CBC Embraces MADI for NHL Coverage

Audio for hockey is always a wonderful mix of slashing skates and vicious checks in the boards. For Howard Baggley, who mixes NHL games for the CBC, more-extensive MADI implementation is making it easier than ever to transport signals between production trucks.

“The single biggest move forward this year for myself is the progression towards MADI interfacing between trucks or at the very least [between] AES pairs,” he says. “I’ve struggled a bit with the [Solid State Logic] C100 consoles that are in two of the CBC’s HD mobiles regarding line-level feeds into the SSL mic preamps. Often, I couldn’t pad the signal down enough with the preamp so I had to resort to external mic pads to give me extra attenuation to avoid using up all my headroom on the mic inputs.

“Last year on the finals in Chicago,” he continues, “[Veteran mixer] Wendel Stevens and I started doing all of our truck-to-truck feeds via MADI interface, and we’ve never looked back. I’m seeing more and more setups now using MADI or AES; it’s cleaner and, with MADI, infinitely easier to set up and route, and [there are] no mic-pre issues on the SSL. I have found the MADI setup on the SSL C100 to be very convenient as it has sample-rate converters on the MADI inputs and negates the need for a common reference between the two trucks. The Calrec consoles don’t have sample-rate conversion on the MADI inputs so, if you’re tying two Calrecs together via MADI, they need to be on a common video reference.”

Baggley says his effects miking reveals a difference in philosophy between Canada and the States. “I still utilize overhead miking in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal and love the open sound it offers and the ability to get away from the glass banging,” he explains. “But the mixers down here seem to favor a tighter mix of the ice, whereas I like to add more of the room in my mixes.

“I will stress that there is nothing wrong with the way Americans mix hockey,” he adds. “I just grew up mixing it with a wider, more open perspective, and that tends to be the biggest difference with my mixes compared to my American brothers.”

In general, hockey has made more extensive use of multichannel microphones for effects audio. Baggley, however, is ambivalent about their use and isn’t using any for the playoffs.

“TSN in Canada utilizes the Holophone on their main games,” he points out, “and I’ve mixed a few for them. I can’t say, in my humble opinion, that, in a multi-mic live sports show, [a multichannel microphone] really enhances the overall mix. Mostly, I think this is because you can rarely find the perfect spot to position the mic so it can be utilized properly. Typically, you end up augmenting the rears with other mics because the [multichannel mic] is too near the audience.”

That, he observes, undermines the reason to use a multichannel microphone in the first place: “They are great mics, but it’s just very hard to use them on a single-day set-and-shoot and get them to a place that they can sound their best.”