Hosted by Ted Allen (Food Detectives, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), Chopped’s contestants race the clock in the kitchen to turn everyday ingredients into a winning three-course meal, as determined by a panel of expert judges. After each course, a contestant gets “chopped,” until a winner is proclaimed and receives a $10,000 prize. The aired show is a combination of footage from the kitchen during course preparation and interviews with the contestants before and after elimination.
Remote Digital Media is the production services provider responsible for Chopped’s audio and video infrastructure, including all wired and wireless microphones, communications among crew members, and multi-track audio recordings captured on the kitchen set and in two separate interview rooms.
“Chopped is sort of an unusual capture circumstance, because of how it’s recorded,” says Kevin Hartmann, vice president of Remote Digital Media. “We’re working in anywhere from one to four locations at once with wireless lavs and a number of ambient microphones to capture cooking sounds in the arena. All of that audio plus stems are then routed to a pair of multitrack recorders, video hard disc recorders, conventional VTRs and an array of DVD burners for use for transcription immediately after the show. There are different audio elements—some of which change in real time based on the action in the studio—required for all of those record mediums and one person can’t do that at once.”
To manage this complex capture and routing scheme, Remote Digital Media uses a system based on the Aviom Pro16 Series, which routes the audio from wireless lavaliers on all the participants to a Sony EX3 on a Steadicam for on-the-fly interviews, and from the two interview rooms where the contestants are recorded. All this audio goes to a Yamaha DM2000 digital mixing console equipped with an Aviom16/o-Y1 card for distribution to on-site producers, the director and crew. Using the eight Aviom A-16II Personal Mixers located throughout the set, staff can select which contestant’s mic they want to listen to for live logging of the entire show, review the overall mix of the show, and record the entire content to an array of DVDs for transcription. An added bonus is that the audio distribution system runs on a Cat-5 backbone, substantially reducing production costs while allowing Remote Digital Media to offer its clients high-quality, multi-track audio capture.
For Hartmann, the beauty of the Aviom system in this application is that it puts “mix possibility” in all those separate locations. “Basically, it lets us cut the tracks and put up a simple mix for the control room and producers to listen to, while everyone else is doing their own mixing, selecting which mics they would like to listen to, depending on how events unfold during taping. So all of this works hand in hand. It’s sort of a ballet that goes on.”
One of the key features of the Aviom Pro16 system that makes it work for Chopped, according to Hartmann, is its ability to store presets on all Personal Mixers. “This is a huge time saver and means it sets up quickly,” he says. “Plus it’s reliable, bulletproof—you plug it in, turn it on, and boom it’s there. It’s trouble-free. There are so many ways that audio technology can go wrong, and having a big component be that reliable is a breath of fresh air.”
Aviom pioneered personal mixing with its Pro16® Monitor Mixing System and continues to break new ground with the revolutionary Pro64® Series of audio networking products. With tens of thousands of products in the field today, Aviom has set the standard for high performance, scalable digital solutions. All Aviom systems harness the power of A-Net®, Aviom's innovative digital audio technology that simplifies system design while enhancing flexibility and fidelity. All Aviom products are designed, tested, and manufactured in the USA.