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Audio Capture for Sports Broadcast, Part 1

Dec 10, 2012 11:41 AM, 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.

When baseball cranks up again, Erik West will be handling sound on the Brewers’ games and that means bringing the TV audience the crack of the bat, the slap of the catcher’s mitt, and the roar of the crowd. Sound on TV sports remotes is in the spotlight, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Erik, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast from Milwaukee, where you’re doing freelance TV sound on baseball games. This is an area we haven’t gone into much and it’s a fascinating subject. There’s a lot to doing sports audio for TV. I used to do that myself way back in the prehistoric days and I was curious about what types of sports remotes you like to do.

Erik West: I take anything and everything that I can get a chance to do, and that’s a cool thing about this business. I get to do a lot of variety stuff like baseball, basketball, football, occasionally soccer, occasionally volleyball, sometimes Olympic sports like gymnastics, wrestling, track and field. I’m in Milwaukee, Wis., so being so close to a Big 10 school in Madison, I get to mix different things. But I also mix non-sports broadcasts as well. I just finished up working with the BBC and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a broadcast. However, there I was just a recording engineer and handled routing, timecode and communications, which is one of our jobs as you know, and sports TV business is handling all communications well as doing audio. [Timestamp: 1:56]

Sometimes that can be more challenging and interesting than the game, especially when you’ve got one team ahead a zillion to nothing.


So how long have you been doing TV sound? When did you get into this?

[For] about 10 years; my first broadcast gig was a basketball game, and I really had no idea what I was doing. I had some experience in video directing at a job. I went to film school, but I was way in over my head in my first mixing gig and then I stepped back and got a chance to A2 for a while and then I A2’d baseball and then I got my first chance to mix baseball when there weren’t any mixers in the market and then they’re like, “You’re it.” So it’s been about 9 years, 9-10 years—9 years for baseball, 10 years total. [Timestamp: 2:43]

Well, that will give you an appreciation for who’s working for you out there on the field and doing all the manual labor if you’ve been there and done it yourself.

Absolutely. Most mixers start as A2s and then work their way up. I think that’s an important step, so you know where the A2s are at and that way you can take cues from your A2s when they’re not able to do something or a challenging cable run or something you can reconsider. [Timestamp: 3:06]

Yeah, and that’s what’s really interesting about sports coverage is that every sport sort of has its own personality. What’s the most challenging aspect you see in doing TV sound for baseball?

I say the most challenging aspect of mixing any sport is really the changing trucks. Trucks that I haven’t seen before, different consoles, different patch bay layouts, different router set ups. That’s the most challenging part. You can look at an empty patch field and there are over 2,500 patch points. That’s all at the moment you need to find one or two for a stereo, and that can be a bit much. As far as mixing sound, I would say that getting my stereo crowd to sound the way I like it can be the most challenging, and now I am talking about on the road because at Miller Park, I’ve got everything the way I like it. I work with the team to get my mics where I need them and that’s a big help. When I’m at a ballpark I don’t regularly work at, when I position my crowd mics, it can be a challenge and I have to rely on A2s and a lot of times they’re use to mixers who have no problem with booth crowd mics. That’s actually one of my pet peeves and that’s one of my, I go to that last—this putting a pair of shotguns out of the booth, which seems like it’s a standard for a lot of people, but it drives me nuts. I can’t stand the sound of a booth crowd. Often times there’s a PA speaker hanging near the booth or at least the PA’s imaging heavy to one side or you hear slap back off the wall either from inside the booth or just above it or just below it. A lot of times I don’t get out into the venue a ton because I’m pretty busy setting my show and it’s not until like game time that I notice with the booth crowds how bad they can be, which is actually why I use two stereo sources for my crowd especially if I have to go with a booth crowd. I like to layer two different stereo sources. [Timestamp: 4:58]

Some of these stadiums are sort of fiendishly laid out. It’s like they wanted to have the latest and greatest of everything and then they thought, “Oh yeah, we’re going to be doing TV out of here, too.” Have you worked any particularly difficult stadiums for TV remotes, say, long distance mic line runs or hard-to-get-to press boxes?

Yeah, nothing really stands out. I mean when I do Big Ten soccer in Madison, the venue is not cabled at all, so it’s long DT runs and long single XLR runs to try to get to your goals and to any kind of far side effects. Depends on where they have the teams set up. In the past, they’ve had the teams on the far side, so over there I need a TOC headset plus an official stats headset, interview headset over there and then if I wanted to have some sort of snoops for the coaches or for each team, I’d have to do all that. Usually I end up cutting that out because of the long cable runs, so you have to sort of adapt to where you’re at and do the best with what you can with what you’ve got. [Timestamp: 5:59]

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