Super Bowl Sound Takes Super Management
By Dan Daley
The biggest issue for Wendel Stevens when he mixes the Super Bowl this Sunday is management. Not at NBC, but at the 76-channel Calrec Alpha console (with Bluefin) in NEP’s ND3 truck, where he’ll be handling nearly 60 channels, including 12 parabolics with a mix of Sennheiser ME-64 and Sony ECM-77 microphones and 20 cameras mounted with Sennheiser MKH-416 short shotgun and MKH-816 standard shotgun mics. Then there are eight Sennheiser MK-64s used as crowd microphones, two sets of Sennheiser ME-64 microphones placed by the broadcast booth and at the 50-yard line, and two Sennheiser ME-104 lavalieres on the bill of the umpire’s cap, providing both stereo and the kind of redundancy you need for this game. And that’s not counting the 45 four-channel EVS servers, two videotape decks, and three Final Pro Suite playback sources for replays.
“We want to try to keep [the production] as close to a regular game as possible,” says Stevens. “The biggest concern, I think, will be managing the intercom and sharing cameras between the pregame show, the halftime show, and the game itself.”
John Pastore is the intercom director and will try to keep the 300-plus crew connected. “That’s a full-time job,” Stevens adds.
Stevens also has help from submixer Lee Pfannerstill, who mixes all the parabola, camera, and goalpost mics while Stevens mixes talent and crowd microphones and the record/playback sources.
Microphone placement is crucial, and Stevens will be consulting the digests he regularly compiles on the stadiums he works in, one of which fortunately is Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. Newer stadiums, such as Baltimore and Washington, are using distributed audio systems for their PAs, allowing audio crews more flexibility with microphone placement.
“At Tampa Bay, the PA is concentrated in the right-side end zone,” he explains. “So we’ll place our crowd microphones in that end zone, shooting away from the PA.”
Another technique will be to use the same Sennheiser ME-64 microphone for crowd sounds and in some of the parabolas. “That way, as I go from one source to the next in the overall mix, there’s virtually no difference in the sound,” he says. “It’s the little things that make it all work well.”
The NEP ND3 that Stevens is working from is the same one he has used for regular-season games. Familiar surroundings or not, the Super Bowl is still a high-pressure game to work. Nearby, mixer Ed Greene in the Denali truck will handle the mixes for the pregame patriotic songs and the 5.1 mix that will go from Denali directly to the network.