The Spacer Bubble Helps Efrem Carbó React Quickly To Fast Paced Sports Broadcast Environments
The Barcelona-based sound engineer is delighted with the protection this versatile product gives him and the ease with which it can be adapted to suit different situations.
Sound engineers working on projects that involve outdoor locations are only too aware of the problems their environment can throw at them. Whether it is traffic rumbling past, planes flying overhead, emergency vehicle sirens or car alarms, any number of factors can play havoc with the clarity of the sound they are trying to record.
While most external noise can be overcome, there is one pervading issue that can’t be controlled, and that is the weather. Heavy rain and strong winds are not a sound engineer’s friends, particularly when using a boom. Even a small amount of wind can make it difficult to capture the clear, intelligible sound that film and broadcast projects demand, especially when what is being recorded is an important speech or interview.
One sound engineer who knows all about these problems is Barcelona-based Efrem Carbó Perez. With 20 years’ experience in the audio business, Efrem often finds himself recording sound for outdoor sporting events or fast paced reality TV shows where participants move from one environment to another very quickly.
“In these situations, one of the most important tools in my kit is microphone wind protection that allows me to adapt quickly to changing conditions and keep working regardless of what the weather does,” he says. “For some time, I have been using a Spacer Bubble from Bubblebee Industries because it is easy to use, small and can be stored quickly.”
Designed for boom operators, camera folks, sound mixers and sound recordists, the Bubblebee Spacer Bubble is a multi-piece adaptable windshield solution for shotgun microphones that gives the right balance between wind protection and audio transparency in changing conditions. The rubber Spacer Base offers easy, secure mounting and comes with a carrying pouch and a long-haired fur cover to block unwanted noise from vocal plosives, boom 'swoosh' and wind. The base windshield is made from highly efficient mesh that ensures microphones sound as naked as possible, while the quick-drying slip-on imitation fur cover allows for optimal frequency transparency and effective wind protection. Bubblebee also makes a short-haired fur cover for light to medium wind conditions, and this is available separately.
Efrem Carbó is the co-owner of dB Rec Audio Solutions SL, a sound company he set up 10 years ago with his partner Àlex Albors. The company provides a range of audio services covering post-production in the studio, direct sound, and live sound at concerts or events. Efrem has worked on many broadcast and film projects and has recorded audio in many diverse locations, including the desert, beside the ocean and in high, snow-covered mountains. He most recent work includes La Velada del Año 2, a complex streaming project for Twitch starring Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos that attracted over three million views. He has also recently completed projects for Netflix including the documentary The Figo Affair, which involved a lot of interviews that were recorded using lav microphones and Bubblebee Lav Concealers.
During the summer months, Efrem’s calendar is mainly filled with sports programming, working alongside mobile units to capture audio at various events. This year, these have included MotoGP, a motorbike race that he describes as ‘complex and challenging’, and Unstoppable, a series of programmes about a team of cyclists who travel the world doing crazy rides.
“MotoGP for Amazon involves a lot of people and we all become one big family,” he explains. “We have many types of weather to contend with during the series and many different recording situations, ranging from very quiet to very loud. We mic-ed the team leaders so we could record during the race and also the pit lane and the course itself. Some of the bikes exceeded 130dB yet we still managed to record conversations the riders were having in the middle of the course. We also captured World Champion Fabio Quartararo’s victory celebrations, Valentino Rossi’s retirement celebration and various scenes featuring friends and family. It wasn’t an easy project, but it was fun, and it remains one of my favourites."
Many of Efrem’s live sports projects involved the use of a Bubblebee Spacer Bubble – a tool that he carries with him wherever he goes.
“I first came across The Spacer Bubble when I was working on a talent show that was filmed at a devilish space,” he says. “It involved eight wireless microphones, two booms and characters that appear and disappear from shot very quickly. My assistant mentioned The Spacer Bubble and showed me a picture of it on his phone, so I contacted the local distributor for a demo. I bought one immediately because it works, and it is perfect for the type of productions I do.”
The price point was also attractive, he adds, as was the weight of the product - an important consideration when holding a boom for long periods of time because anything too heavy is liable to make your arm ache.
“I place a lot of importance on weight so that the suspension works well,” Efrem explains. “The Space Bubble is a good product at a very good price. I have windshields from other manufacturers and the cost of some of those is exorbitant. I now prefer The Spacer Bubble to my more expensive windshields because it is light weight, effective and very versatile for any type of work. I love the idea of having up to four options - the first windscreen in contact with the mic, then the short hair cover, then the long hair cover and, if necessary, the carrying case that can be placed on top of the long hair cover in extremely windy situations. We did that once and it worked, which surprised us all.”
Remembering situations where the Spacer Bubble has been a lifesaver, Efrem recalls an interview he did with an elite athlete on a Swiss mountain that was over 4,000 meters above sea level.
“It was very cold, minus 12 degrees, and I was asked if we could do the interview with a boom because the athlete didn't want to take his jacket off,” Efrem explains. “Just before starting the interview, a blizzard blew in complete with snow and very high winds. I put the long-haired cover on The Spacer Bubble and it captured the entire interview without any problems, despite the wind blowing directly into the athlete’s face.”
Efrem also describes a bike race in the Atacama Desert in Chile where once again the Spacer Bubble came to the rescue.
“The riders were on a flat and were talking to each other, explaining team tactics,” he says. “I was in the back of the production car, which was a convertible, so I extended the boom to its maximum and picked up all their conversation, despite the inevitable air movement. We couldn’t hear any wind at all – everything was perfect, except for my arms after holding that boom!”
There is a saying that necessity is the mother of invention, and this proved to be the case when Efrem and his partner Àlex Albors were filming a talent show in Barcelona that involved long days on location capturing interviews and conversations between contestants.
“When you are carrying equipment all day you want it to be as light as possible so you take the bare minimum,” Efrem says “On this occasion we were on a mountain and it suddenly became very windy. I only had the short-haired Spacer Bubble cover with me and it wasn’t enough, so Alex suggested wrapping it in the Spacer Bubble carrying case. I was dubious, but it worked and it saved the situation.”
In recent months, Efrem has been trying some of Bubblebee’s other products, most notably the company’s Lav Concealers that are designed to isolate a wide variety of microphone capsules from vibration and noise. These soft, pliable organic rubber concealers can accommodate many different mounting options and have become an essential tool for crews working in film, theatre and TV sound who need to hide a microphone without impacting the quality of the audio.
For Efrem, the lav concealer proved invaluable when he was recording a bike race in New Zealand, during which two of the riders took a break on the beach.
“There was a very strong wind, and the two riders were walking along the beach having a conversation about the mechanical problems they were facing during the race,” he explains. “We really needed to capture this audio because it was important to the story, but it was a very wide shot, which was impossible to record using a boom. We had hidden lav microphones under their cycling jerseys using Bubblebee’s Invisible Lav Covers Fur Outdoor and Lav Tape and when the riders went into the sea, the microphones were splashed with salt water. They then remained in place while the riders cycled for another 125km and when we finally recovered them, we were amazed to find that the lav tape was still hooked to the lav cover and although the fur was wet with sweat, the mic capsule inside was completely dry. This was one situation where the microphones could have suffered a lot, but instead I got really good results.”
Most recently, Efrem has been using Bubblebee’s Lav Concealers on a comedy programme called Polònia that is now in its 13th season. Consisting of sketches and impersonations of celebrities, Polònia is one of the most watched TV shows in Catalonia and is renowned for its humorous and satirical take on Spanish politics.
“This show has a very stressful recording rhythm because everything has to be done quickly,” Efrem says. “We need to mic the actors with great precision so that the mics don’t have noise or friction. I was using DPA microphones and, initially, DPA’s own accessories until I saw the Bubblebee concealers on the company’s website. These were smaller, rubberized and with a tiny metal separator. Within a week I had almost all the DPA-compatible Lav Concealers that Bubblebee sells, and they have all been perfect.”
Efrem adds that all sound technicians have their own way of hiding microphones, but speed and effectiveness remain his most important criteria.
“When there is time and the production is not chaotic, it is fun to try out different gadgets or ways to hide microphones,” he says. “That’s when you can really enjoy your work. I am lucky because I have a very good relationship with Bubblebee’s distributor in Barcelona, and I’ve been able to try all the products that are compatible with our microphones (Schoeps shotguns and DPA lavaliers). All the Bubblebee items have fitted perfectly I am really very satisfied.”