Winter X Games Have Snowboards and Sound Boards

Three hundred-plus microphones and 45 audio crew members will cover Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen for this week’s Winter X Games 14 (Jan. 28-31). Making that task a bit easier is the fact that ESPN has networked all of the mix consoles — three Calrec Alphas for the main broadcast mixes and two Calrec Sigmas and one Calrec Zeta for submixers — via Calrec’s Hydra system and a MADI interface. A total of 15 Hydra boxes are located around the venues, and the system allows any console to access any of the hundreds of microphones on the mountain.

“We do a lot of cutting from venue to venue, and this lets us keep the audio consistent and under control,” says Kevin Cleary, senior technical audio producer for ESPN’s Event Operations. “In the event of a [system] failure,” he adds, “any truck can also take over as the main audio rig as well. It’s complete redundancy.”

This will be the first time the Winter X Games will be 5.1 matrix-encoded using the DaySequerra DTS Neural Surround Encoder. The Summer X Games used that product for the first time last year.

One of the X Games’ new events presents interesting opportunities for audio. The Snowmobile Knock Out — a snocrosss version of the Summer Games’ Moto Step Up — challenges riders to jump a ramp and top a bar. The two posts holding that bar up will have Xducer microphones attached to them. “If a sled hits the bar,” says Cleary, “viewers will hear it clearly.”

The Xducer mics don’t have a diaphragm capsule, making them impervious to wind noise, the Winter X Games’ most persistent audio challenge. For the shotguns that make up the bulk of the microphones on the mountain, windscreens are the order of the day and range from standard foam covers to Ride’s Deadcat windscreen and pantyhose.

But the biggest accomplishment might be that the entire 7,000-ft.-long X course is fully miked. It has to be to keep up with the Flycam that runs along it. “We have to mic the entire course,” Cleary points out, “so that there are no dead spots.”