The Jim Henson Creature Shop™, founded by leading puppeteer Jim Henson and British illustrator Brian Froud, has been a successful leader in special/visual effects for more than 30 years. Now, the company’s famed effects designers are entering a new venture by bringing us Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, an eight-week reality competition on the SyFy network. The series focuses on 10 creature designers from across the country, who compete in weekly challenges and screen tests with hopes of winning the grand prize, a job at The Jim Henson Creature Shop.
To handle the ever-changing filming needs of the show, the sound crew selected a combination of DPA Microphones’ d:screet™ 4063 Omnidirectional Miniature Microphones for ENG, as well as the d:dicate™ 4017 and 4018 Microphones for booming, to provide dynamic audio and a low profile.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge provides contestants with a unique and innovative creative environment. The show dares participants to design and build movable, articulate creatures that must perform and be camera ready for a Hollywood screen test in front of a panel of expert judges within a few days’ time. Given the style of the programming, which requires live shots in the design room, interviews with the contestants and a ‘live’ stage setup during the judging, Daniel McCoy, sound supervisor, credits DPA Microphones and his audio crew for creating a solution that fit the complex environment on set.
But the show isn’t just a rare event for the contestants. McCoy knew that the opportunity to provide audio for such a legendary company meant that he needed a versatile microphone solution with professional sound quality to match the legacy. To do this, he needed to look no further than his own supply of DPA Microphones.
We had a really solid audio crew that could go back and forth from web interviews, to a stage screen test, explains McCoy.
We filmed at the Creature Shop where the contestants develop their creations, which is not on the Jim Henson lot, and on the Jim Henson stage, where there would be a new set every week to coincide with the theme of the week. There was a lot of behind-the-camera magic that happened seamlessly, a lot of versatility and multi-tasking, and all of the DPA mics handled the job beautifully. Even in the shop, where we had a lot of noise, or in some instances during screen tests when the judges wanted to hear the puppeteers perform in real-time, both the d:screet and d:dicate mics were able to give us live sound reinforcement without any feedback.
I was really excited to use the same DPA mics that I’ve been using on film sets in a reality setting, says McCoy, who has been an avid DPA user for many years.
Most reality TV shows don’t invest in high-quality mics, so it felt good being able to give cinematic tools to a reality show with a cinematic legacy. DPA mics help me be a better mixer and the d:screet 4063s were especially crucial as they are able to offer a higher resolution to the experience, which gives a more even response and a better dynamic range.
The d:screet 4063 was built to be used in a variety of settings including theater, television and close-mic instrument applications, as it is an easily concealable mic with the high-quality audio for which DPA Microphones are known. The low voltage omnidirectional capsule, which has low sensitivity, picks up sound with no need to be directly pointed at the audio source, perfect for creatures that are built with multiple layers of fabric, animatronics and foam. Additionally, the d:dicate 4017B Shotguns and 4018 Supercardioids, with B and C preamps, provide accuracy, clarity and musicality that is perfect for reality-style production.
The show goes beyond anything I’ve seen on reality programs and it has really sparked my imagination, adds McCoy.
Having grown up with the Henson legacy, it was an honor to be able to give back as their sound supervisor for the show.
Hosted by actress Gigi Edgley, The Creature Shop Challenge airs Tuesday nights at 10/9 central. Judges include Brian Henson, chairman of the Jim Henson Company; Beth Hathaway, fabricate and costume specialist; and Kirk Thatcher, Emmy® Award-winning writer and producer. Guest mentors include Peter Brooke, Julie Zobel and John Criswell.
The Jim Henson Company was founded in 1979 by puppetry master, Jim Henson, most notable for creating trademark characters for The Muppets. Now owned by Henson’s children, the company continues to bring pre-eminent characters and visual effects to life for television, film, theme parks and advertising clients.
Currently the owner and operator of ToneMesa, Inc., a location and post audio company based in Los Angeles, McCoy started out as an assistant music engineer, working with legendary music producer, T Bone Burnett. His career evolved to film and TV, where he worked with film producer Peter Guber. He has received two Daytime Emmy Awards for “Best Live Audio Mix to Tape” for his work on the Ellen Degeneres Show and a Grammy® Award nomination for “Best Engineered Album” for Brian Wilson’s first self-titled solo project. In early 2008, McCoy became one of the youngest members of the Cinema Audio Society.
To find out more on how DPA Microphones could help your sound contact Sound Network, exclusive distributor for DPA Microphones in the United Kingdom.