 Mobile Surround microphone, which delivered on every level.
“The results I achieved with this microphone exceed my expectations, which is not something one says very often in this business,” he explains. “To record the many and varied atmospherics of East Arnhem Land was a joy. The DPA 5100 provided an accurate and astonishing depth of recording that will allow us, in post, to extract the emotion and colour of the exotic Arnhem Land locations for a worldwide audience.”