Fox Sports All-Star Audio Goes Deep for 3D

Fred Aldous enjoyed some newfound freedom while mixing the discrete 5.1 audio for the MLB All-Star Game on DirecTV last week. Fox Sports’ senior audio mixer and consultant was on hand as part of joint venture of Fox and the satellite broadcaster to put baseball’s midpoint contest into 3D.

Aldous used the same announce and effects elements as Joe Carpenter, who was mixing the 5.1 audio for the Fox broadcast in the Game Creek FX “A” truck on a Calrec Alpha console with Bluefin. But, since the DirecTV telecast was going to stay discrete all the way through to the service’s end users and not be downmixed, Aldous was able to push the boundaries of surround mixing a bit further than usual.

“With a fully discrete mix, you don’t have the concern of having to hold the effects back in certain spots so as not to have them affect the downmix to 2.1 and possibly interfere with the level of the announcers,” he explains. “I could be more aggressive in moving the effects around and keeping their levels up.”

Working from the NEP Supershooter 32 truck, which also was fitted with a Calrec Alpha console with Bluefin and had handled the Home Run Derby on ESPN the night before, Aldous was able to do such things as leave the home-plate and umpire microphones on longer, picking up more banter among the batter, catcher, and umpire. He could also open up the four player microphones as base runners moved around.

“You could really get a lot more sense of the interaction between people on the field this way,” he says. Also helping was that, like premium cable channels, satellite transmissions are not subject to FCC scrutiny, so Aldous could take more of a risk with player-banter channels.

All of the legacy two-channel audio passed through a DTS Neural upmixer in real time as the game progressed, giving the audio a consistent 5.1 throughput.

Aldous notes that the energized discrete 5.1 soundtrack complemented the 3D broadcast well. “People said it really helped bring the three-dimensional effect out nicely.”

The All-Star Game broadcast also marked another milestone: it was the first MLB game since 1994 mixed by Aldous, who spends most of his year mixing NASCAR and NFL broadcasts for Fox. It wasn’t a cold start since, over the weekend prior to the All-Star Game, he had mixed three games in Seattle, which had served as practice runs for the 3D show.

“But I wouldn’t say I eased back into it,” he says. “I’d say more like I jumped.”