Audio for HBO’s Canelo-GGG Rematch Will Be Fast and Furious
Ambient and ring sounds, miked trainers, translators are part of the effort
The world’s two top middleweights, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, return to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sept. 15 for a highly anticipated rematch, broadcast live on HBO PPV and in more than 450 movie theaters through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network (DBN). The action will be fast and furious, which is what will make the event’s audio spectacular, according to A1 Randy Flick.
“It will be one of the largest fights of the year for any network, and the fighters’ speed will make it the most exciting match,” he says. “As a result, it’ll have sound to match.”
Flick, who heads a crew of nine audio technicians, has a lot of audio sources to choose from. Ambience and ring action will be picked up by Sennheiser MKH 816 shotgun microphones on fish poles in the hot corners and Sennheiser 416 shotguns placed in the neutral corners and facing inward. The boxers’ trainers will be miked for the bout, wearing lavs from Shure’s Axient wireless system provided by Bexel, which is managing the event’s wireless systems.
Overhead, an IMT Dragonfly cable-mounted camera will flit between corners and the center of the ring. There was potentially a traffic conflict with the overhead Audio-Technica BP4027 long stereo shotgun mic, so the overhead mic will be attached to a remotely controlled servo-motored reel that takes it out of the aerial camera’s path between rounds and brings it back in to pick up the fight action.
“There are no commercial breaks on pay-per-view,” Flick notes, “so, when ring action ends, we go right to the hot corners and cover those heavily with the 816s and lavaliers.”
Besides the trainers and the fighters, viewers will also hear translators putting any Spanish or Russian (Ukrainian Golovkin’s native tongue) spoken in the corners into English in real time. Flick, who’ll be mixing on a Calrec Sigma console with Bluefin in NEP’s SS17 truck, says he’ll ride the audio between those in the corners and the translators carefully, letting viewers who speak those languages hear them enough of them to follow but keeping the English translations front and center.
“What I especially like about the translators that HBO uses is that they keep all the energy that the speaker himself is putting into a conversation,” he says. There are no verbal holds barred, he adds: “If a trainer is getting down on a fighter with some choice words, they’ll translate them, word for word.”
The PPV show is mixed in stereo. However, the ambient-sound elements will be used to create a 5.1 surround mix for the rebroadcast a week later on HBO. That remix will be done with a Linear Acoustic/Telos Alliance UpMax v4 Surroundfield controller.
Another device, the Dugan automixer, provides its own special assistance for the PPV show. As the matches grow bigger and louder in the venue, ambient-sound leakage into the five announcers’ Sennheiser HME-26 headsets and five Sennheiser MD-46 stick mics can threaten the broadcast-audio balance. Flick says the automixer automatically manages those channels without the choppiness typical of a noise gate and can do so for multiple sources without excessive noise pickup.
“The PA systems on events like these have gotten out of control in recent years in terms of volume, as promoters try to turn them into rock concerts,” he explains. “When you open up the announcer and translator headsets and the stick mics, you’re letting more noise into the broadcast audio. The automixer, which has smart technology to actively balance out all of those inputs, is how we battle that.”
Additional technology for boxing includes a new RF partyline comms system developed for the show by CrewCom. The broadcast staff will be fitted with 20 beltpacks operating in the 900 MHz range, the first time in that part of the spectrum since the recent RF repack. Flick says he and HBO’s RF staff will be keeping an eye and ear out for spurious emissions from what are expected to be more than a dozen broadcast teams globally. (Coincidentally, the most active mobile user of the newly reallocated RF spectrum is T-Mobile, namesake of the bout’s venue.)
Expect a lot of sound when the bell rings. “The punch sounds are the real focus of boxing,” says Flick, “and the middleweights are my favorite for that: they hit hard and hit often.”