Sixers’ Point Guard Is Wired for Sound

Viewers of the April 6 NBA matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Detroit Pistons were able to get up close and personal with rookie 76er Jrue Holiday. The league’s youngest player (he’s the first NBA player born in the 1990s) was hooked up with a Sennheiser wireless system, making him also the first NBA player to wear a wire during a regular-season Comcast SportsNet telecast. (NBA coaches have been miked during games in the past two years.)

The objective was to take the fan with Holiday from warm-ups through the game and later on Sixers Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet. “We’re here to upgrade the viewer experience, putting them right there next to this up-and-coming point guard,” says Shawn Oleksiak, executive producer for live events for Comcast SportsNet.

Holiday had a camera on him at all times during the game, the eight manned cams and two fixed cameras handing off as play moved around. To capture the audio, he wore a Sennheiser MKE-2 lavaliere microphone element attached with a mic clip to his jersey underneath his chin. The microphone wire was wrapped in moleskin (to prevent sweat-induced shorting) and threaded through the jersey. It terminated in a Sennheiser SK 5012 body-pack transmitter in a pouch belted to Holiday’s waist.

“The NBA chose this wireless system after extensive study to be the least obtrusive combination for a sport like basketball,” Oleksiak explains. “We’ve wired NHL and NFL players in the past, but they’re wearing a lot of padding, which makes it easier to attach and conceal a wireless system on their body. For instance, we decided to use the pouch to hold the transmitter because it would be too heavy to place on the waistband of the shorts.”

Holiday’s audio was transmitted to channels 1 and 2 of the EVS recorder, which holds EFX audio on channels 3 and 4. The machine operator made a playlist as the game progressed, logging key scenes and moments. During commercial breaks, Comcast SportsNet mixer/A1 Michael Giacalone sent the audio “packages” created in the EVS to the producer and announcers for review and then aired them during breaks in play.

Giacalone says he varied his processing minimally to accommodate the body miking. “I rolled off some of the high end after 10 kHz and some low end under 100 Hz, just to eliminate some of the extraneous noise of the crowd and clothing. I also boosted 3 dB at 3 kHz to bring out his voice. The compression is a mild 3:1 ratio at a -2 dB threshold, just to increase the presence of his voice.”

For all the technicality, the effort is still all about a narrative of the game. Says Giacalone, “We’re telling the story of the game from [Jrue’s] perspective, and the sound really makes it come alive.”