NBC Sports Adds Dolby Atmos Sound to U.S. Open Feature-Hole Coverage
Immersive audio opens up golf’s aural treasure
For the first time, this month’s U.S. Open featured an immersive-audio mix. Dolby’s Atmos was used for NBC Sports’ production, which was done in 1080p HDR with 4K HDR distribution, along with an immersive 5.1.4 audio mix: surround sound (5.1) plus four height speakers (.4) for those listeners with Dolby Atmos immersive audio-speaker setups or soundbars.
“This is the first time ever that a golf tournament has been broadcast in immersive audio,” said Karl Malone, director, sound design, NBC Sports and Olympics, during the tournament. “This opens up the overhead aural plane above the lateral speaker plane to include the sounds of the U.S. Open course at Winged Foot. Special ‘height’ microphones have been placed around the course to immerse the listener in the sounds of the course.”
A pair of DPA5100 5.1 surround microphones was placed in both a forested camera tower and a general open-course camera tower, he explained. In addition, four Sennheiser shotguns in a 4.0 configuration were positioned vertically to offer alternative height ambience, which he said helped keep the soundscape free of the “the omnipresent 60-Hz audio purr” of the ubiquitous Honda generators spread throughout the course. Also, music and prerecord features were upmixed to 5.1.4 via a Linear Acoustic Immersive Soundfield Controller. The live mix was done by Senior Engineer A1 Jayson Polansky.
“It has totally opened up the room to the sounds above and around you on the course, to the wind in the trees to the sporadic aircraft flying over,” Malone said. “We were also panning some of the tee shots to the front heights, which really fattens up the sound of the hit.”
He noted that golf’s ambient audio has been its hidden aural treasure and that immersive audio has been the key to unlocking much more of it.
“Golf was always a sport I thought would lend itself to Dolby Atmos,” he explained. “The most obvious question for others is, ‘Why golf? There is nothing to hear in the heights,’ when in fact there is the whole dome of ‘room tone’ or ‘venue tone’ over your head. It opens up that plane. Sounds are more discrete. It breathes better.”
Dolby Atmos audio was included with the 4K picture on both DirecTV and Comcast 4K channels for the U.S. Open, as well as for all home games from Notre Dame College football.