World Series Sound Is All About More Microphones

When you tune into the World Series Game 2 on Fox Sports tonight, be prepared to listen closely, because Kauffman Stadium is wired for sound.

Continuing a working paradigm begun during the NLCS, A1 Joe Carpenter worked with submixer Bob Qua in the NCPX and XIV trucks to put microphones just about everywhere possible.

Bat cracks around home plate alone are covered by three DPA lavaliere microphones in Big Ears parabolic reflectors placed on the ground in padded boxes to isolate them from crowd noise. Four more DPA lavs are loaded into hand-held Klover parabs along the base lines and foul lines. (There will be five of those in the larger confines of AT&T Park in San Francisco.) More than 20 Crown PCC-160 unidirectional boundary microphones ring the outfield wall.

Each base is fitted with Sennheiser MKE-2 lavalieres and SK-250 wireless transmitters. An Audio-Technica AT4050 stereo condenser microphone is aimed at centerfield to capture crowd sound for the surround channels. AT4024 stereo shotguns are in high positions at first and third bases, and another pair is aimed down from above home plate. Four Sennheiser 416 shotguns are used in pairs atop the foul poles, to catch the elusive ding of what Yankee shortstop and announcer Phil Rizzuto used to insist be called the “fair pole” because, if it hit the poles, it’s a fair ball.

“We’re due for a ding,” says Carpenter, which is probably what most of Kansas City is telling itself this week, with the Royals in their first World Series in 29 years. “The philosophy here is that more is better: more microphones, more sound, more sound everywhere. It’s mainly the same technology we’ve been using, with a few new microphones, but what’s really different is that there’s just more of it.”

Carpenter is hoping that the Royals’ return to the Series translates into a loud crowd, which will help deal with The K’s famous fountain and waterfall display, known as the Water Spectacular, behind the right-field fence. At 322 ft., it is the largest privately funded fountain in the world. The fountains are on display before and after the game and in-between innings. The waterfalls are constantly running. That, says Carpenter, creates a problem for audio, because the sound of the continuous flow of water is nearly full spectrum, akin to having to deal with pink noise during a broadcast when the focus of the show moves towards the outfield.

“What we do to work around that is to try to lower the focus of the sound field in the outfield closer to the field itself,” he explains. “It’s only a big problem when the fountains are in the picture, during outfield plays. But you can also hear them in the surrounds. The thing is to keep the sound as close to the field as possible.”

Microphone choice and deployment when the Series moves to AT&T Park in San Francisco for Game 3 will be similar in scale but will be nuanced for that venue. “Every ballpark is different when it comes to sound,” says Carpenter. “Some will have hard, rounded surfaces that cause the sound to bounce off; others are just huge and open. And the way they sound will change with the nature of the crowd and even the weather. You just never know until the day of the game.”

Besides microphones, Fox Sports deployed a combination of Clear-Com intercom systems to support the instant-replay communications between the two ballparks and MLB’s Replay Operation Centers (ROCs), located in New York and San Francisco. A HelixNet digital networked intercom was used in combination with HKB-2X user stations and HBP-2X beltpacks to support communications for the field umpires, ballpark replay technicians, the NCP trucks at the game, and the scoreboard official in the ballparks. In each ballpark, HelixNet HMS-4X base stations were interfaced to Clear-Com VoICE2 IP interfaces, which connect to each of the ROCs.

That capability came in handy during Game 7 when a head-first slide into first base by the Royals’ Eric Hosmer tripped the first-ever World Series play overturned by video replay. (A previous call challenge in the World Series in Game 4 had been upheld by replay.)

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