NBC Sports Audio Team Tames Ryder Cup Roar

By Dan Daley

The sequence of audio events for last week’s Ryder Cup tournament was, like golf sound in general: predictable enough, but it had its share of unknowns. With an estimated 40,000 fans on the fairways, what one of remote services provider NEP’s A1s once dubbed the “Ryder Cup Roar” was present in force. “You go from dead silence to the ‘thwack’ of the club and the thump of the ball landing, and depending on how all of that combines you get the ‘roar’,” says Ken Carpenter, technical manager for NEP and NBC Sports. “You know it’s coming but you still need a fast pair of hands on the fader.”

The sound for the Ryder Cup’s return to U.S. possession at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, would have been complex in any event. A pair of Sennheiser MKH-418S stereo shotguns were positioned at each tee and pair of Sennheiser MKH-416 short shotguns were on every green, covered with fuzzed Windjammer wind muffs and staked one to two inches off the ground, with a Sennheiser 418 at key positions, like the par-3 13th hole, to create a stereo crowd response. These were cabled back to the three-truck NEP 4 unit over what Carpenter estimated was more than 100,000 feet of 12-strand fiber bolstered by 24,000 more feet of DT12 multicore twisted pair. Cable was run in a hub-and-spoke array for holes 1 through 7, and then was laid to follow the edges of the course.

Wireless systems, comprised of Sony and Sennheiser components, with a dozen Sennheiser 816 shotguns roving the course for chatter and other incidental audio when the play action roamed too far from the fixed microphones. The Sony wireless transmitters had their output boosted with an additional power amplifier to increase their range. Microphones on the three camera towers picked up the crowd ambience that was used as a bed for the overall sound design.

Positioning microphones on the greens is as much art as science. “If the green is an uphill roll, you want to place the microphone uphill of the hole, but that’s about as much accuracy as you can hope for,” says Carpenter. “Over the years you begin to get a feel for different courses.”

The mixers used were an analog Calrec Q Series mixer for effects and a Calrec Alpha for the main mix. Onboard limiting was used to tame the “Ryder Cup Roar.”