Live From MLB All-Star Game: Audio Gets a Shared Approach

Tonight’s MLB All-Star Game is the first under Fox Sports’ new eight-year deal with the league, but it’s expected to follow a longstanding pattern of more action between the pitchers and catchers than on the bases (perhaps especially this year). And that’s making it the perfect environment for an experiment in sharing the audio-systems infrastructure at Minneapolis’s Target Field across several related events and among three major broadcasters.

Fox Sports will broadcast the All-Star Game itself; the Home Run Derby and the Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game, both played yesterday, were aired by ESPN; the All-Star Futures Game, a matchup between promising minor leaguers on July 13, was shown on MLB Network. All four events and all three networks shared effects microphones, including lavaliere mics in each of the 18 bases used (they rotate to be sold for charity after the game), as well as shotgun mics mounted along the outfield wall and in the dugouts, all deployed by lead A2 Fred Ferris.

The output of more than 40 effects microphones has been shared by the networks’ remote-broadcast trucks via a central MADI hub located at the stadium’s main I/O panel. The Corplex Iridium truck is producing the Futures Game for MLB; ESPN is using NEP’s EN-1 for the Derby and the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game; Game Creek Video’s FX truck is covering the Midsummer Classic main event. CP Communications is providing RF coverage for all three networks.

“I expect that we’ll be able to share between 75% and 80% of the audio [infrastructure],” estimates Joe Carpenter, who serves as A1 for both the Futures Game broadcast and Fox Sports’ main event. He says he suggested the idea of sharing resources once he realized that three networks would be involved. “MLB has never done a Futures Game, so there would be a lot of switching around unless we did something like this.”

He and effects submixer Bob Qua are using the same audio infrastructure for both the Fox Sports and the MLB Network games, but from different trucks.

By the time of the All-Star Game, Carpenter says, the entire audio system will have been thoroughly tested by the preceding events, which reduces pressure on the audio crews. “We used to have to wait until the Home Run Derby was over and then hustle out there and get the microphones in place for the All-Star Game the next day,” he recalls. “This gives us a leg up: everything is already in place, and we know it works, and we can have a chance to tweak things if we feel we need to.”

There’ll be a lot of sound on the field, including four wired players, two from each team, plus the home-plate umpire. Tonight, submix A2 Anthony LoMastro will be kept busy changing lavalieres as players rotate in and out of the game. However, this is the first year that the game will work with a three-man announce team — Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci — in the wake of Tim McCarver’s retirement last year.

More-complex audio for baseball is a good thing, because there will be more baseball on Fox this year. Under the terms of the new MLB contract, Fox Sports Media Group (FSMG), which covers Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1, will retain the rights to the World Series, the All-Star Game, and one LCS while adding coverage of two Division Series starting this season, according to MLB.com. FSMG also will double its regular-season national windows on Saturdays to 52 from 26, with 12 of those windows exclusive to Fox and as many as 40 non-exclusive windows on another nationally distributed Fox channel.