Why sports sound better in your living room

Several years back when the Rays made it tothe World Series….

they handed out cowbells.

That's when that's when you kind of secondguess your career.

There's only so much you can do when 30, 000people 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 bringingthose sounds into your living room.

They’re called “A1” mixers.

And they’re hired by the network that’sbroadcasting the game.

Basically the easiest way to describe whatit is I do is everything you hear at home in the broadcastI'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 Seriesgame from you know, 1980 and then you looked at like last year's WorldSeries it would be painfully obvious.

That takes a lot of work.

To capture the ambience of the space, theypoint stereo microphones into the crowd.

But we don’t want to just be placed amongthe crowd, we want to hear the sounds of the game itself.

And that requires microphones near the actionto 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 mightnot hear the sound of the net.

But for viewers at home, there’s a littlemicrophone taped right under the basket.

In baseball, the key sounds are clusteredaround home plate.

You see all the advertising boards.

But there's also two little Blue Jays logosand in those logos are parabolic dishes and that's what I use to capture all the soundsaround home plate.

Parabolic microphones use a dish to focussound 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; theyhave 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 gruntwhen they release the pitch.

And we also put mikes on the foul poles.

Some of them are like a real thunderouskind of cannon sound like at Fenway Park.

It’s harder to capture field effects whenthe 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 jobfollowing the action.

And that’s long been the standard for NFLgames.

When Fox came along they they put a mike onthe umpire .

and we were using that to pick up the cadenceof the quarterback and the line coming together.

And that was huge.

The umpire was getting run over a lot, andto keep him from getting hurt, they moved his physical positionfrom 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 agreedto let the league put microphones on certain offensive linemen.

Depending on who's mixing it could be wayup in the mix.

I've been called on that because it's likecandy and I love it.

Those quarterback audibles are the only timesthey’ll take a mic’d up player live during a game.

I'm sure you've seen the games, basketballgames 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 angryplayers too.

If something's getting heated on screen Iwill you know, I'll kill those mics.

I want people to be able to hear but, youknow I gotta be careful.

The A1 is constantly adjusting the levelsthroughout the game, and not just to keep the show family friendly.

A lot of people would have the thought processthat 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 withthe faders on the mixing board.

The game effects in hockey come from 10microphones taped inside the glass and the mixer will fade them up and down to follow theplay.

They can get those effects to pop even moreby 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 specificthan that, we can dial into actual specific frequencies.

So they'll tend to increase the high frequencyEQs and turn down the low frequency.

You don't want that rumble soyou want to hear the skate blades, you want to hear the sticks, you want to hear the pucksoff glass, you want to hear them off the post.

But all those efforts can be drowned out bythe A1’s arch-nemesis: the PA system in the arena.

If I could find PA people and beatthem with a wooden stick sometimes I would.

NBA is just it's horrific becauseyou know they run the PA during play.

you The PA will bleed into all the mics in thebuilding.

But the audio team is always there, battlingthe 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 shouldbe 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.

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