NBA On TNT Gets Detailed Sound Design

By Dan Daley
SVG audio editor

NBA coaches will be exercising a little more restraint this season, though they may not know it. They’re wearing Zaxcom TRX 900 wireless microphones that allow the games’ audio mixers to adjust gain and change the frequency remotely. “If we find ourselves getting stepped on [by an intruding frequency], we can work the changes from the receiver,” says Jim Budka who, along with Dave Grundvig and Pat Thornton, mixes Turner’s NBA On TNT Thursday night doubleheaders.

The Zaxcom mics were provided by Bexel and modified by Zaxcom to meet Bexel’s technical specs. There are two mic packages: one for East Coast games and one for West Coast games.

Budka credits A2s Rick Maldonado and Victor Victoria, who worked closely with EAX on the remote frequency-hopping capability for this season. “They’re the RF mavens this year,” he says. “It means we don’t have to interrupt the coaches at all during the games to reset their wireless.”

Audio encryption also remains in place this season, despite the league’s lifting it as a requirement last year. That keeps unauthorized scanners from collecting the audio, which is also isolated to tape during the game on a combination of two EVS machines, a pair of Sony DVW-A500 DigiBeta decks and two SR-W5000 recorders. This configuration lets mixers create replay packages quickly for use either in game breaks or on the TNT Overtime show following the games. They’re also fed by more microphones off the court, including Sony ECM 77 and Sennheiser 516 mics mounted on robotic cameras in locker rooms that pick up pre-game and halftime pep talks and analysis, and post-game post-mortems. “We’re using more and more of these; it really gets you inside the game,” says Budka.

The jewels in the crown of NBA audio FX are Sony ECM 77s placed in crevices in the padding on the glass backboard underneath the basket. It’s buttressed by a camera-mounted Sennheiser 816 shotgun mic under the basket.

“It captures the ‘swish’ of the ball through the net and the rebound sounds wonderfully,” says Budka. Audio-Technica 407 and Sennheiser 815 and 816 shotguns are aimed at the free throw lines to pick up the sneaker squeaks and the bounce of the ball, key sound effects for basketball.

A pair of Sennheiser 416 shotguns is positioned near main cameras at center court or the first row of the upper deck, four to eight feet apart and facing backwards into the crowd. It’s a technique Budka has used on Braves baseball broadcasts. “You can hear the commotion in the rear of the stands, the beer vendors, people talking loudly,” he says. “You put that into the surrounds and it puts the viewer right into the arena. There’s been times when I’m mixing a game and a voice sticks out of the surrounds and I could swear someone was talking to me from the back of the truck.”

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