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How Calrec helped to capture Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday broadcast

Calrec's Kevin Emmott explains how the company helped with the live broadcast of Captain Tom’s 100th birthday celebrations

When sound engineer Paul Cutler was asked to mix Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday celebrations for a live broadcast, his first move was to hire a Calrec Brio 36 from Presteigne Broadcast Hire via Calrec’s UK distributor Synthax – and install it into his old VW T4 camper van!

Captain Tom, who raised almost £33 million for NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal, celebrated his centenary in April and the celebrations were marked by a Spitfire and Hurricane flypast. Flypasts can be difficult to mix from an audio perspective, and in combination with adhering to strict Covid-19 guidelines for the duration, this was a challenging project. 

“I was asked to mix the audio for the live broadcast of Captain Tom’s 100th birthday celebrations, and it was a such a privilege to be part of it! The broadcast grew and took on its own momentum because the story was so compelling – it wasn’t just a story about a national hero, but a story about people coming together in difficult times,” says Cutler.

Captain Tom Moore
Sound engineer Paul Cutler who turned his VW camper van into an OB truck, featuring a Calrec Brio

“It was a two-camera shoot and a helicopter to capture the flypast. The flypast of the RAF Spitfire and Hurricane sounded awesome. It was the second flypast I have mixed in recent years – the first was to honour ten US airmen who died when their plane crashed in a park in Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, UK, in 1944. Then, relatives of the aircrew and thousands of people from across Britain paid their respects, and this occasion was no less humbling.

“The shoot had a small video OB, but the sound and comms set-up was quite complex, and of course we had to adhere to strict social distancing rules. We spent many hours of pre-production set-up over Zoom to work out how we would do it, discussing the technical set-up after we had agreed the creatives.

“The broadcast was mixed on a Calrec Brio console from Presteigne Broadcast Hire. The Brio took all radio mics, IEMs and DAs, while output was sent to a satellite truck for broadcast and a radio van for feeds to other broadcasters.

“I had never used a Brio before, but it was so intuitive that I took delivery, installed, set it up and mixed the broadcast in a matter of hours. It is amazing to use; so simple I was adding auxes on the fly and had no concern about adding any facilities. Plenty of ins and outs, huge capacity and a user interface that’s beautifully laid out and a joy to use.

“To maintain social distancing, I installed it into my old VW T4 campervan as a makeshift OB unit, and the Brio’s small footprint made it a perfect fit. Social distancing is a priority on Outside Broadcast shoots now, and broadcasters are very concerned about maintaining proper social distancing. In fact, one of the biggest issues was the way my sound crew had to demonstrate to people how to mic themselves up!

“The live broadcast was done from an OB set-up feeding into the studio in Salford. The most challenging aspect was how to get Captain Tom, who is deaf, to hear the people around him and the many incoming OB’s, Skypes and clean feed from Salford. I achieved this with a base station from Phonak rigged close to him, Bluetoothed to his existing hearing aid. As his daughter Hannah was always by his side, I duped this and sent it to a TX IEM for her as a back up, and I added a pre-fader feed of her mic so that he would be aware of what was going on around him.

“The Brio is a fantastic desk: I absolutely love it! Having never sat behind one before having to set it up from scratch was slightly daunting but there were no issues. I took delivery of the console from Presteigne one day and had it fully installed and ready for broadcast within 24 hours! There was a lot of pressure to get the event right, but the Brio gave me the confidence to get the job done.”