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Player Sound Inspires New Products, Interest

April 14th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Dan Daley

The personalization of the viewing experience has been a hot topic at NAB 2015, and that’s putting a new emphasis on perhaps the most intimate audio in sports: player sound. The ongoing challenges for this intense aspect of broadcast-sports audio have generally centered on two key items: league concerns about the nature of the audio and player issues with how bodypack transmitters can affect their play or concentration.

At the show, Quantum 5X is showing its new generation of NBA bodypacks, which, at approximately 4 in. long, are about 35% shorter than the previous iteration. They also have a remarkably short antenna for the 500 MHz band they were moved to for this season, ahead of the looming loss of the 600 MHz spectrum, using what company GM Jason Moody says is a proprietary technique. An even shorter bodypack is under development and is expected to be ready for next season.

Although NBA and MLB have been longtime users of versions of the PlayerMic, Q5X CEO Paul Johnson says the company is actively exploring new applications. Testing is currently under way with Australian football and UK rugby teams for miking both players and officials. A new AquaMic is waterproof and is being proposed for rowing and other water sports.

“Rowing now uses Foley to add sound to the picture; [the AquaMic] can allow them to use authentic audio, which will really enhance the experience,” Johnson says. “Not necessarily just on the rowers but also along the course: on buoys, for instance.”

Other improvements, such as a mini-USB port on all new PlayerMics that allow use of an external battery, also address A1 and A2 concerns about battery life on the field. Moody says that existing models offer between four and six hours from internal batteries, depending on the model, as well as more remote control of functions, such as on/off and companding.

On-field audio is drawing the attention of other manufacturers. At the show, DPA is introducing the Heavy Duty 4061, a Kevlar-reinforced mini-microphone intended to be used in high-impact player applications, such as football. A new in-ear version of the company’s D:fine theatrical headset, according to Marketing Coordinator James Capparelle, will reduce the form factor of the headsets currently used by on-field officials for several sports.

“We’re interested in this application,” he says, “because player sound makes the broadcast a more immersive experience.”

He notes that, while this is a new sector for DPA, the microphones themselves benefit from the robustness of the underlying designs, which have been tested in active film and theatrical environments. “These microphones have been used under saddles on horses and in car chases,” he points out. “They can survive in the sports arena.”