Big Sound For The Big Fight — Mayweather-Pacquiao

Big events demand big sound, and that went double for the Mayweather-Pacquiao match on PPV from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last Saturday. Greg Calvin, the A1 for Showtime, which was sharing the show with HBO and other cable distributors, laid out what he called a typical microphone array for boxing, but one bulked up with numbers. Working from the NCP 14 truck’s Calrec Sigma desk, he and truck A2 John Nerolous managed 90 console inputs, seven of its eight groups and all of its aux sends; 152 tape channels; 21 patch ports; 28 stereo channels of effects; 26 talent mics; and 27 channels of IFB.

“We had the console maxed out,” Calvin says. “The challenge wasn’t mixing all of it — the challenge was setting it up in just a couple of days,” a reference to the bout parties’ often antagonistic negotiations, which weren’t fully resolved until nearly the first bell.

The effects-audio microphone array was what Calvin would usually deploy for a typical Showtime boxing show. These include four Sennheiser 416s over the ring — two in an X-Y configuration above dead center and one above each neutral corner, all hanging about eight feet off the mat. Sennheiser MKH 70 microphones were affixed to two fishpoles that could hover as needed above the fray. Each of six handheld cameras was fitted with Sennheiser stereo 418 mics. Along with four 416 above the crowd, these comprised the main left-right bed for the show; the PPV infrastructure didn’t allow for a 5.2 broadcast, so Calvin didn’t deploy the Holophone surround microphone he usually places in the lighting grid above the ring for Showtime bouts.

Additional action came from wireless lavaliere Sennheiser SK 50 mics worn by both trainers and the referee. But most of the center channel was taken up by the huge number of announcers on the show: like some broadcast-sports version of Noah’s ark, there were two ring announcers, two scorers and two interviewers for dressing room and in-ring, one of each from Showtime and HBO, which would also be sharing the rebroadcast the following weekend. Most wore Sennheiser 25 headsets or used one of the six Sennheiser MD 46 handheld wireless mics at the show.

(Because of the way that the fight’s contract was configured, Mayweather’s network, Showtime, actually produced the PPV show, though viewers saw and heard both Showtime and HBO announcers on the telecast. That’s according to Randy Flick, who regularly mixes boxing on HBO and who mixed the Mayweather-Pacquiao match world feed as well as the weigh-in show on the Friday before the fight, which was also a shared show on the cable networks. He also reminded us that he only previous joint boxing broadcast between HBO and Showtime occurred on June 8, 2002 for the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in Memphis, TN. In that instance, it was decided that the technical production of the fight would be done by HBO, which Flick was the A1 for.)

Calvin says that fiber in the venue, with stage boxes in the dressing rooms and elsewhere, along with an ADAM-card-equipped Hydra networking system, helped manage the large number of input sources. “Still, the biggest challenge wasn’t the mix,” he says. “It was putting it all together before the match.”