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Terry Tew

P54 MARCH 2019

Tew of a kind

Phil Ward talks to Terry Tew, founder of one of the UK’s go-to rental outfits on the crest of a broadcast wave...

T

he list of microphones in the Terry Tew Sound & Light inventory says it all: Sennheiser; Shure; Wisycom; AKG; DPA; Audix; SoundField; and Coles commentator mics. His mic array is used in the Premier League football grounds, on every type of television programming and on blockbuster movies. Tew also provides the mics for the BBC music show Later… With Jools Holland. “We have the broadcast-friendly mics,” Tew says, and they do indeed glister: some have red noses; some shine bright like a diamond. It’s all a long way from DJ-ing Girl Guides discos at the age of 13 in the local church hall. “I grew up in Loughton, and the company is still based locally. I did move on! I DJed at under-18 discos, and then I did my first wedding when I was 16. At 18, I joined the BBC and did the boom operator training course in Evesham. They always had two to four proper ‘fisher’ booms in every studio, and I used to work on One Foot In The Grave, ‘Allo ’Allo, Bread, and Juliet Bravo, all in Shepherd’s Bush. I started buying equipment during the 10 years I was there, mostly disco gear at first, and then leˆ to set up a hire company.” How could you leave such a cosy world? It changed, and I wanted a new challenge. When I found out that the producer of Top Of The Pops wanted some gold radio mics, and the sound department didn’t have any, I had some made and rented them to him. Two years later he moved to CDUK, and because I’d sorted his mics he took me with him. Ten years at Elstree with Ant, Dec and Cat Deeley…

What do you like about working in broadcast? Every job is different. Instead of a long tour, we do oneday hits. Although, Strictly does take three months, with one trip to Blackpool. But it’s not all TV: we still do sports days for schools, with our good old-fashioned PA horns. What else dominates your inventory? Speakers, which are mostly French and German – I’m sure you can guess – and consoles that consist of most of the Digico SD range, Yamaha, analogue soundcraˆ (which is ideal for schools and churches, anywhere they can turn up the aux as they are 16 channel desks), and Studer Vista 8 broadcast desks to match BBC studios. Times have come a long way since every BBC studio had eight ‘Jones column’ loudspeakers. You must have quite a turnover of gear… Every year we have a sale on eBay, so we satisfy the WEEE regulations; even if we get 99p for it, it’s disposed of properly. For each of the past four years, we’ve invested around £1.25 million in new gear. Speaker technology has gotten much better, especially in the realm of beam steerage and spatial audio. In fact, Dave Wooster from 2BHeard has been telling me about the combination of K-Array and Astro Spatial Audio, which they’re trying to get into TV studios. The budgets will dictate that progress. If a production manager could get away with eight loudspeakers despite needing 12, they’d do it just to reduce costs by a third, but immersive needs more speakers, more amplifiers, more processing and more

rigging effort. We’re more likely to concentrate on monitoring and voice-of-god solutions for directors. In Tunisia we did a 100-way IEM system on Star Wars: each Stormtrooper had an IEM receiver. How does live sound reinforcement differ on TV? With a live audience show, some sound supervisors like to have 12 loudspeakers distributed above the audience, with the audience mics right next to the speakers. That means there’s no delay; if you have two line arrays 30 metres away, the front rows get a different colouration to the mid and rear rows, so there are oˆen three arrays in total. Is it becoming more like full-scale touring? It is for some. We are acquiring more large-scale production products, but there’s a limit. Because we do video and lighting as well, we stop at an audience capacity of about 1,000 people – although we do crosshire IEMs and radio mics. Radio mics for broadcast were our USP initially, but we’ve expanded into all types of sound application for TV and other media. To be honest, I’m happy with the size we are. Shows come and go. Something may finish but then, for example, we picked up Top Gear because Plus Four Audio went with the original team to do Grand Tour. It ebbs and flows as people move around and switch companies. Some of the former ITV shows have gone to Television Centre, which we’ve always looked aˆer. It’s at the level I like. 

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