Location Sound Mixer Jay Verkamp Captures High Speed Action on TV’s “Top Gear” with Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless

“The producers were able to hear the entire drive all the way down the mountain. I chalk that up to the Lectrosonics’ SMQV transmitters.”
Publish date:

Los Angeles, CA (November 12, 2015) — Like many sound mixers working in L.A., Jay Verkamp initially moved to California  to pursue a career in music only to find his true calling--sound mixing for TV and film. A professional sound mixer and boom operator for more than a decade, Verkamp reports that he reached a defining moment in his career five years ago when he first encountered Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless® technology.

Verkamp first became a fan of Lectrosonics when he arrived in LA in 2002, because he says that they are the industry standard and the first choice of professionals. Later, in 2010 he encountered the power of the SMVQ transmitters on the set of Top Gear.

“In 2010 I started working on History’s Top Gear,” Verkamp recalls. “I met with experts, researched and tested transmitters and antennas, and that’s when I discovered the one-two punch of the SMVQ transmitters coupled with an array of SNA antennas. I wrote emails to the producers to convince them to invest in this high-powered equipment.   That was the game changer which transformed our audio department into a “car show audio” department. We needed high-powered transmitters and the correct antennas to keep up with the high speed action and long distance transmissions involved in shooting a high impact show like this, and Lectrosonics made this transformation possible.”

History’s Top Gear is the U.S. version of the original BBC show in the U.K. and features a trio of hosts—Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood—who face a series of challenges in each episode driving anything from a cheap clunker to the most expensive supercar. When Verkamp arrived on the show the production was already using Lectrosonics wireless equipment, and he quickly added more.

The Lectrosonics SMQV UHF belt pack transmitter is a dual-battery model that offers user-adjustable output power: 50, 100 or 250 milliwatts, depending on the application and desired battery life. “I convinced the Top Gear producers that we needed more high-powered transmitters on the car show. Since then my job has become so much easier,” adds Jay.

There are at least six SMQVs on the show, typically paired with a Sanken COS11 Microphone, Verkamp continues. “It’s generally one per host, and I also try and get something on each car, especially if it’s a supercar or something that sounds really distinctive. It’s usually positioned by the exhaust, but I have put a mic under the hood when you can really hear an intake. That makes the level of reality even cooler.”

There may also occasionally be guests, he says, adding to the channel count. “One time I had an entire mariachi band crammed into a Volkswagen Bus.”

A typical Top Gear production involves a caravan of vehicles, Verkamp continues. “The producers’ vehicle with a Lectrosonics Venue receiver and SNA antennas is out in front, because they’re obviously keeping out of frame. The camera car falls behind that, with me and the camera guy, strapped in, shooting out the back. Then, the hosts or other talent are lined up behind.”

With such a spread of vehicles all travelling at high speeds, a high-powered transmitter is essential. “You need the throw, especially when you’re driving through areas where you have no idea what the frequencies are doing. They’re always changing, so you need something that pounds through all of the madness out there,” he says, referring to the dense RF spectrum in some parts of the country.

Offering an example where high power and a long throw proved essential, Verkamp singles out an episode from season three, when Tanner, driving a Bentley, raced professional snowboarder Benji Farrow down a slope in Breckenridge, Colorado (and won). “We had a Venue system that I set up in one of the ski shacks halfway up the hill and the producers were able to hear the entire drive all the way down the mountain. I chalk that up to the Lectrosonics SMQV transmitters.”

Verkamp generally spreads the production across four Lectrosonics frequency blocks, “Everything going to the camera is on a certain block. My IFBs—they’re the regular Lectrosonics IFBR1a receivers—are on a totally different block. I use two blocks for the talent and split them.”

Being able to switch out frequency blocks in the Venue receiver on the fly in order to cope with a changing RF environment can save the day, but Verkamp says he always does his homework upfront. “I send zip codes off to Max Francis at Lectrosonics,” he says. Francis joined the company earlier this year after a decade in professional audio and the film industry. “Max sends me back charts and tells me which blocks to use. Frequency coordination is a huge part of the job, and being able to spread everything out over multiple blocks definitely helps.”

 “I don’t think there’s another company like Lectrosonics that can comprehensively take your whole shoot—high-power transmitters, antennas, Venue systems, everything—and coordinate it with PDFs so that you have a reference before you go out into the field,” adds Verkamp. “It gives you a lot of confidence.”

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 is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visit the company online at www.lectrosonics.com.


More than 55 of the 2018 Fall Television and Streaming Series Rely on Blackmagic Design

More than 55 of the 2018 Fall Television and Streaming Series Rely on Blackmagic Design

Blackmagic Design today announced that the company’s production and post products were used to complete many of the fall 2018 season’s new and returning television shows and streaming series. More than 55 shows rely on Blackmagic Design’s digital film cameras; Fusion visual effects (VFX), compositing, 3D and motion graphics software; and DaVinci Resolve editing, color correction, VFX and digital audio software; as well as its switchers, routers, monitors and capture and playback devices.


Jingle All the Way: Luxul's XMS-1208P Managed Gigabit Switch is Available for All CI Integrators this Holiday Season

Luxul, the leading innovator of IP networking solutions for AV integrators, today announced that it's giving CI integrators the gift of enterprise-level performance at affordable price points this holiday season. It doesn't matter if they've been naughty or nice, the company's XMS-1208P 12-port/18 PoE+ managed Gigabit switch — that delivers high-speed performance while enabling simple network expansion — is now available for all. And to ring in the new year, Luxul will begin shipping its AMS-1816P 18-port/16 PoE+ L2/L3 managed Gigabit switch in early January.


HoverCam Transforms Classrooms Fit for Future-Ready Students at Val Verde USD

HoverCam, an innovative technology leader in the digital education market, announced that Val Verde Unified School District (USD) in Parris, California, successfully installed HoverCam's Pilot digital teaching stations and CenterStage interactive flat panels (IFPs) in new STEM labs in the elementary schools, with plans for an eventual rollout to the district's middle and high schools. As part of the district's goal to create future-ready students, Val Verde USD chose HoverCam digital education solutions to address the rising challenge of updating classrooms and introducing curriculum with advanced systems that will prepare students for a rapidly changing career landscape.


The Sigma Holiday Sale Is Back!

Nothing makes gift giving as enjoyable as special prices on award-winning Sigma lenses and accessories; get the lens you’ve always craved or surprise a fellow shooter with the perfect present.


Global News Agency Ruptly Relies on Riedel's MediorNet and Artist on Board New OB and DSNG Vehicles

Riedel's MediorNet real-time media network and Artist digital matrix intercom are providing the decentralized and redundant signal routing and communications backbone on board two all-new, state-of-the-art OB vehicles for Ruptly, a Berlin-based international news agency. Qvest Media, a world-leading system architect and integrator for the broadcast and media industries, designed and built the new broadcast van and DSNG vehicle.