De La Hoya Fight Packs Audio Punch

By Dan Daley

When the world watched Manny Pacquiao win by TKO in an eight-round hammering of Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas, they got as much of an earful as an eyeful.

“The best moment of the fight for me was just before they called [the TKO],” says Greg Bellotte, who mixed the bout for SkySports from feeds coming in from host broadcaster HBO’s truck next door. “The referee came over to De La Hoya and told him he had better start defending himself or he’d call the fight [for Pacquiao]. Moments later, just after the ninth-round bell, he did exactly that. I’m not sure what they heard on HBO, but we caught it loud and clear and the director was thrilled.”

The stereo mix that went to SkySports’ U.K. audience had lots of sounds, thanks to the NCP 10 production truck with a Calrec Alpha console with Bluefin. Bellotte remembers that he could hear the crowd roaring inside the MGM Grand through the walls of the truck. Keeping them and an equally loud PA out of the mix, using a combination of adroit fader moves and subtractive EQ, was a challenge. But the reward was two pairs of very distinct-sounding gloves.

“There was a bit of controversy about one of the fighters having rolled-up strips of tape on his fingers before he was taped up for the gloves,” Bellotte recalls. “But whatever the reason, the gloves had very distinct, individual sounds that I tried to bring out. You could literally tell who was landing punches by the sound of the gloves.”

Bellotte had a lot of sources to work with, as many as 15, he estimates, including four Sennheiser 416 microphones hung from the lighting grid and angled in towards the ring, two more 416s on fishpoles that followed the action back to the fighters’ corners, and Sennheiser MKH70 shotguns on two handheld cameras that were on platforms even with the ring’s height.

“The fishpoles were able to tightly aim at the punches, so that really helped get that sound in there,” says Dave Free, the A2 for SkySports’ broadcast. A pair of E-V 635 dynamic microphones was placed near one of the high cameras to pick up crowd FX. (Not that they needed a whole lot from them.) The referee was wearing a Sennheiser SK50 wireless lavalier package, the source of Bellotte’s inside scoop that seemed to foretell the outcome of the bout.

Bellotte feels that the sound for boxing is by nature hyper-real. “It’s presented as reality, but even if you’re sitting ringside you’re not going to hear the punches,” he says, adding that changing the levels of the punches according to the camera shot – lower for wide shots, louder for close-ups – really just takes that one step further. “There are different levels of reality, I guess.”

On the other hand, he believes, if you can get your microphones in the right place, there’s no reason to purposely enhance the sound. “I know that sometimes punches will be recorded during practices and they’ll try to play them back off the recorder as the punches land. I never cared for that. There’s plenty of reality in the ring. You just have to listen for it.”