Audio Techniques Continue To Evolve

With sports-production departments under increasing pressure to do more with less, audio in particular is vulnerable to penny-pinching. So it’s not surprising that network audio departments now have a renewed emphasis on technique.

CBS Director of Engineering for Sports Bruce Goldfeder took the opportunity at the Super Bowl to gather many of his A1s together to listen to the difference in making the announcers pop out that dropping the EFX channels an additional 3 dB in addition to the -6 dB difference already in place between the stereo channels and the center channel. That technique will be put to good use for March Madness this year.

“I’m really stressing the importance of pulling back the effects, especially the bass elements like the crowd sounds,” Goldfeder explains. However, judicious application of upper-frequency equalization is also important in order to bring out key EFX, like sneaker squeaks and rim hits. And all of this puts renewed emphasis on critically listening to the Lt-Rt downmix of the 5.1.

Another key technique point is keeping overall audio levels uniform across games. “Because we’re cutting from one game to another during tournament play,” he says, “you really have to be aware of the level of the audio, so that it’s not jarring to the listener as we cut between games.”

Over at Fox Sports, Senior Mixer and Audio Consultant Fred Aldous continues to emphasize several strategies for mixing. One that works especially well in loud ambient situations (Aldous is doing Fox’s NASCAR races at the moment) is notching out the EQ in the EFX channels to let the announcers cut through more effortlessly. “I’ll pull the EFX channels back between 1.5 dB and 3 dB in the 1.8-kHz to 2.6-kHz range, and boost the announcers’ audio by about that much in the same range,” he says. “This way, I don’t have to change the gain structure, and it results in a much more even- and natural-sounding mix.”

Aldous says he tends to mix a bit on the bright side, which also enables him to use a lighter touch on the compression for the announcer audio, using a combination of the Calrec Alpha’s onboard dynamics and an outboard dbx 160A compressor. But he will lean a little on the EFX with a TC Electronic dB Maxx compressor.

“I like that because it’s frequency-independent, so I can lock out the wind noise and it won’t affect the rest of the content,” he says.

Hey, you have to fall back on technology a little bit, right?