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Audio Capture for Sports Broadcast, Part 2

Dec 20, 2012 5:36 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

What would a televised baseball game be without the crack of the bat, the smack of the catcher’s mitt, and the roar of the crowd? Erik West, freelance TV sound engineer, is back with more on doing sound on TV sports remotes. There’s lots more to it than most realize and it’s coming up right here on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Erik, it’s good to have you back with us for part two on the SVC Podcast and we’re talking about doing TV sound on baseball remotes. I think the sound guys are appreciated a little more these days than they used to be. You’ve got half of the broadcast right there in your hands and just about everybody else is making pictures. Is the stadium PA ever a problem when you’re trying to pick up the crowd in the stands?

Erik West: It has been and it can be. Generally it’s not with, say, my stereo crowd because if they’re mixing the PA right, it’s just a little bit over the crowd by maybe 6dB to 10dB tops over the crowd and sometimes the crowd is so loud you would hope that the PA is not louder than the crowd. But the times that I’ve had time issues with the PA is actually with, say, my bat crack mics or my pick mics but mostly it’s going to be my back racks say in baseball; in basketball, it would be the shotguns that I have pointed on to the floor to get the ball bouncing and stuff like that and the PA can just be too much. I have both my home gigs, both mixing Brewers, and mixing Bucks in the fall/winter. I know both of the guys who mix the PA and we stay in constant contact and they don’t have any problem when I text them and say hey man PA’s 20dB louder than the crowd, say, if the crowd’s quiet. Sometimes those guys mix behind glass, so they don’t have the best reference, so I feel for them. I actually did that when I was just getting my start in TV. I mixed at Lambeau Field; I mixed the bowl and at Camp Randall Stadium, so I’ve sat in that seat before so I understand how it is and we all try to work together to keep the PA under control but also let them have some volume so they can get the fans into the game that way. [Timestamp: 2:33]

I know you’re using Shure shotguns for some of the crowd sounds and the game sounds. Do you mix in any shotguns that are mounted on cameras at all?

Absolutely. Mics mounted on cameras are great affects mics because they’re constantly being pointed by the camera operator. So at Miller Park we have a left field foul pole camera that’s right out next to the left field foul pole and I have nice long shotgun; usually [I] use truck shotguns for that and they can be long Sennheiser shotguns or generally I just use whatever they’ve got. Usually [I use] a long shotgun on my cameras except for handhelds and you can capture the sound of balls being caught. We have one play where a ball player hit a home run and I believe the rule is if it bounces off the ball pull it’s considered fair and the umpires ruled it a foul ball; it actually hit off the pad just below the actual foul pole, which would still be considered fair and along with the replay; they used some of the audio because from that left field foul pole camera mic you could hear the sound of the ball hitting the pad and not hitting the cement next to it, so that was pretty cool. And in basketball they’re very important to have shotguns on my handhelds and this year I’m actually working with Shure to try out some of their VP-89Ms for basketball and to capture that sound there because I’m so happy with the VP-89Ls for baseball I really wanted to try them out for basketball. So I’m excited to it going in basketball season. [Timestamp: 4:09]

So when you get things set up in the booth, the guys calling the game, what kind of sportscaster headsets do you use for them?

Most of the time they’re Sennheiser HMD 25s. Once again it’s whatever’s in the booth kit. For the truck I would love to be able to afford to bring or have every single mic that I would want with me in a kit, but I don’t have that ability. So Sennheiser HMD 25s are the common industry standard; although they just discontinued that in lieu of their HMD 26. The mic is rather directional and in my opinion putting a microphone in the hands of talent, especially on the end of a boom on a headset that they’re wearing, that’s so dependent on being pointed the right way is just craziness. With the 25s that wasn’t a problem. I always like it when a announcer knows how to position a mic correctly in the corner of their mouth and not right in front of it. [Timestamp: 5:07]

Of course you’re working with a huge dynamic range, too, because when the game is a little dull and they’re just sitting there filling some time they can almost whisper, but when there’s a big play or a home run in a tight game they can go right to hollering their heads off.

For me, that’s more of a game structure thing on board. All of these mics can handle that kind of dynamic range really well, but for me it’s about logistics. You’ve got a guy who’s got a lot of things on his mind and a lot of times positioning that mic isn’t the first thing that they’re thinking of and they are a few announcers that are really, really good at it. Brian Anderson, who I worked with for Brewer’s, used to be a techie. He loves audio and he’s always about positioning his mic correctly. In fact he’ll actually position our analyst mic for him or if we have guests in the booth I can count on my play by play guy to actually position that mic, which is great but to have a mic that is so critical of positioning is a little dangerous in my opinion. [Timestamp: 6:05]

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