Why sports sound better in your living room

Why sports sound better in your living room


Several years back when the Rays made it to
the World Series….they handed out cowbells. That’s when that’s when you kind of second
guess your career. There’s only so much you can do when 30,000
people are all hitting cowbells. The sounds inside a stadium can be unpredictable. But parked outside every major sports event,
in a semi truck full of broadcast tv workers, There’s an audio engineer tasked with bringing
those sounds into your living room. They’re called “A1” mixers. And they’re hired by the network that’s
broadcasting the game. Basically the easiest way to describe what
it is I do is everything you hear at home in the broadcast
I’m responsible for, other than commercials. That means they mix the music, the announcers,
sound effects, interviews… But it also means this, and this, and this. If you just went and looked at a World Series
game from you know, 1980 and then you looked at like last year’s World
Series it would be painfully obvious. That takes a lot of work. To capture the ambience of the space, they
point stereo microphones into the crowd. But we don’t want to just be placed among
the crowd, we want to hear the sounds of the game itself. And that requires microphones near the action
to capture what they call “field effects.” So I currently run 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. I run 10 on-court effects mics. If you’re sitting in the stands, you might
not hear the sound of the net. But for viewers at home, there’s a little
microphone taped right under the basket. In baseball, the key sounds are clustered
around home plate. You see all the advertising boards. But there’s also two little Blue Jays logos
and in those logos are parabolic dishes and that’s what I use to capture all the sounds
around home plate. Parabolic microphones use a dish to focus
sound waves from far away. For big budget games, like the World Series,
you can see those mics around home plate too, but the setup becomes much more elaborate. They put wireless mics in the bases; they
have handheld parabolics out in the foul ball territory, and they wire up the outfield wall. We actually started a couple of years ago,
burying mics in the grass and in the infield so you can hear like some guys like Max Scherzer,  they really kind of like grunt
when they release the pitch. And we also put mikes on the foul poles. Some of them are like a real thunderous
kind of cannon sound like at Fenway Park. It’s harder to capture field effects when
the players roam around a big field. you just hope that they’re close to your mics. You’ve got a huge field with 15 guys running
… on grass. A handheld parabolic mic can do a better job
following the action. And that’s long been the standard for NFL
games. When Fox came along they they put a mike on
the umpire . and we were using that to pick up the cadence
of the quarterback and the line coming together. And that was huge. The umpire was getting run over a lot, and
to keep him from getting hurt, they moved his physical position
from being in a defensive line to being on the offensive line. Well that doesn’t help me at all. Because now he’s behind the quarterback. The next year, the NFL players union agreed
to let the league put microphones on certain offensive linemen. Depending on who’s mixing it could be way
up in the mix. I’ve been called on that because it’s like
candy and I love it. Those quarterback audibles are the only times
they’ll take a mic’d up player live during a game. I’m sure you’ve seen the games, basketball
games where we mic up players, we mic up the head coach. Those mics will never be tracked live. It goes to tape, somebody reviews it and then it gets played back later. But the effects mics can pick up angry
players too. If something’s getting heated on screen I
will you know, I’ll kill those mics. I want people to be able to hear but, you
know I gotta be careful. The A1 is constantly adjusting the levels
throughout the game, and not just to keep the show family friendly. A lot of people would have the thought process
that you just set up these mics and you leave them be. You don’t. I mean, you can’t. I mean you’re talking 18-20,000 people screaming, you got the PA sounds. So if you just leave all these microphones up you’re not going to get anything. So you’re chasing the action with them with
the faders on the mixing board. The game effects in hockey come from 10
microphones taped inside the glass and the mixer will fade them up and down to follow the
play. They can get those effects to pop even more
by tweaking the EQ, or “equalization.” Most people would know it as like a car stereo. You turn up your highs, your treble, and your bass. Well in our world it’s a little bit more specific
than that, we can dial into actual specific frequencies. So they’ll tend to increase the high frequency
EQs and turn down the low frequency. You don’t want that rumble so
you want to hear the skate blades, you want to hear the sticks, you want to hear the pucks
off glass, you want to hear them off the post. But all those efforts can be drowned out by
the A1’s arch-nemesis: the PA system in the arena. If I could find PA people and beat
them with a wooden stick sometimes I would. NBA is just it’s horrific because
you know they run the PA during play.you The PA will bleed into all the mics in the
building. But the audio team is always there, battling
the noise on our behalf. You should be able to hear the announcers,
follow what they’re saying. The game should be below that and you should
be able to hear everything that’s going on in the game without struggling. It takes a lot of work to do that. If we do it right. If you’re into sports, then you’re probably already subscribed to SB Nation’s channel. But if not, go check it out. They’ve got tons of fascinating series, including one called “Beef History”, which is about why all your favorite athletes hate each other. Go check it out and subscribe at SB Nation.