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Polymath Marlowe Taylor Mixes Judas and Fear the Walking Dead with Lectrosonics

It’s conventional audio wisdom that you pursue sound-for-picture or music production, but you can’t do both. Don’t tell that to Marlowe Taylor, CAS, AMPAS. In his Cleveland Studio, he has recorded the likes of Chuck D and Snoop Dogg. As a film and TV mixer, he has worked on Judas and the Black Messiah, Queen & Slim, The Marksman, and countless other shows and features. His current gig is AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, for which his equipment list reads like a Lectrosonics catalog. He’s currently enamored of the D Squared system, owning several DCR822 and DSQD receivers. As these are compatible with Lectro’s time-tested Digital Hybrid wireless, his transmitter complement includes multiple SMQV, watertight WM, micro-compact SSM, plug-on HMa, plus his trusty UCR411a units for vehicle work.

“One of the biggest challenges so far this season was our James Bond style boat chase scene,” Taylor begins. “We had six actors on one boat, and they let the actor drive the speedboat. They’re speeding down a river and the bad guys are chasing them and shooting at them. There’s all this yelling in the dialogue. For this, we had six 411s in a bag in our follow boat, and we’re trying to keep up. Video kept losing their image even though it was compressed to 1080 for transmission. But the Lectro just held on, and that was just using SMQV packs on the actors set to 100mW output.”

Taylor is looking forward to using his digital receivers in similar shoots. “In terms of that kind of extreme range situation, I now think the DCR822 even surpasses the performance of the 411, which is legendary in itself,” he says. “Lectro has really nailed it with those. At any rate, we got great performances and post-production didn’t have to replace any of the lines. We also hide a lot of plant mics to catch ambient noise in scenes like this, for which we use the HMa.”

Taylor also praises the SMQV’s contribution to his lack of range worries. “We did another show called The Walking Dead: World Beyond, which had a helicopter scene with some dialogue,” he recalls. “It’s way up in the air, the blades are throbbing, and I’m getting clear dialogue all the way through with just an SMQV on 100mW. I thought I had it on 250. When we got the pack back and I checked, I was like, holy smokes!”

Boat and helicopter action are not the only extremes in which Taylor has found his Lectrosonics transmitters unflappable. “The other night, we did a rain scene,” he recalls. “The performance of the WM transmitters was astounding. It was a heavy downpour and high winds. Again, post didn’t have to loop in anything. The actor Colman Domingo, who’s been in The Color Purple and a lot of shows, said, ‘Marlowe, I just realized I didn’t have to loop any of the dialogue we did in all that heavy rain and wind!’ Lectro held on tight with the combination of the WM packs and my D Squared system.”

In Taylor’s opinion, the ability of his D Squared series transmitters to find and retain frequencies is also second to none. “Shooting in Savannah, it’s basically the Hollywood of the east coast,” he says. “On set, we now have the lighting dimmer guy who’s on Wi-Fi, so that’s in the air. We have the Teradek systems for transmitting lossless video. We have the follow-focus camera guys and their wireless stuff. So, we have so much RF. When I do a scan, it looks like a bomb went off! On the transmitter end, the Digital Hybrid stuff punches right through, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what the new digital transmitters can do when paired with the receivers I already have.”

Asked if he employs Wireless Designer software to coordinate as many as the 24 channels sometimes used on Fear, he replies, “Oh, I love the software. But all the locations you see on the show? They’re as rugged and rough in real life as they look onscreen. And there’s a lot of humidity, which my laptop won’t stand up to nearly as well as my Lectrosonics gear. So, I tend to scan within all the units themselves, and I find this works excellently.”

Taylor also cites Lectrosonics’ audiophile sound quality as a literal career-maker. “Just last year, I got inducted into the Academy after working on Judas and the Black Messiah,” he says.  There’s one scene with [lead actor] Daniel Kaluuya in a kitchen visiting a mom — it was likely the scene that got him the Oscar. Skip Lievsay, the re-recording mixer, was blown away by the sound quality. That was all Lectro. There was just the boom with an HMa, and one plant mic by the coffee cup. Skip said it sounded so warm and clean that he didn’t want any other score or sound design in the scene. We had a little light traffic noise for outside, but none of the sound design you’d normally do for a kitchen. That gave me chills.”

It’s easy to aspire to a career like Taylor’s, and his advice to anyone who does is this: “You’re going to make mistakes. Even the greatest, Oscar-winning mixers forgot to press the record button once or twice. Half the battle is learning how to listen, how to tune your ears to what’s good and bad in your environment. You’ll start to develop a sense of tonal balance between actors’ voices. Oh, and use good gear. Going to an event and having a producer tell me, in front of the actors, that the sound is amazing, they don’t have to do ADR, and that I’m saving them so much time? That’s an honor I owe to Lectrosonics.”

Learn more about Marlowe Taylor at: rollsound76.com/.

About Lectrosonics

Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theatre technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company’s dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics received an Academy Scientific and Technical Award for its Digital Hybrid Wireless® technology and is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visit the company online at www.lectrosonics.com.

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