NLCS Sound Gets Creative Placement

Broadcast audio for the hard-fought National League Championship Series on Fox Sports ran up against as many challenges as the San Francisco Giants’ Game 2 bullpen. But, where Giants manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t able to fix his problems, the Fox Sports audio team found a way to take care of theirs.

For Games 1 and 2 at St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, which A1 Joe Carpenter describes as a perfect landscape for effects and crowd sounds, he and A2s Fred Ferris (field-level effects microphones) and Demian Padron (crowd mics) were able to place three Big Ears parabolic-microphone enclosures on the field. Then the series moved to San Francisco’s AT&T Park, “the perfect storm,” in Carpenter’s words — one that the Fox Sports audio team will face once again with the Giants headed to the World Series.

“In St. Louis, we had a lot of latitude as to where we could place microphones,” he says. “We put the Big Ears in padded boxes spread wide around the plate area, about 45 degrees to the sides of and behind the umpire. We got great effects sound from there while the padded boxes really isolated the mics from the crowd noise. And, in St. Louis, the fans can be super quiet for much of the time; they cheer when it’s appropriate, but, otherwise, they’re pretty quiet. It’s perfect: not a lot of ambient noise, and the mics are well-isolated.”

In San Francisco, however, it was the complete opposite: a perpetually boisterous crowd surrounded a nettlesome home-plate situation, where fan seats partially below ground level and emergency-door–access rules severely limited parabolic placement. The only place to put the two parabs that could fit into the area was up, attached to the sides of the foul-ball net, pointing down at the home-plate area 15 ft. below.

“That was the perfect storm,” Carpenter points out. “The parabs were exposed all the time to a crowd that’s noisy all the time.”

The issue was mitigated with smaller parabs: a Klover 16-in. model with a 200-ft. reach was mounted in its own 24- x 27-in. box, enabling the mikes to get in a bit closer and reducing some of the spillover noise.

Getting Leverage
Carpenter says such situations are not uncommon in baseball, where fan seating can be very close to the action, but they become more critical during postseason or big games. In some cases, season-ticket holders have insisted that parabs be moved out their line of sight, forcing the audio crew to look for alternative locations.

“It’s always a compromise,” he says, adding that. in recent years, as the networks, leagues, and teams have become more aware of the importance of sound in the broadcast, audio has had increased leverage. “We always tried to find a happy medium, but at least now there’s more give and take. They will cut us more slack when it comes to where we place the microphones.”

Carpenter and Ferris also took some time to experiment with microphones and placements. In addition to the standby Sennheiser 416 shotguns, four of which were used in pairs atop the foul poles, Ferris placed an Audio-Technica AT4050 stereo condenser microphone at center field to capture crowd sound for the surround channels. AT4024 stereo shotguns were put in high positions at first and third bases, and another pair was aimed down from above home plate.

Carpenter, mixing on a Calrec Alpha in the Game Creek Dynasty truck in San Francisco and in NEP’s NCPX in St. Louis, says it might look like overkill but each stadium is different acoustically and, more important, each game is completely unpredictable when it comes to what will be making noise.

“If there’s a guy out there banging on a drum the whole time, I need to be able to pull that area back but still have enough of an array that I can keep the sound full,” he explains. “You don’t want really specific sounds sticking out in the mix.”

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