The music world suffered a great loss on October 2, 2017 with the passing of rock and roll artist, singer and songwriter Tom Petty. Anyone who has spent time in a bar, pizza joint, or on the road in America in the last 40 years has a hole in their hearts from this loss. We are all fortunate to be left with four decades of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recordings and all of the indelible memories that millions of us associate with their songs. Petty’s unique vocals and the band’s catchy blend of rock, pop, blues, and country cannot be replaced or replicated, but it will forever live in our hearts, minds, and jukeboxes.
In late September, before Petty’s untimely passing, we had the opportunity to speak with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ long-time camera operator Roland Castillo about switching to a Point Source Audio headset. At the time, it just seemed like a really fun story for us. It’s now tinged with sadness, but we are glad to have made that little last connection with the band and we’d like to share it with you:
Roland Castillo, a seasoned camera operator and rigger who has handled front-of-stage camera duties for Tom Petty since 2008, made the switch from a single earmuff headset to the Point Source Audio CM-i3 In-Ear Audio Headset. Already the go-to headset used by sporting event camera operators because of its low-profile styling and ability to block out crowd noise, the CM-i3 offered Castillo three key functional benefits: keeping the headset in place when tilting his head, isolating high-decibel noise at front-of-stage for efficient communications, and protecting his hearing for prevention of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.
“My spot is literally right at the front of the stage,” says Castillo of his role with Tom Petty. “The new sound system for this tour has subwoofers and stage monitors at the front of the stage, and it’s very loud. At the beginning of the tour, I had to specially design a makeshift baseball cap setup using Velcro to attach the earmuff-style headset to try and keep it on my head, because every time I would turn or tilt my head up to get a shot, the headset would fall off. This made it very difficult to hear communications from the director during shows, while exposing me directly to the loudspeakers.”
While Castillo’s initial search was for an audio headset that facilitated streamlined, reliable communication in his high-decibel center stage spot, he quickly realized a secondary vital benefit for the CM-i3: hearing protection. “The single earmuff exposed me to the music when I would turn my head,” says Castillo. “When I was done with the show, I was hearing this buzz all the time. It was not only annoying, I knew I was going to start losing my hearing. Plus, the setup I had hurt because the side band on the right side of my head would put pressure on me when I had the camera up against my head. I was not only risking hearing loss, I was feeling pain from the clamping after the show.”
Castillo began researching options and had to sift through lots of information and peer advice in the process. “I looked at Shure, JBL and others,” he says. “And even our audio guy said I should try a single muff headset. But as I told him, single muff headsets don’t solve the problem of having a clamp to the right side of my head and trying to keep it in place when I move around.”
After Castillo tried the Point Source Audio CM-i3 the first time, there was no looking back. “It’s great,” he says of the CM-i3. It’s lightweight, and it just wraps around my head, by my temple with the in-ears and mic. Just being able to hear with the headset on and not having to worry about this thing falling off my head is amazing. And, just after the show, being able to sit there and go, ‘Wow, I can hear! That’s a fantastic feeling!”
“I research a lot of the gear that I use and buy and I tell a lot of guys, ‘If you’re going to buy, buy quality.’ And to me, the CM-i3 is like the best I’ve ever bought in anything. It’s just an awesome headset and a lot of the guys on the crew now are like, ‘man, I should have gotten it!’”
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‘If you're going to buy, buy quality.’ And to me, the CM-i3 is like the best I've ever bought in anything. It's just an awesome headset and a lot of the guys on the crew now are like, ‘man, I should have gotten it!