Wrestlemania Rumbles With Big Audio Crew
By Dan Daley
Wrestlemania XXV will arrive at Houston’s Reliance Stadium on April 5 with its biggest audio crew yet. Senior Audio Mixer Randy Flick will work with a dozen A2 staffers, tricked-out Calrec Omega and Alpha consoles, and a Clair Brothers PA system, consisting of 128-line-array cabinets and subs and 12 floor monitors and clocking in at just over a half-million watts. That’s just the audio; Wrestlemania also carries its own massive video projection and a full pyro crew.
“It’s like a huge rock-music tour that has a network television show attached to it,” says Flick, who started mixing the WWE’s variously branded matches back with Wrestlemania II.
Sound effects are half the show in wrestling. Flick will have one Sony ECM77 lavalier microphone gaffer-taped to each of the ring’s four posts. Each handheld camera is fitted with a Sennheiser 815 short shotgun microphone. Beneath the canvas ring are two Shure KSM 32 large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mics on short stands facing up at the bottom of the canvas 2 ft. above. “We treat the canvas like a 20-ft. bass drum,” says Flick. Perhaps more like Ginger Baker’s double-kick setup, with the microphones panned slightly left and right in the mix.
This combination of microphones is the central focus of the soundscape for Wrestlemania, picking up the body slams, chair-throwing, and other aggravated felonies that make up wrestling events. That’s surrounded by an audio context consisting of two coincident pairs of Sennheiser 416 shotguns over the crowd, supported by two Holophone H2 Pro surround microphones. One is placed near the camera tower, about 25 ft. above the crowd; the other will hang from the lighting truss. “We don’t want to pick out any individual voices in the crowd,” Flick says, “but want to get the impact of 65,000 people screaming their lungs out.”
The ring microphones and the crowd mics are submixed into separate stems on a 56-input Calrec Omega console in the truck that are then sent to Flick’s 96-input Calrec Alpha, where he will add some compression (usually between 3:1 and 4:1, using the Calrec’s DSP) and mix the stems with the announcer microphones. Those mics are a dozen Lectrosonic 200 series wireless handhelds, chosen because “they bounce better than any of the others we’re tried,” Flick says, referring to the propensity of wrestlers to grab the mics to make pre-bout boasts or post-bout threats, then toss the microphones to the ground. “Destruction of gear is a semi-regular occurrence in wrestling.”
He’s also mixing feeds from three backstage areas, where Sennheiser 416 shotguns on poles and Electrovoice 635a wired handheld microphones are fed to the control room via Calrec’s Hydra fiber system. Finally, there is a 635a on the bell used to start and stop rounds, which has taken its share of abuse when the bell occasionally gets ripped off its mounting and used as a weapon in bouts.
“We try to keep the gear out of harm’s way,” says Flick, “but it’s inevitable that we’ll lose some microphones here and there, cables get cut — it’s wrestling.”
Wrestling is notoriously scripted entertainment, but only to a point. “We have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen most of the time,” he says. “But you never know when someone’s going to grab a microphone and start screaming. Or use it as a club on someone else. It’s good to have microphones that bounce.”