The DR-70D survives the elements, capturing elephants
INDIA: Duane Regehr, an American freelance cameraman and vice president of Cutaway Media with a background as a two-time Emmy award-winning television news photographer, was recently engaged by not-for-profit organisation Clic Abroad (Children Learning International Cultures) to shoot a documentary in the Karnataka region. Before embarking on his journey to southern India, Mr Regehr purchased a TASCAM DR-70D field recorder especially for the project, a documentary that explores the conflicts between elephants and the coffee plantations in the hot and humid region.
The project saw Mr Regehr working alongside Dr Tom Grant from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, who served as producer. It involved a lot of travelling, which meant that the videographer would require a system that was portable, as well as robust enough to handle the dust, heat and humidity that it would be exposed to. With this in mind, he opted to shoot the project using a DSLR.
‘We were shooting in cities, in small villages, out in the jungle, on coffee plantations, and in elephant camps,’ recalled Mr Regehr. ‘We needed to be light, fast, and mobile, to go where the elephants were. We might be planning to go in one direction and then get a phone call to say that there were elephants in a plantation two miles the other way. I got a light tripod, mounted the DR-70D on it, put my Nikon 810 camera on top of that, and I had the mobile rig we needed.
‘I needed something that would provide good, solid audio capture in the field,’ Mr Regehr continued. ‘Tom had used the TASCAM DR-70D and was happy with it, so I went to the NAB show and checked it out. It had the right features, it was the right size and weight, and TASCAM has a reputation for quality sound, so I bought one.’
Throughout the shoot, Mr Regehr captured sound with a combination of the DR-70D’s internal mics with a couple of external ones. ‘We relied on the DR-70D to carry the audio load, especially for interviews,’ he explained. ‘I used the two internal mics to get their sound, which took the place of my onboard camera mic. Then I had a stick mic for the interviewer and a lavaliere for whoever we were interviewing. So we had two and sometimes four channels of audio. We preferred to shoot multiple-camera interviews, with a tight shot and a medium shot, and we used a phone app for a slate to link everything up.’
The conditions in the Karnataka region can also play havoc with a device’s batteries. This posed an additional challenge for Mr Regehr, particularly during interviews. However, the videographer was able to overcome this. ‘We were shooting an interview with a Swami at his compound outside of Bangalore,’ Mr Regehr relayed. ‘This Swami spoke very slowly, and at great length. I was starting to worry about camera batteries, and then I realised the DR-70D batteries were almost out too. Fortunately, I was carrying a couple of power bricks, so I duct-taped a brick to my tripod, plugged it into the DR-70D, and I had plenty of power. I made it through that interview and the next one.’
With the project completed, Mr Regehr is happy with the performance of the field recorder. ‘The DR-70D was rock solid the entire three weeks we were in India, and it was a hot, humid environment,’ he noted. ‘I didn't even have time to update the firmware before I went, and I had no problems. It's really easy to work with. I'm starting to reach for the DR-70D more often for audio that I used to record with my camera.
‘It's really quick, and the audio quality is excellent,’ he concluded. ‘The DR-70D has filled gaps I didn't know I had before the India project. Now I turn to it all the time.’