Tech Focus: A1s’ Favorite Mics — Why They Like Them, How They Use ’Em
In their own words, audio engineers on their tool of choice
A boy and his dog. Homer and his doughnuts. An A1 and his or her favorite microphones. All duos made in heaven — or, in the last case, over many years of critical listening and clever problem-solving of the challenges that come with capturing sound for broadcast sports. In the first of a recurring feature, three A1s tell tales of their preferred transducers and why they love them.
The ‘Fox Mod’
Ten-time nominee and winner of four Technical Team Emmy Awards, including for 2020 Golf on CBS and the 1991 X-Games, A1 Phil Adler has mixed for the NFL, NHL, MLB, and the NBA:
When I mixed the NHL for ESPN and Fox Sports, I was part of the team that chose the Crown PCC for ice (effects) mics, some time around 1996-97. Originally developed for the theater, they were new. Most mixers at the time were using some variation of a lavaliere taped to the glass and maybe some shotguns overhead. The Crown PCC got clarity and detail like no other mic — an absolute game-changer, and they’ve since become the standard. Fox liked the result so much they ordered about 30 of them. It became known as “The Fox modification.” Should have been “The Adler modification.” Oh, well…
Now I have a few mics I like better than what the trucks carry: Telefunken M80 handheld mics for on camera and some “vintage” Audio-Technica 825 stereo mics for crowd sound.
PS: When the Colorado Avalanche management tore my mics down off the glass before a Stanley Cup playoff game, I asked Crown to develop a clear base for my mics to make them “stealthy”: put them on the glass with clear tape, and they practically disappear.
Use What You Have
Broadcast A1 Jeri Palumbo has worked on the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cups, and esports in immersive surround and has served on the RF coordination committee for the NBA All-Stars and annually for the Rose Bowl:
While almost everything I do when it comes to domestic broadcast sports is the usual cookie-cutter mics and placements that almost everyone uses, there are times when you need to get creative with what you have, especially if your gear supply or options are extremely limited. At a smaller Duke University football game years ago, I used almost all field effects down the camera CCUs (no submix); it was a very small truck, and we didn’t have a lot of mics or options. I used the old workhorse Sennheiser hypercardoid MKH816s on end-zone cameras along with one MKH816 on the near handheld. The tight as well as distance throw of the MKH816’s enabled me to capture deep into the end zone and cross-field ambiance from the handheld, and the end-zone mics doubled as my field-goal–kick mics as well. (Yes, it worked!) Since we had only one working lav, I used the common EV635’s in the two near parabs so they would match; the remaining three MKH416’s that were available went to the booth hard cam and any remaining upper cameras to cross-catch audience/ambient crowd. I filled in the crowd from the booth instead with two SM58’s (yes, dynamic vocal mics!). While the norm is to use a 416 or similar for crowd ambience from the booth, the 416’s with their ability for capturing distance while having great feedback ambient rejection served me better outside the booth than in. The SM58 cardioids mixed in with the other 416’s from high cameras gave the illusion of a big, fat, rowdy crowd without singling out that one screaming fan. The show had a solid, robust sound without its being obvious [that] many elements were missing. Sometimes having less pushes one to think more outside of the box for solutions.
Flexibility Is the Plus
Joe Carpenter is the senior audio mixer for Fox Sports and A1 for the MLB Network’s Showcase games:
My favorite is the Sennheiser 418 ST. I love the way it responds whether it’s in close proximity or from a distance. I use them on handheld cameras and MōVI’s for Major League Baseball.
Sometimes it sounds so good, it might be the only effects mic I have open! It’s set up as a mid-side mic rather than as a stereo X-Y, and the side capsule has two condensers in it. I think it was the first MS condenser where it actually converted it to MS in the capsule.
I love how you can manipulate the image spread afterwards on the console. It’s especially great now that we’re using Megalodon cameras, where the operators go from extreme close to extreme far away. I love the way that mic reacts and the way it handles sound pressure. I use it now on almost every sport, especially with baseball because they let those cameras go out on the field. When a guy hits a home run, the camera will go out and meet him at third base and take him all the way past the home plate into the dugout. Sometimes, I’ll drop everything else out, and it’ll be the only mic open on the air and it just carries the shot.