Sennheiser’s Sports Microphone Array, Lawo’s Kick Seek Synergy

Joint venture could combine immersive sound and real-time ball tracking

In a high-tech version of the synergy between chocolate and peanut butter, Lawo’s Kick soccer ball-tracking system may be headed for a joint product venture with Sennheiser’s AMBEO immersive-audio Sports Microphone Array. Productization of the combined technology platforms is under consideration for 2020.

“There’s no final decision yet,” says Brian Glasscock, project manager, AMBEO, Sennheiser, “but we hope to have more information about that by early next year.”

Lawo Kick for soccer generates real-time data ball-tracking system.

Kick’s camera-based technology generates real-time tracking data of sound effects on a soccer pitch. From the venue’s microphones, the system determines which microphone can best capture what is happening on the field at any given time and automatically sends the necessary commands to the mixing console to open the appropriate microphone’s channel. The software remotely controls channels on a Lawo mc2-series audio-mixing console or an mc Micro Core connected to a third-party console. The software automatically balances the relevant channels, depending on which field-of-play microphone is closest to the action.

Part of Sennheiser’s broader AMBEO 3D audio initiative, Sports Microphone Array is intended to capture sound effects that are sufficiently discrete and pristine to be used as audio objects for immersive formats, such as Dolby Atmos and MPEG-H, using beamforming technology developed for Sennheiser’s corporate overhead microphone arrays. Kick’s data would cue the appropriate microphones in the array, covering the field of play in a much more immersive manner than typical camera-mounted or other sideline transducers do.

Sennheiser AMBEO Sports Microphone Array captures sound for immersive formats.

Both technology platforms are being applied initially to soccer, but Glasscock says that will likely change over time.

“Lawo’s Kick is well-integrated already across the European soccer infrastructure and ecosystem,” he points out. “We’ve experimented with [American] football, which is the next logical choice since the fields of play are similarly shaped. However, we found that the large number of people who are always on the sidelines in football tend to block the front of the array.

“We’re staying with soccer for now,” he continues, “but other configurations of the array could work well for other sports. For instance, we don’t have to have the entire circular array for every sport. We can adapt the software and reconfigure the geometry of the microphone array. We just have to find what works for each one.

“But we definitely see beamforming as the future of sports-sound capture,” he adds. “Just as Sennheiser invented the modern shotgun microphone, the first 416 and 418 models [changing] the way sound is captured from a distance for television production, beamforming is the next step in that concept.”

Lawo is equally enthusiastic about a potential new product. Confirming that Lawo and Sennheiser are in discussions about a joint effort, Lawo PR Manager Wolfgang Huber says, “Lawo is excited to take sports-broadcast technology to the next level by combining Sennheiser’s new microphone-array technology for targeted sound pick-up from the field of play with Lawo’s revolutionary Kick solution, which can control the directionality of the microphones and guarantees a consistent, fully automated, high-quality, close-ball audio mix.”

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