MLB All Star Audio – It’s Complicated
Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game on Fox Sports will be the noisiest one yet, if the number of microphones is any indication. Working from one of four Game Creek Fox vehicles on site at Citi Field, A1 Joe Carpenter is presiding over a huge array of inputs.
These include 48 effects microphones coming in from effects submixer Bob Qua, including first, second, and third base and four wired players — two from each team — plus the home plate umpire. Carpenter’s own console will have 23 effects inputs of its own, including three parabolics for bat-crack effects, five microphones in or near each dugout and on-deck circle, mics in both bullpens, eight crowd microphones, and various camera and surround microphones. (Carpenter sends an encoded Dolby 5.1 mix back to Fox Sports center in Hollywood that is distributed in 5.1 matrixed and downmixed stereo versions.) Then there’s the 26 announcer mics.
“The challenge for this show is its sheer volume,” says Carpenter, who is celebrating his 20th All-Star Game mix (17 on Fox and the others on NBC and ABC). “Not so much the volume as the number of sources. Bob [Qua] is already on his second layer [of the multi-layer console]. It’s incredible.”
Complicating this is the fact that all of the three field bases are changed out every inning, to be donated by MLB to charity. That necessitates pulling the microphones from each bag and plugging them into the wires emanating from the base plug and attaching them to the new bag. Trying to keep up with that is bases submixer Anthony LoMastro, who prewired nine sets of three lavaliere mics for the purpose.
There are a few things helping keep order. For starters, there’s Citi Field itself, which Carpenter says is comprehensively cabled with fiber wiring, greatly enhancing signal transport around the event and giving all parties involved, including ESPN’s Home Run Derby the day before, plenty of elbow room.
The connectivity between all of the mixers and the wired and wireless microphones is handled by a Stagetec Nexus Star router, keeping all of the signals digital from end point to end point. Signals are routed using MADI from the Game Creek trucks to CP Communications’ truck, which handles all RF audio for the game. Also, in a first for this year, the four players wired for sound will be the same ones throughout the entire game, instead of the previous practice of switching from player to player during the course of the game. Tentatively, those four players are the Mets’ David Wright, Brandon Phillips of the Phillies, the Rockies’ Michael Cuddyer and Torii Hunter from the Tigers, who will each be wearing Quantum 5X’s Player microphone beltpack transmitters. Carpenter says it’s an experiment, to see if the consistency adds to the narrative of the game, though the possibility exists that he will lose some field-audio sources if any or all of those players are removed from the game.
Another new wrinkle this year is the use of one of Klover Products “true” parabolic dishes. Fox used these last year for NFL and they’ve been growing in popularity among mixers. Carpenter is using the 16-inch parab loaded with both a Neumann short shotgun microphone and an omnidirectional DPA lavaliere microphone, and positioned at the same height as the robocam behind home plate. Carpenter says he’s using two different mic elements in the Klover and intends to alternate them for bat cracks and umpire calls, although he may also try “feathering” both in at times. He’ll also be experimenting with Klover’s newest version, a smaller 9-inch parab, elsewhere on the field.
The All Star Game is MLB’s annual mid-season showcase, and it’s only broadly rather than intensely partisan since it’s league versus league. That’s an opportunity for the technology inside the game to shine and audio takes advantage of that. On-air analyst Tim McCarver, who is calling his own 22nd – and last; he retires at the end of the season – All Star Game today, told SVG that the sports’ audio in general and Fox’s Sounds of the Game sidebars in particular are his favorite production elements.
“Sounds of the Game, more than any other element, is what FOX has brought to the coverage of Major League Baseball,” McCarver says. “Microphones on the bases, umpires, and everywhere else you can imagine over the last 18 years since we’ve been doing the All-Star Game, is the biggest and best evolution in the coverage of the game. It’s how the game is heard as much as how the game is seen.”
Michael Davies, Fox Sports’ vice president of field operations, called A1 Joe Carpenter the “preeminent baseball mixer” in broadcast, adding, “You’re going to hear more things on a Joe Carpenter-mixed Fox baseball game than anywhere else.”
Carpenter takes the compliment in stride, saying, “It’s complicated and there are a ton of effects, but it’s always a great show to mix.”