Sennheiser mics bring right mix to World Series

Anyone experiencing the 5.1 broadcast of the Rox and Sox on Fox in this year’s Fall Classic may have noticed that the sound of the ballpark was so realistic that it transported them right into the bleachers at Coors Field and Fenway Park. That is due, in no small part, to Fox Sports Audio Mixer Joe Carpenter adopting Sennheiser’s new MKH 8000 Series microphones for critical field and crowd coverage during the Major League Baseball World Series between the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox. This not only enhanced the surround mix but also improved the stereo downmix.

Carpenter first used Sennheiser MKH 8020 omni-directional and MKH 8040 cardioid pattern microphones on-air during the American League Championship Series playoffs between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox on TBS. He initially experimented with them during the divisional playoffs between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs. “I used the MKH 8020 with parabolic microphone reflectors behind home plate for the bat cracks and field effects,” says Carpenter, an independent audio mixer who has worked in sports broadcasting for many years. “I used the MKH 8040s as an X-Y stereo pair in center field for the crowd in my surround channels.

A smaller parabolic reflector outfitted with a Sennheiser MKE-2 lavalier mic was also positioned behind home plate.

Carpenter reported that, while he might typically use a narrower pattern mic, the omni-directional MKH 8020 was better suited for pairing with the parabolics, especially at Fenway Park.

“In Boston, the parabolics are mounted up on a screen behind home plate. If foul balls go back there and knock them slightly off axis, cardioids are not as forgiving, because the pattern is a little tighter. My guys can’t get to them during the game, so we have go with what happens. So I had the omnis in there.”

The MKH 8040 microphones in center field have improved the sound of the crowd in the surround channels and have the additional advantage of improving the downmix to stereo, says Carpenter. He typically notches out crowd noise in the 710Hz to 820Hz range from the parabolic mics positioned behind home plate in order to focus on the crack of the bat and the pop of the glove in the front channels, he says. “But I also want there to be that nice, bright, big crowd bed in there. I use those cardioids, which sound so warm, and I brighten them up a little bit. Letting the encoders naturally do the downmix, those MKH 8020 mics spill back into my front channels and also brighten up my rear channels, which creates a nice downmix.”

A crowd submix of microphones in the announce booth, above first and third base and on cameras positioned in the crowd are available to feed into the front speaker channels, he elaborates. “But I don’t always have those mics open when I have the bat crack mics open. I try not to feed too much into the front. What’s happening naturally in the downmix is that the bright rear crowd is keeping my crowd mix brighter and more natural. The natural out of phase information from my rear channels that folds back into the front is brightening up my crowd bed, so it doesn’t sound so hollow with only the parabolics open. That’s something new that I haven’t tried before.”

Carpenter has also been impressed by the ability of the MKH 8020 mics in the parabolics that were aimed at home plate to handle high sound pressure levels. “I like to find a position behind my audio source, which is the catcher’s mitt and the bat, and aim them more toward an area of the stadium that doesn’t have a huge amount of crowd. Otherwise I’d pick up direct crowd – sometimes too much. But in Cleveland I had no choice on my position because of the dugout suites that they have around the home plate area, so I had to put them in an aisle way and at a certain height where there was no choice but to have them aiming into the loge levels of the first and third base crowd.”

“These microphones, in particular, when the crowd went ballistic, were able to handle the sound pressure levels a lot better than previous microphones that I’ve used. I’ve never used a small diaphragm in those parabolics; I’ve typically used a lavalier. Usually I really have to worry about gain structure, but I was still getting my focal point and the crowd noise wasn’t blowing me away. Even though they’re omni microphones they worked very well that way. They inherently handled it.”