At the Ballpark: DodgersVision Leverages New Audio System, Blend of Traditional and Contemporary Content
As the team with MLB’s best record, the in-venue team has the content to match
Although Major League Baseball is continuing with a 60-game regular season, the pulse of what makes professional baseball exciting will remain at home. In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 30 in-venue departments are forging ahead with operations inside of empty stadiums. SVG’s At the Ballpark series will take you behind the control room door and break down what it’s like to produce a fan-less venue experience in 2020.
Back in March, sports venues around the country were beginning to close their doors. As the world remained at a standstill, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the midst of a $100 million renovation of their nearly six-decade-old stadium. One glaring upgrade was a revamped audio system, and while other amenities will improve the experience for fans when they return, this new feature is paying dividends during the peculiar 2020 season.
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“We had some renovations at the stadium over the offseason,” says Greg Taylor, executive producer of LAD Productions, Los Angeles Dodgers. “Those upgrades included a new speaker system and new equipment in our control rooms.”
Bringing the Bass: New Speaker System Impacts the Game’s Audio Profile
Receiving new perks to use for any live event production is a treat, but when audio is playing a major role as it is this year, it’s basically an irreplaceable gift. In this current format without fans, production teams are tasked with implementing fake crowd noise throughout the venue. Since the franchise went forward with the renovation, the audio side of the venue was also part of these plans.
Despite the luxury of having this brand-new system and its positive benefits, it’s also presented a few production headaches along the way. With construction continuing in the early months of 2020 and into the regular offseason period, the team was locked out of the stadium and their facility.
“We really weren’t able to have many rehearsals until the teams started having their intrasquad games,” says Taylor. “At that point, we brought a crew in during the intrasquad games and kind of just went through the motions. We were trying to figure out what was going to be the best option for us. The main thing is trying to figure out the crowd sounds and where it was going to kind of help us.”
Due to the new audio system, finding the audio sweet spot was paramount. These Summer Camp games were critical for DodgersVision since it gave them some to come up with a solution and catch up to other teams who were working prior to these games. It was also important because the sounds of baseball add additional authenticity and realism.
“Along with piped-in crowd sounds, the other sounds of the game are key to bringing the [life] of the stadium back to where they typically are,” he adds. “[For example], our organist is playing crowd prompts and little fills here and there with music.”
Despite empty seats, DodgersVision is involving corporate sponsors in between innings.
All in the Visuals: Videoboard Show Contains Routine and More Recent Elements
Like most teams, the in-venue show looks a bit different in Chavez Ravine. Empty stands is influencing the messages being played on all LED displays, so the team decided to incorporate a mixture of old-school and more recent material. On the older side of the spectrum, the videoboard is still showcasing familiar sights, including the lyrics to a song that is usually sung 82 times per year can still be seen.
“We’re still doing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’, which some people are saying, ‘Why would you do that?’ but we’re trying to kind of create an atmosphere that’s typical of a regular game as much as you can,” says Taylor. “We’re also able to run a lot of kind of hype and pump-up videos, so we’re running a lot of highlight videos.”
As for the newer side, the Dodgers are showing features and vignettes that spotlight current events. One prime example, which was done on Monday, August 24, was a poignant tribute to the late Kobe Bryant on what would have been the life-long Laker’s 42nd birthday. The Dodgers donned No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys along the third-base line as the tribute played in the stadium.
Along with this nod to the community, DodgersVision is tapping into the fanbase that is watching from home.
“We’ve held a couple of Zoom watch parties with fans during a homestand and shared the footage with our broadcaster, Spectrum SportsNet LA,” he says. “We’re getting them to cheer for the team and do gestures like the wave and stuff like that. The SportsNet LA has been showing that during the telecast. We also gave those fans on that watch party, which is a small group of 20 people or less, a little behind the scenes look at what’s going on in the booth.”
One of the hype videos being played at Dodgers Stadium
Although fans are vital to the organization, another group of individuals that are important to the players is making their presence felt through video recordings.
“We’ve started to incorporate some shoutouts from their family members that since they’re not able to come to any of the games,” he continues. “We’ll look to do more of that as the season progresses, but it’s given the players a brief feeling that they’re engaged and watching them right now.”
This video, to signal the start of the 2020 season, features some fans cheering on Zoom
A Curtain Call: Saluting the Crew of DodgersVision
Whether it be an overhaul to certain aspects of the stadium or the random oddities of the current season, Taylor and the rest of his dedicated staff have navigated countless hurdles along the way. Despite all of these issues that seem insurmountable, DodgersVision is soldiering on for the sake of themselves and those that Bleed Dodger Blue.
A look at how the in-venue team produces content for a Dodgers homerun
“I’m very proud of everybody because It’s definitely a scary time for everybody,” he concludes. “We are taking precautions because it’s not only for yourself, but you also have to be looking out for your coworkers. Senior Director of Broadcast Engineering Tom Darin has done a great job in making our environment safe with plexiglass dividers and moving people around to socially distance.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers return home to face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, September 1 at 9:40 p.m. ET