Daytona Wreck Shows Need for Speed in Audio

The Daytona 500 is known as “the Big One,” but, this year, it actually made for slightly smaller sound in Fox Sports’ coverage.

Less than 30 laps into the race, contact between Michael Waltrip and another of his team’s cars set off a 14-car pileup going into turn four. Waltrip nudged David Reutimann into a spin on the race’s 29th lap to start the incident, and, suddenly, it was the Blues Brothers movie redux.

The crash itself had plenty of sound. Fox Sports submixer Kevin McCloskey had serendipitously put out extra shotgun microphones on turn two to pick up the acceleration as 43 cars gunned their engines into the backstretch. That gave A1 mixer and Fox Sports Senior Audio Consultant Fred Aldous plenty of ambient sound under the announcers as they began to report on the unfolding crashes.

Twenty seconds into the event, the POV shifted back and forth between long shots of the slowing field and the in-car audio/video feeds. Aldous put the latter upfront in the mix in real time, along with the racer-radio communications between drivers, crew chiefs, and spotters since those feeds came in off the two-second delay from a Yamaha M7 console operated by Mark Williams.

A wreck like the one at Daytona is always in the back of the television crew’s minds, but, as Aldous notes, at 200 mph, it’s hard to anticipate every possible outcome.

“Historically, something like this happens in turn two, which is where this one took place, but it’s still hard to open up all the microphones in time,” he explains.

As vivid as the crash itself was, the aftermath, as the remaining 29 cars picked up the rest of the race, was oddly quieter. The drastically reduced field meant less available ambient SPL across the spectrum.

Aldous says all you can do is try to rebalance the mix to keep the excitement level as high as possible. “It loses some of the bite,” he acknowledges.

However, what it also did was create more opportunity to focus on the in-car audio feeds.

“It was a different kind of mix at that point, a little more intimate sounding,” he points out. “We could concentrate more on the single-camera microphones in each car, which wasn’t contaminated with the ambient sound. It’s a double-edged sword,” he adds. “You don’t have all the elements that you usually had, but you now have a whole new perspective on the race.”