ESPN’s CFP Megacast: Big Sound for a Big Show

ESPN’s Megacast simulcast of the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship across multiple ESPN networks and platforms included a nat-sound feed to ESPN Classic produced using a DiGiCo SD9 digital audio-mixing console.

The audio for ESPN Classic’s telecast — including performances by the Oregon and Ohio State marching bands, Aloe Blacc singing “America the Beautiful,” and Lady Antebellum performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” — was drawn from more than 100 microphones positioned throughout AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. The audio was mixed by freelance A1 Jason Blood of Happy Helmet Productions. The CFP Megacast reportedly comprised 32 separate, simultaneous transmission paths. In contrast, most game broadcasts include no more than a dozen and sometimes as few as four.

According to ESPN, its CFP Megacast of the championship game, played on Jan. 12, delivered not only the highest rating in cable-television history but also the largest audience, as reported by Nielsen. ESPN provided more than a dozen ways — including multiple cable-television outlets, radio, and streaming — to watch the title contest between No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State and attracted a combined average of 34.1 million viewers and an 18.6 U.S. household rating.

“I was basically focusing on trying to capture the essence of what it would sound like if you were watching the game inside the stadium,” explains Blood, who has mixed broadcast audio for such sports events as the X Games, NASCAR, IndyCar, college basketball, and college football for such as outlets as Golf Channel, Tennis Channel, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, ESPN, and ABC. “From an audio standpoint, it was great, because we were just focusing on how to bring the best experience to the viewer at home.”

Although more than 100 microphones were located throughout AT&T Stadium by Game Creek Video, which had six remote units onsite, Blood reports that he was able to mix using a much more manageable number. “The SD9 console made it convenient for us because we were able to take just a couple of MADI streams from the submix truck and some AES feeds from the game truck and we were ready to go,” he says. “So we were operating on a more efficient scale.” VER (Video Equipment Rentals) supplied the SD9 console system.

“Basically, I got a game effects mix from the submix truck plus some other individual mixes passing through the submix truck,” he continues. “I had both the Oregon and Ohio State bands, the Oregon and Ohio State student sections, a PA feed, a referee mic, over eight mics surrounding the field for the marching bands [which they covered both pregame and during the halftime], plus a crowd mix. We weren’t necessarily dealing with an overwhelming number of independent microphones from the game, but we had a lot of feeds and mixes from it, and we were able to do our own show independent from the show that game truck was doing.”

Unlike a traditional broadcast, during which the commentators call the play-by-play and analyze the on-field action, Blood adds, “it really allowed us to focus on what the marching bands sounded like or what the student sections sounded like. It was a lot of fun to bring that atmosphere to the viewer at home, because that’s not something you get unless you’re sitting in the stands.

“It was an impressive show to be on, and I’ve been on Super Bowls and other big events before. This was right up there with them,” he continues. “The number of programs that were happening simultaneously was impressive.”

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