The NHL Winter Classic Sounds Sharp As A Blade

The 2015 NHL Winter Classic may be a regular-season match, but its outdoors setting brings some changes, especially for the broadcast audio.

“We have to watch the weather, particularly the wind, which is something we don’t have to contend with in the arena,” explains Tim Dunn, A1 on the NBC Sports broadcast, as he surveyed the skies above Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., where the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals will plays the New Year’s Day match. Dunn says he’s experimented with various windscreens but prefers to avoid them on microphones if possible, to keep the sound sharp and clear. The other meteorological concern is moisture from either precipitation or condensation, though the forecast of clear and cold will help blunt those issues. Like other NHL games on NBC at this time, the show will be broadcast in stereo.

The other main challenge that comes with outdoor hockey is that the stadium setting positions the crowd further back from the ice than in an arena. To get the crowd sound up close, Dunn and A2s Doug Klyn and John Warner, along with RF specialist Danny Weaver have put up several arrays of 416 shotgun mics facing the stands, with their locations determined largely by the NHL’s concerns about sightlines and esthetics. “The big thing is get the crowd in closer, to make it sound big, which it is,” he says.

Effects mics are typical of any hockey show, with the core elements being Crown PCMs lining the boards to pick up ice sounds. Along with 27 talent microphones deployed throughout the stadium and several camera mics, the total microphone count is well over 50, which Dunn will mix through a Calrec Artemis console in NEP’s ND5 truck. If any player microphones are used, as they were last year’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, which Dunn also mixed, they will be deployed by the NHL, with a feed sent to Dunn’s console.

Inside the stadium, though, sound will react according to some interesting physics: sound waves tend to travel faster in warm air due to the kinetic excitation of warm air molecules, but it travels farther in cold air than warm as colder air closer to the ground acts as an inversion layer, helping sound waves propagate. That won’t affect the broadcast audio, but it’s something to think about when you’re watching a hockey game in what once was its natural environment.