MLB on Fox Ups Audio Ante

By Dan Daley

SVG Audio Editor

Fox Sports this year will broadcast all of its MLB on Fox telecasts
in HD and Peteris Saltans, an audio mixer for FOX Sports MLB, will follow the trend, watching has the number of inputs on his mixer steadily rise from 48 a few years ago to the 56 he now has on his Calrec Alpha and Sigma consoles. “And they’re usually completely filled,” says Saltans, who has been mixing MLB for FOX since 1996. “The amount of sound sources has consistently been getting bigger.”

A typical Game of the Week will have 32 microphone inputs, including crowd ambience microphones, camera mics and four on-field microphones near home plate and first and third bases, as well as an on-field reporter with a wireless microphone. Two players, one from each team, and one umpire, are also usually miked with the Quantum5X Systems PlayerMic. Announcers in the booth use Sennheiser HD 225 headsets and Sennheiser MD46 hand-helds add four more microphone inputs.

Then there are the pre-records. On-screen graphics, like the FOX Box that tracks scores of other games and the video switcher have audio SFX devices attached to them that automatically trigger sound effects when a graphic comes up on screen. There are three SFX channels altogether, plus two DigiCart Music playback systems.

While crowd microphones catch the noise of tens of thousands of fans to create a backdrop for the telecast, most of the source audio other than color and play-by-play announcements comes from the field. There are two parabolic reflector-shrouded microphones aimed at home plate and one each on first and third base. The microphones used inside the Big Ears parabolic reflector casings vary, including Sennheiser MKE 2, DPA 4060 and Neumann KM183. What they have in common is that they’re all omnidirectional microphones. “The [parabolic reflector] is the thing that creates the focus,” Saltans explains. “Using a cardioid would only narrow that focus further. The omni is the best solution because it picks up everything that gets in to the parabola and at the same time gives us maximum rejection of other sounds.”

Audio from the three player and umpire microphones are recorded on the EVS LSM XT HD hard disc video recorder or Sony DVW A500 Digital Betacam deck. Audio from those three mics can’t be used live for a number of reasons ranging from securing team strategy to the prurient-challenged FCC, and are vetted live by a representative from MLB and by the producer. But they will be used against a replay if appropriate or if a similar play takes place. “It’s a great way to put the human touch back into an image of a player or an umpire on screen,” says Saltans.

That summarizes an interesting cultural aside that’s been changing the sound of baseball and other sports over the last few years. As sports video games have become more popular and more audio-driven, sports networks have to do the same with broadcasts. “There’s so much audio associated with sports video games now, and the sound of live baseball has to live up to what kids have come to expect,” comments Saltans. “It’s a matter of keeping up with the times. It’s all entertainment.”