CRAS’s MLB Deal Puts Students in the Batter’s Box

The  Diamondbacks-Padres series that took place Sept. 13-15 in Phoenix had nearly three dozen pairs of hands mixing the three games. It wasn’t an A1 relay race; rather, it signaled the first round of a remarkable and unique joint effort of major-league sports, a major broadcast network, and a media-arts school, allowing students access to live audio from a game ported directly from the broadcast truck as it was going to air.

Sitting in the newly commissioned remote truck built for the Conservatory of Recording Sciences (CRAS), 33 students took turns doing live mixes from Chase Field during games on the summer’s final Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Audio came from the effects microphones and booth commentary transmitted to Fox Sports Arizona and FS1 from Mobile TV Group’s 31 HDX truck. It was passed from that truck’s Calrec Artemis console over a MADI connection to the Studer Vista 5 console in the school’s truck, a 42-ft. custom-built trailer with a 15-ft. expando; also in the audio-control area are a JBL LSR 6300 series 5.1 monitoring system, RTS Zeus III communications frame with KP-32 and KP-12 panels, and  Blackmagic 16-input video switcher and 40×40 video router.

Three feeds from the director, producer, and AD provided additional realism, and a Go Pro camera mounted in long-time Diamondbacks A1 Fred Domenigoni’s mix compartment let the students watch his moves in real time. Each student was able to take a pass at the live mix during an inning or two, the results going to a hard-drive recorder, not to air — under the terms of the arrangement with the team and Fox sports, no audio content can leave the school premises — and will be archived to allow students to remix it later.

This level of access comes out of the new broadcast-audio component in the school’s curriculum, which was added last October after two years of development and is just now being taken by the first class of students. The broadcast-audio class element was developed in conjunction with Fred Aldous, Fox Sports’ Emmy Award-winning audio consultant and senior mixer. Robert Brock, director, broadcast audio department, CRAS, credits Aldous with also providing the introductions to key personnel — including Domenigoni; Mike Curry, senior audio engineer for MLB; and Scott Geyer, VP, broadcast, for the Diamondbacks — that led to the shared–audio-assets arrangement.

“Fred was the reason we were able to have these conversations in the first place,” Brock says.

Others also helped. Karl Braunworth, EIC aboard the 31 HDX truck, made the necessary on-site connections between the school and the truck; Calrec provided a loaner MADI bridge from the Artemis to the school’s Vista 5 desk. MLB and the Diamondbacks are also providing several video feeds that the students mix to and that are being assembled into a file that will be archived along with the audio, allowing future classes to remix the games.

What all this creates is a highly realistic sense of being in the hot seat during a live game broadcast. “The immersiveness of being in a truck, hands on the console as the game is going on play-by-play, is incredible and something you can’t get any other way,” says Brock. “To be physically in the truck environment is beyond simulation. It’s virtually the real thing.”

The students feel the same way.

“I have been to several CRAS Mobile Unit offsite events, but this one was the most revealing into what a job in broadcast would truly entail,” observes Taylor DePamphilis, a 31-year-old student from Lake Tahoe. “To be able to see and hear what happens behind the scenes at an event of this caliber has helped solidify the material we have learned in class.”

Adds Derick Ashcraft, a 33-year-old student from Vermillion, OH, “Hearing the calls from the director in live action was nothing I’ve ever witnessed. I have a newfound respect for what it takes to put on a show of that caliber.”

Domenigoni says he’ll be taking on several students in a post-graduate mentoring process. “The trailer is an extension of the classroom, and they’re getting the kind of training that no other school is offering.”

CRAS plans to repeat the arrangement for several Diamondbacks games next season. These will contribute to a library of audio and video of games that future students can remix. These will be joined by 80-track Pro Tools audio sessions of recap show MLB Tonight, which the league is providing.

“Everyone’s been incredibly generous with their time and their content,” says Brock. “It’s paying off with the interest it’s generating in making a career out of broadcast audio.”

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters