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Audio Capture for Sports Broadcast, Part 2

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

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So what do you feed to their headphones? I guess they’d want a line feed normally so they can tell when their mic’s hot.

Yeah, my rule is, and it seems like it’s pretty much the rule is if you don’t hear yourself you’re not on air, so I keep their headsets closed when we’re in break; they can tell if they’re not on air because they don’t hear their voice, but they can’t hear the ambience of the booth, which you get by hearing headphones and listening on headphones like they do as opposed to speakers like we would if we were watching the game or me mixing the game. But I set up, generally set up, two stereo IFB mixes—one for play by play, one for the analyst, and then I set up a mono live B mix for all of my side line reporters. That mix usually has a lot less net sounds, game effects in that mix because they’re already down on the sideline; they don’t need any more effects in their ears and that way if a play by play wants different mix than an analyst then I can give that to them and I also create another mix, another mono mix, for our camera and SAP program, which is what anyone who is on a PO box, a party line say like a stage manager, a stats person who has program they are listening to that mix. [Timestamp: 7:16]

Yes. Things have gotten a lot more sophisticated now but in the old days they would just run the whole program mix through a couple of limiters or compressors and the crowd sound would be pumping up and down with the announcers’ voices…


…especially in sustained applause and things like that.


So at least we’ve gotten past that. But the weather isn’t always great, so how do you protect the outside mics from rain and boisterous fans and things?

To keep away from curious fans, height is always the answer, although you never know with fans. I mean if you have mics mounted on poles, you need a shock mount because they’ll find that pole and bang on it. You know it. Once again in Miller Park we’ve got a roof, so I’m lucky I don’t have to worry about the rain, which is really good because I really don’t like dealing with rain and I need to spend more time experimenting with solutions to deal with that because right now, it’s just plastic sleeving over the shotgun mic and hopefully they’ll be a break in the rain where my A2s can go out and pull that sleeving off or pull it back because you hear the pitter patter of rain on the plastic and it drives me nuts and I’m usually having a horrible time but I’ve heard of guys using bagel bags. It looks like a really thin plastic that might even have like little holes but I don’t think that the rain gets through those and it’s thinner so that was going to be what I was going to attempt next over the wind screen and I think with the bagel bags it might work, but honestly, I’ve been lucky and I haven’t had to deal with it a whole lot, which is crazy in 10 years I haven’t had to really come up with any solutions. Obviously a zeppelin or like for my VP-88 [that] I have had that out in the weather, I have a Rycote Windjammer that goes on over the top of the windscreen and that Windjammer does a great job of protecting water from coming through the fuzzy; [it] allows the rain to just sort of run down the fur if you will and stay out of the windscreen, so I’m a big fan of that and I was looking into either building similar versions for my shotguns because I did some looking around and it didn’t seem like Rycote had made a big fuzzy for the VP-89Ls, so I was going to make something similar because that’s great for wind. Even though there are windscreens that come with VP-89s, which I believe are Rycote, they’re beefy but they’re sponges, so when it gets wet, they get wet. But the cool thing about the Shure products, actually, is from my experience before I got the Windjammer I soaked my VP-88 and that thing just keeps on working. [Timestamp: 9:55]

Yeah, you can’t kill Shure mics. I’m talking on one right now, but something else on the announcers, when you kill their mics for the breaks, how do you have their communication with the truck set up?

Well, they’ve got a box in front of them that’s basically an AB; it has an AB switch so they can push that button and it's called a “talkback button;” they push the talkback and that secondary signal is routed to the truck and then I route that to a speaker that’s in front of the producer; and director and I also route that to the RTS system to the communications system so that I can put that in on a button for anybody in the truck; say in the tape room they’d want to listen to that talkback, so if the play by play guy says, “Hey, do you have a tighter look of that angle or can you show me this or that,” the tape room can hear that and be on top of it. And as far as sideline reporters like an RF person or something like that, I take a prefade aux and route that also to a Wohler in front of the director and producer, so that’s how they can communicate off air. [Timestamp: 10:59]

Well, they can have some interesting discussions sometimes, especially when the equipment isn’t quite doing what it’s supposed to. Have you had any interesting incidents doing these games as far as fans or players going for mics or choice comments picked up on air?

Yeah, I mean nothing too negative. We had one baseball game where it was sort of a long game and a fan, and he wasn’t even really that close to home plate—he was on the third base side—but decided to start screeching—sort of a, “hha, hha, hha” right as the pitcher started his windup and I thought it was hilarious. And the thing about when people make noise or they, you know, they have that one time where some guy is drunk and is just swearing or being belligerent and hey, if you’re at the ballpark and you’re near home plate, that kind of stuff is going to be picked up by our mics. But you know what it’s also going to be heard by, say, the children sitting near you or everyone around in that area. So I really count on having the ballpark and the team to patrol those people and to deal with those people. It’s a family environment and in my opinion those people shouldn’t be allowed to sit out there and hurl their “F” bombs or whatever and I count on the team to take care of them. So it only lasts for a little while, but that is one of the reasons why I do layer my stereo crowd, especially in venues that I haven’t been to or it’s not my regular home venue because who knows what that team’s like with their season ticket holders. I know at White Sox, I’ve been there, they actually, for their home shows, they move their bat crack mics because of a verbal fan. Personally I think that’s just, I don’t like that. I think the team should keep that guy quiet or have him move his seat or even challenge his tickets because there are kids around you and this is a kids sport, so we shouldn’t have to worry about kids hearing profanities at a ball game and I shouldn’t have to worry about hearing it on TV by a fan. [Timestamp: 13:06]

Well, that certainly keeps it interesting no matter what the sport. The great thing about sports is that anything can happen and you’re right there in the middle of it. So thanks for being here with us Erik; Erik West freelance TV sound engineer in the Milwaukee area talking about doing baseball sound. Thanks again for taking time to tell us about it.

OK. Thanks for having me.

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