When Army Airborne Paratrooper David Frey ran into a fellow Paratrooper en route to the Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota in 2014, their discussion quickly turned to the difficulties fellow veterans were having adjusting to civilian life after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aware of the thousands who had suffered severe wounds and psychological injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Frey was determined to do something to make a difference in their live
Full Vision Productions relied on the Sennheiser AVX wireless system to capture pristine audio during the Veterans Charity Motorcycle Ride.
A lifetime motorcycle lover who was already familiar with the therapeutic value of motorcycle riding, he contacted Emmy Award winning producer and business partner Robert Manciero. The two came up with the idea of a ride for veterans that combined motorcycle therapy with a keen sense of adventure. In 2015, the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis had its maiden voyage with eight veterans and Manciero in tow filming the ride to share with the widest possible audience. This year, Frey and Manciero have twice as many riders and a new tool to help capture the compelling stories of their cohort: the Sennheiser AVX wireless system.
“It’s a 9-day journey to Sturgis from LA,” says Manciero, owner of production company Full Vision Productions. “We made stops along the way in Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. We even spent three days at a resort in the Mojave Desert where they got a chance to kick back a bit.” The ride provides the 18 combat-wounded vets on this year’s ride with a chance to talk to each other about the issues they face due to their injuries, which can include tramautic brain injuries or amputations. “It gives these guys a chance to get through that stuff, clear their head, and learn to love life again,” Manciero says.
With four cameras, a drone, and Sennheiser shotgun and AVX wireless mics, Manciero captures the incredible natural splendour of their travels as well as poignant interiews with the veterans throughout the journey. “I’ve had three Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mics for the last ten years and used them pretty much exclusively, so I was well aware of the audio quality and reliability of Sennheiser products,” Manciero says. “They’re perfect when we’re shooting on the bikes or doing run and gun stuff, but when we do the interviews it’s nice to have access to a wireless lavalier mic. We needed something that would be extremely easy and fast to set up and 100% reliable so we could capture key moments as they arose.” Manciero first encountered the AVX wireless system at NAB. Impressed by its features and compact size, he acquired three AVX with MKE 2 lavalier microphones for the 2016 ride.
One key feature of the AVX wireless that attracted Manciero is its auto frequency management, which enables it to find an available frequency within the license-free 1.9 GHz spectrum and lock in on it automatically, anywhere. “Out on the road there can be a lot of wireless interference with all kinds of signals coming in, and you hate to be on the verge of getting a perfect sound byte in an interview and then have to change up the wireless frequency right at the key moment,” he says. “With the AVX Wireless, we never had that issue. We just mounted the receiver on the camera and bodypack transmitter on the veterans and the AVX found an available frequency and linked up really fast.”
The ease of use of the AVX Wireless was extremely important to Manciero, whose crew was small. “We didn’t have the option of bringing a dedicated audio guy, so I knew everybody had to wear multiple hats throughout the ride,” he says. “The last thing I wanted to do was take anyone away from shooting to troubleshoot our wireless system, and with the AVX we never had to do that.” The AVX system also interfaced perfectly with their DSLR cameras out of the box with its included accessories, making for a highly compact solution for audiovisual capture.
The results of this year’s ride include not only unforgettable experiences for the veterans, but powerful video and audio that helps bring the incredible stories of these brave men to a wider audience. “We have an editor on board cutting our footage together for daily uploads to our sponsors’ websites,” Manciero says. “Those videos get 50-60,000 views a day, so we’re really able to reach a remarkable number of people with their stories.” Aside from the stable wireless performance of the AVX transmitter and receiver, Manciero was also eminently pleased with the audio performance of the MKE 2 capsule. “I was incredibly impressed not only with the clarity of the MKE 2 capsule’s audio but also how good it was at rejecting background noise,” he says. “There were some noisy situations during certain interviews and I was thinking we’d have to do some things to mitigate that in post, but as we were editing together the daily videos and hearing the audio we were all like ‘wow, this sounds really good already’.”
In addition to their daily dispatches, Frey and Manciero have already produced a 12-minute mini-documentary combining some of the best footage from the ride, but a full-length documentary is in the works as well. Their goal is to continue to bring the powerful stories these veterans tell to veterans and non-veterans alike. But for other veterans, there is a particularly valuable message about hope and the therapeutic value of motorcycle riding to be gleaned from the video. “By the time we get to Sturgis, it’s amazing to see how these guys have opened up to each other and how at ease they are,” Manciero says. “Its just great to see them having a good time and feeling like themselves again.”
Manciero is pleased to have brought Sennheiser along for the ride to capture pristine audio that does justice to the powerful message of the ride, no matter where they were along the route. “Whether we were in a restaurant, a gas station, a National Park, or our cabin in Sturgis, the AVX Wireless system was always ready to capture great audio within seconds,” he says. “I wouldn’t ride out without it.”
For more information on the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis, please visit https://veteranscharityride.org/. For more information on the AVX Wireless system please visit https://en-us.sennheiser.com/avx