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Audio Capture for Sports Broadcast, Part 1

Dec 10, 2012 11:41 AM, With Bennett Liles

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And when you’re doing home games you have an obvious advantage. How long it normally take after you get to the stadium to get things set up and ready to go? What do you do first?

The first thing I do is I take all my DT fan outs and I patch the inhouse I/O panel so that’s all cabled out to all the different spots in the park. We pre-cable Miller Park at the beginning of the season, so I run a lot of effects mics for baseball. I have mics all out in the outfield in the gaps along with bull pins, [so] if someone jumps up and catches something off the wall or the ball hits off the wall, I like to hear that. There’s a big plexi-glass or a scoreboard that’s covered with plexi-glass I have a mic on that so if somebody jumps up to stop a big homerun bang you hear that crash, so I’ve got all that. So it’s nice having all that pre-cabled. So the first that thing I do is I basically take all my fan outs and patch the wall. Meanwhile my A2s are running the DTs from the truck to my fan outs and then I head into the truck and start patching. Frankly, when it’s a home show and I’m on my normal home truck, it’s actually pretty easy because I just recall my show and I have several different versions of my show based on temperature and how crazy I want to get with that, but it only takes me about an hour to throw all my patches and double check everything myself and then I eventually talk to the tape room and we check all of the routing and that’s called “faxing.” That was a tough term to understand when I transitioned from rock n roll is checking like what we would call in rock n roll a line check is called faxing. I’m like what is this fax stuff, so you fax and then by then the A2s have got stuff cabled, everything pinned up, and so we fax the booth, fax the set, fax all of our talking mic drops, and then I listen to all my field effects that the A2s put out and make sure that I don’t have any noise or any buzz or anything like that on any of my lines and that’s usually before preproduction. [Timestamp: 8:06]

I notice you’re using some Shure mics to get effects. What do you see as the most important thing in getting crowd sounds and game sounds and picking up things like the umpire calling balls and strikes? Do the umps ever object and say you’re getting too close or picking up too much of that?

No, and you know when I mix a network fox we actually mic the umpire and we’re not supposed to use that in the actual live to air mix. We ISO that and then it goes to a tape machine so we can record that for sounds of the game, but every once in a while, if there’s been some sort of, say, clutch pitching situation and the batter strikes out, I’ll look and I’ll grab like that ump mic and so we can hear the hoop-haa of the umpire calling that strike. That’s sort of cool, but you’ve got to be really careful because yes, they wouldn’t like hearing too much, but interestingly enough, the only thing you’re really hearing with my Miller Park set up, without a network fox situation, you hear them if they holler out their strikes. Other than that you don’t hear a ton. [Timestamp: 9:12]

What do you like to do on say EQ-ing for the crack of bats and the smack of catcher’s mitts and stuff like that?

I EQ my back cracks like a kick drum, sort of my old rock n roll roots, not exactly the same frequencies. But I pull out a bunch of mid range probably 600-800Hz about 6dBu with a medium Q and then I boost a little low end and depending on the weather, that will go from 100Hz to 200Hz or somewhere in between with a tighter Q, a more narrow Q, about 2 or 3dB. And then, depending on the weather, once again I boost a little AK, 6-8 K, 0-3dB depending on the weather and the mic really and that’s one of the things I love about the VB-89L shotguns that I just started using last season. You don’t really have to do much with the high end because it’s all there. It’s just very crisp and I love those mics. [Timestamp: 10:03]

Yeah, I was going to ask you about those and you’ve apparently got an advantage in using the Shure VP-88 for crowd sounds? Where do you put those?

If you look at a ballpark, normally there’s the net that follows the backboard or right around home plate, so my VP-89s, my shotguns are up about 12ft. in the air just behind the net. Basically I use conduit that has a yoke back bend that bends back sort of over the crowd just a little bit and then up. So I have enough I can get the long shotgun in behind the net so that protects the mic from the ball on a foul ball or something like that. And those are on either side of that net actually on the aircraft cable that holds that net up. So those are my first base and third base bat crack mics and then on most parks, and specifically at Miller Park, there’s a robo camera positioned right behind home plate about 15ft. in the air and my VP-88 is mounted just underneath that, behind the net as well.There’s a hole in the net for the cabling to come through for the robo cams, so I took off that and actually brought my mic through the net so it’s on the crowd side and I point it up at about a 10-degree angle to avoid too much single voices. Although that doesn’t make a huge difference with a great stereo mic like that, but that height is perfect because you hear a murmur. If you’re really paying attention you might be able to pick up conversations but not really. It’s just high to not hear that and now this is a full ballpark and at Miller Park we have the benefit of selling out a lot, so it’s always sort of a playoff atmosphere there. So when it’s dead, sometimes I boost up so that it still sounds like there’s crowd there. You can hear a little bit more, but ideally, when it’s a nice full house, you don’t hear any individual voices except for say vendors which I love, like a vendor off on my image to camera left from the camera four position calling out beer here and you can hear that on the left side and maybe another vendor on the right side. So that’s pretty cool. [Timestamp: 12:10]

Yeah, sometimes you can pick up the vendors in the stands so well you almost have to pay them scale for being on the show, but it’s been interesting hearing how you do game sounds and crowd sounds. In part two we’ll get into the PA system interaction and how you set up the guys in the announcer booth. I appreciate it Erik. Erik West, freelance sound engineer for TV sports. Thanks for telling us about it.

Alright. Thanks.

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