Lectrosonics Turns the Southern California Real Estate into Reality TV

Lectrosonics powers Netflix's Selling Sunset and Selling the OC.
(Image credit: Lectrosonics)

The red-hot real estate market in Southern California has spawned an equally hot Netflix TV series, Selling Sunset, now in its fifth season, as well as an upcoming spin-off, Selling the OC. Audio supervisor Marcos Contreras, CAS, captures sound for these fast and often unpredictable reality shows with the help of his arsenal of Lectrosonics wireless systems, including SMWB and SMDWB miniature wideband bodypack, SMQV belt-pack and Hma plug-on transmitters, as well as SRc portable and DSQD digital receivers.

Selling Sunset is one of the most popular shows on Netflix,” Contreras explained. “The show demands a lot. The wireless must be reliable every time. Lectrosonics is up to the task—no dropouts or interference even over big, open spaces.”

The Selling shows’ seasons are shot back-to-back, so they get two out of a single production season. Contreras looks forward to resuming work on Selling Sunset later this summer, which will run to the end of the year, with the new show, Selling the OC, set to premiere on Netflix in the summer of 2022.

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A native of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Contreras has been doing production audio for 15 years, ever since he moved directly to LA right after graduation. He gained familiarity with Lectrosonics products, like the venerable UM400, while pursuing a BFA in Film and Television at the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD). So, there was no question that he would buy Lectrosonics when he set up shop in LA. “Gotta buy stuff that’s reliable,” he said.

Lectrosonics powers Netflix's Selling Sunset and Selling the OC.

(Image credit: Lectrosonics)

Reliable indeed. Selling Sunset has a cast of 10, while the upcoming OC show’s cast numbers total 11. The West Hollywood and Newport Beach offices of the Oppenheim Group, the realty agency at the heart of the show, serve as live sets, and the lavish homes on location are featured prominently as well. 

Contreras faces the unusual challenge of occasional runaway cast members. Yes, wandering from the production scene is all part of the drama of cutthroat Hollywood luxury home sales. Still, he can often pick up a signal from the SMWB or SMDWB transmitters and by listening, get a sense of where the talent has gotten off to, all the better to regather the group and continue the shoot. Being able to get a signal and PFL a channel has “saved his butt” on numerous occasions.

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Hiding the wireless transmitters on the wardrobe choices for the show can be another challenge, but the miniature size of the Lectrosonics pieces seriously helps as they can be belted to a leg, hidden in the small of the back, or any other bodily location they might improvise. His main go-to units are the SMDWB, which are basically a double-battery version of the SMWB. He typically mates them with a Sanken COS-11D omni lavalier mic, but sometimes with a DPA 6060 or 6061. In the LA/OC area he uses the Block 22 frequencies.

A perhaps underappreciated feature of the SMWB and SMDWB transmitters is their high-quality built-in digital recorder, which produces a .wav file—compatible with practically any editing software—stored on an internal microSDHC card. Contreras recalled one last-minute call to work on a job that involved a shot with an actor at a difficult long range. Recording the actor right on his SMDWB transmitter saved both setup time and the shot itself.

Lectrosonics powers Netflix's Selling Sunset and Selling the OC.

(Image credit: Lectrosonics)

Contreras has 18 SRc portable ENG receivers, and in a typical Selling Sunset or Selling the OC shoot he uses six of them in a bag feeding a Sound Devices Scorpio portable mixer-recorder. He describes the setup as “really quick” on the transmitters and receivers. In fact, such ease of use is a highly desirable feature when he hires an assistant, or when he rents out his equipment to other productions. “Everybody knows how to use Lectrosonics,” he pointed out, and the company is easy to work with, especially its customer service.

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Other Lectrosonics apparatus that he keeps at the ready are five SMQV belt-pack transmitters and two HMa plug-on transmitters. A rolling equipment rack houses three DSQD digital receivers, more SRc receivers, a mixer and recorder, and a diversity antenna system, especially useful for location work.

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