NBA Music Promo Goes Really, Really Old School
The spot features a mic that harks back to the previous century
The NBA is going “old school” this season, at least when it comes to the league’s on-air promo campaign. The new NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC promo spot seems conventional enough: it “raps” it up with a slick track written and performed by Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin, Hamilton) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, The Mindy Project), both members of hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme. The anthem celebrates the launch of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC, which debuts with the season kickoff on Jan. 20.
However, the convergence of an urban-music esthetic and slicker pop production is gilded with the use, on the track and in the video, of a microphone that looks as if it could have fallen off the stage at the Grand Ole Opry — in 1937.
Ear Trumpet Labs’ vintage-styled and wryly titled Myrtle large-diaphragm condenser microphone adds an Americana esthetic that serves to make the NBA, which has emphasized LFE-heavy urban-music styles in recent years, feel more musically inclusive. The microphone’s spring-suspended retro styling is actually functional: the mic element is isolated from mechanical vibrations, the design serving the same purpose it served in the rough-and-tumble early days of radio broadcasting. It features transformerless-FET, fully balanced electronics but combines those with a craft-construction approach using hand-wired electronic components, such as film capacitors and precision resistors, and hand-tested and matched transistors.
Myrtle Gets A-Round
Myrtle didn’t come to the spot based on any anthropo-cultural exigencies, however; instead, it satisfied an esthetic vision focused on circles.
“That vision began with a shape — round — so everything thematically had to have circles in the frame,” explains William Tzouris, the audio engineer on the spot, which was recorded at Brooklyn Studios in Long Island City, NY. “That included the microphones, because they were going to be visible in the shot.”
In fact, both Iglehart and Ambudkar are shown singing in the spot, each on his own Myrtle (attached to a microphone stand with clips from a Shure SM58). According to Tzouris, they ran through nine versions of the spot sequentially, changing only their wardrobe and each week’s team names in the lyrics as they shot the entire season’s worth of promos in one session.
Tzouris, who spent a decade at NFL Films and has worked on content from 10 Super Bowls and as many NBA Finals, says he was happy to find a microphone that fit the director’s esthetic vision but adds that he didn’t initially have high expectations for the Myrtle sonically. He was pleasantly surprised when the microphone was able to handle the session with virtually no processing.
“It sounds great,” he explains, “and it’s naturally pop-resistant more than 8 in. out and has great rear and side rejection,” making it a good choice for the duet. “We had a boom [microphone] overhead, but it turned out that we didn’t need it. What you hear on the spot is what we heard in the control room.”
The promo for NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC continues the urban-genre fabric of the musical themes of the NBA in this century, but it also broadens it both aurally and visually. And, at a time when even hip-hop is showing up on vinyl, having in the picture a microphone that looks like it just called a Gene Tunney-Jack Dempsey fight is about as retro as you can get.