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Wisycom Comes to the Rescue in Remote Pennsylvania Forest for Short Dramatic Film, STIFF


lr-matt-sonnenfeld-stiff-2Wisycom, designer and builder of RF products, was put to the test when sound mixer Matthew Sonnenfeld was given the task of capturing dynamic audio in the remote woods of Pennsylvania for the short dramatic film, STIFF.

Directed by Gabrielle Pfeiffer, STIFF is based on a true story and adapted from an essay by Ryszard Kapuscinski. The short film takes place on a hot summer day in 1970 rural America. A young factory worker is killed in an accident and six men must bring his body home to his family. When only five men agree to go, a seasoned journalist who is there to cover the story, joins the young workers on their sad journey. Along the way, the truck breaks down in an isolated forest. The men decide to carry the coffin for the last stretch and get lost while taking a shortcut. As the forest grows darker, the exhausted men become disoriented and are weighed down by fear and despair. The quiet journalist is forced out of his observer role and keeps the young men focused on pulling together to find a way out. A terrifying encounter turns to welcome relief that gives the men the strength and will to complete their journey.

“With STIFF being shot in the woods in Pennsylvania there was no way to get tech support or a replacement, if it was needed, so I had to make sure my equipment was 100 percent reliable,” said Sonnenfeld. “It was hot and humid during filming, and while some of my other equipment was having issues, my Wisycom wireless gear was completely flawless. Wisycom just works as it should and the speed of setup is incredible. It is very straight forward and easy to operate. Nothing gets in the way.”

One of Sonnenfeld’s biggest challenges was dealing with six actors on camera for the majority of the scenes. “We captured a lot of wide shots, so I had to live and die on the wireless,” added Sonnenfeld. “I used four Wisycom MTP40S transmitters and two Wisycom MTP41 transmitters. I also used one Wisycom MTB40 plug-on transmitter for a wireless boom, and three Wisycom MCR42S receivers. Flying the wireless boom when we could really was a big help. Because everything was shot was in the woods, sometimes running a hundred feet of duplex cable through poison ivy was just a little impractical! I had complete confidence in my work thanks to my Wisycoms.”

lr-matt-sonnenfeld-stiff-3In addition to his Wisycom gear, Sonnenfeld also used DPA d:screet 4061 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphones, and a Sound Devices 688 mixer/recorder with SL-6 powering and wireless system and CL-12 linear fader controller. “I was able to count on my wireless in a way that I wouldn’t be able to with other wireless systems,” said Sonnenfeld. “Knowing that I was getting the sound quality of the DPA and the Wisycom, and then the reliability of the Sound Devices and the SL-6, which also does RF filtering, really inspires confidence.  There were times when moving the whole cart through mud and brush to get closer was impractical, so I would just put the MTB40 on the boom. I might not have been able to see the actors, but I could pick them up from my cart. Most of the time I was running at 50mW, which isn’t high power for Wisycom, and there were some days I could bring it all the way down to 10mW. On these days I was able to get by with only one battery change towards the end of the day.”

In addition to its dynamic range and unrivaled capabilities, Sonnenfeld also chooses Wisycom for its ease of use. “Just speaking to the simplicity,” added Sonnenfeld. “This was the first time I worked with boom operator Sean Colby and it was his first time with Wisycom. Relying so heavily on wireless, I wanted Sean to get familiar with the equipment so that he could help with setup and fixes. When we went through the menus together he couldn’t believe how easy it was and picked up their operation immediately. It’s a very intuitive product and that made us as efficient a team as possible.”

Director Gabrielle Pfeiffer echoed Sonnenfeld’s thoughts. “We were shooting with a large cast in a wide open space with very challenging sound conditions. It was clear that we could not have worked without Wisycom.”

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