Women’s Gymnastics Offer Surprisingly Robust Soundscape
Mixing audio for women’s gymnastics may seem a jarring contrast to mixing the slam-bang of the puck and the check of NHL games, but A1 Steve Miller has been finding ways to bring out the robustness of feminine gymnastics through sound.
He has had plenty of experience mixing for hockey games, especially since NBC Sports and the NHL sealed a 10-year U.S. broadcast-rights agreement last year. However, he’s new to gymnastics.
“This is the first year gymnastics are on the SEC Network, and the first time I’ve mixed the sport, and it’s surprising how much sound is in there,” he says. The Southeastern Conference gymnastics are now live on SEC Network, with NCAA Women’s Gymnastics National Champion Florida facing conference opponent Auburn University. For the first time in conference history, 10 of the regular-season meets will be televised live. In total, 21 SEC meets will be carried on SEC Network, ESPN2, or ESPNU this season.
Miller has been finding interesting mic placements on the four main corners of women’s gymnastics: the uneven bars, the balance beam, the floor exercises, and the vault. Surprisingly, an Electro-Voice 635A handheld is a good candidate for the vault in particular, with its thick padding. He slides the mic inside the pad supports on either side of the vault, turning it into a kind of kick drum, adding low-end effect. “With the 635’s omni pattern, I can catch sound of [the gymnasts’ dismounting] from either side,” he explains.
He layers in some Sony 77 lavaliere microphones beneath the vault body, adding extra dimension and midrange to the mix.
The floor exercises get some added audio dimension from placing Crown PCC surface-mount microphones, when available, on the hard floor around the performance area. The uneven parallel bars get a similar presence with lavaliere mics gaffer-taped at all four ends.
These close-up microphones bring in a lot of highly specific sound, which Miller will mix with the stereo crowd-sound image he creates using Sennheiser 416 shotgun mics facing the stands. There are six cameras on the show, four of which are handheld and all of which have shotgun mics attached, letting him capture victory-celebration sounds.
“What I can use in the way of microphones really depends on what’s available on the trucks that day,” he notes, underscoring the fact that gymnastics isn’t able to pull in the kind of resources that he’s used to on NHL games. “But, by using what we have, we can really put together a nice sound stage.”
No gymnasts or coaches are being wired for sound now, but Miller would like to see that happen. In the meantime, there’s a lot of sound for the taking, with crowds between 6,000 and 10,000 in the gym making plenty of noise and Miller keeping highly specific effects sound focused on the events.
“It is actually a very interesting sport to mic up and broadcast,” he says. “Since it’s college, I have a lot of liberties for mic placement and can attach microphones right to the equipment. And that’s what you really want to do with any sport: get in as close as you can.”