On set on Tell Me Lies: "Lectrosonics is a cornerstone to success"

Based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Carola Lovering, Hulu TV drama series Tell Me Lies hit the small screen this September. Centring around the tumultuous but intoxicating relationship between Lucy Albright and Stephen DeMarco over the course of eight years, the series reveals how seemingly mundane choices lead to irrevocable consequences. Such was the success of the series, it was renewed for a second season just two months later.

With the popularity of streaming services today, production value expectations for TV series is on a par with feature films, often on a tight timeline, which means close attention must be paid to production values for both picture and sound. 

Tell Me Lies is no exception, with production sound recorded and mixed by Michael Wynne, CAS, using his extensive arsenal of Lectrosonics wireless. 

This includes his trusty SMQV dual battery belt-pack and IFBT4 transmitters as well as SRc dual-channel slot mount, UCR411a compact and Venue modular receivers, and units from the D² Series, including the DPR plug-on transmitter and DCR822 dual-channel compact and DSQD 4-channel receivers.

For his booms on the series, Wynne opted for a full D2 digital stream with two DPR digital plug on transmitter units and two DSQD four-channel digital receivers, citing the clarity of sound as what he likes most.

For interiors Wynne typically deployed the Schoeps Colette CMC141 (MK41 supercardioid condenser capsule with a CMC 1 U amplifier and CUT60 low-cut filter). 

On each boom, the DPR transmitter plugs into the CineLa suspension mount, making for what he calls “an extremely low-profile, lightweight solution that the boom operators love.”

Lectrosonics really proved themselves on Tell Me Lies.

Speaking of booms, Wynne always works with two whenever possible. The boom mic, he explains, is one of the most important on the set because it provides the most natural, picture-matching experience for the viewer. That said, bodypack wireless with lav mics are also vital because many scenes are shot with multiple cameras where it is difficult – or even impossible – to position the booms where they need to be, while keeping them out of the frame.

With so much sound capture relying on wireless, Wynne is grateful to Lectrosonics for making even their new digital products backwards-compatible with the digital hybrid products. He currently has 16 legacy digital hybrid transmitters in various blocks, however his new D2 receivers work with all of them.

The DCR822 resides in Wynne’s smaller sound cart with his Aaton CantarMini 16-track portable digital mixer-recorder, while his DSQD receivers can be found in his larger main cart. 

The DSQDs connect to the Cantar mixer-recorder via Dante for a full digital path with no conversions necessary. The difference in clarity with this configuration, he says, is like listening to a high-resolution playback versus an MP3.

The performances in Tell Me Lies are very dynamic – the actors can go from a whisper to a scream, and the clarity and low noise of the Lectrosonics digital transmission path was paramount to capturing dialogue that was going to translate well in post. 

Formosa Group’s dialogue editor, Jason W. Freeman for Tell Me Lies was so impressed that he reached out to Wynne to praise the quality of the boom sound in post.

Reliability is also a favoured quality of Wynne’s Lectrosonics kit. Although he keeps HMa plug-on transmitters on hand for backup to his DPR units, he hasn’t had to use them. 

“The reliability is very important. It has to work,” he asserts. “They really proved themselves on Tell Me Lies. We want to deliver the best possible raw isolated tracks.” 

He adds the transmitters’ battery life is “terrific” with the lithium Energizer AA cells he uses – in fact there were times he went the whole day without having to change them.

A film set is a hostile, less-than-optimal RF environment, and a robust wireless system that can survive and deliver is a must. 

In a major market like Atlanta, on a large-scale film set like this one, the RF environment is often very congested, with Teradek camera transmitters operating in 5G, Preston focus systems operating on 2.4 GHz, all the personal mobile phones and Bluetooth devices, plus all the UHF TV channels occupied by broadcasters in Atlanta. Wynne is happy to report that the Lectrosonics gear met the challenge.

The show also had a shoot on the water on Georgia’s Lake Oconee. 

The RF environment was quiet, and they were able to connect boat-to-boat at long distances Wynne estimated were up to 300 metres. In this scenario, Wynne deployed Lectrosonics’ waterproof digital hybrid transmitters with DPA 4060 lavs hidden in the life jackets with the help of the wardrobe department seamsters.

Wynne has set up his main and small sound cart in a way that allows him to quickly change from one to the other, which is critical in fast-paced narrative work.

In his main cart are Lectrosonics’ Venue six-channel modular receiver and two Lectrosonics DSQD four-channel digital receivers, for a total of 14 wireless channels, a Lectrosonics IFBT4 IFB transmitter and an Aaton Cantar X mixer-recorder.

In his small cart is a Lectrosonics DCR822 dual-channel digital receiver and three Lectrosonics SRc dual-channel digital hybrid receivers, a Lectrosonics SMQV transmitter operating in IFB mode, and an Aaton CantarMini mixer-recorder.

“The Lectrosonics wireless equipment we use is a cornerstone to our success on a film set,” he concludes.