Sennheiser Mics Take Viewers Inside Skins Game

By Dan Daley SVG Audio Editor

The annual Skins Game is one of the few chances golf viewers
and onlookers get to hear all the golfers all the time because
agreeing to wear a lavalier on your shirt is part of the term of entry (being a world-class golfer doesn’t hurt, either). Last weekend’s $1 million Skins was the
26th time the microphones got to follow one quartet from start to
finish at the Indian Wells Golf Resort, and this year saw World No. 3
and 34-time PGA Tour champion Phil Mickelson’s caddy, Jim McKay, also
wearing a lavalier.

The audio crew for the ESPN-produced and ABC-aired event can focus more
intensely than at other golf tournaments, listening for the wisecracks
that traditionally have characterized the Thanksgiving classic. “It’s
rare you get to have a microphone on a caddy,” says Skins Game producer Chris
Ohlmeyer. “It’s great to be able to listen in on the strategy
discussions.”

Pro golfers are no more inclined to wear microphones than any other pro
athletes. “Jim Thorpe was miked up one year and he felt he really
couldn’t express himself as much as he wanted to,” recalls Dave Free,
the A2 at the event. “He likes to mutter under his breath. The
microphone will catch that.”

All four golfers and McKay were wired with Sennheiser SK 250 wireless
systems, with a bit of extra screening to block the wind. Two traveling
Sennheiser 816 shotguns with parabolic reflectors were deployed at the
tees and greens to catch the hits and landings, with a third mingled
with the crowd. Another 816 was installed in the golf cart and relayed
via a microwave repeater on a crane, then via fiber-optic cable to the
RF truck and the main truck. “It’s very nice not to have hard-wire the
entire course when there are multiple groups of players,” says Free.

This was the second year in a row the Skins was broadcast in HD, but
the audio remains in stereo. Mixer Mike Pope, working on a Calrec Sigma
with the latest Bluefin update in NEP’s SS19 truck, created a basic
sound design out of stereo microphones picking up ambient wind, bird
chirp and water sounds. He panned the three effects handheld wireless
shotgun effects microphones at the tee, green and in the crowd hard
left and right, plus talent and all players’ mics. “I might put a bit
of upper-mid EQ on the player packages and filter the low end to remove
any wind rumble, but otherwise they’re pretty natural,” he says.

The challenge – and the fun – of the Skins’ audio is working the
players’ microphones, as though it were an improv ensemble at a comedy
club. “I try to have the player on camera’s mic open as they’re up, but
sometimes you need all four or five open when the banter starts,” he
says. For player packages, he assigns each player channel to the iso
feature of the Sigma and routes it through the console’s B layer to the
AV router, as needed. “Seventy to 80% of the event is those
guys working off of each other,” he says.