Despite 22-Minute Glitch, World Series Gets Big Sound

At 8:18 p.m. in Kansas City on Tuesday, in the audio compartment of NEP’s EN2 truck, Fox Sports A1 Joe Carpenter was waiting for the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series to start when he noticed the lights on the Calrec Apollo console in front of him begin to flicker. A connection deep inside the limbic part of the brain of an audio mixer immediately recognizes what’s about to happen, well before the frontal lobes can find the words for it.

WS“It’s just instinctual: you hit ‘save’ as fast as you can,” he says, referring to the console computer’s memory of level, dynamics, and other presets carefully built during rehearsals and tweaked during the game. “You don’t think about it, you just do it.”

Upstairs in the stadium, submixer Bob Qua watched the indicator lights on his six-channel Behringer monitoring console quickly fade for no apparent reason. “I mix on headphones, so it took me a few seconds to realize that there was a problem,” he recalls. “At first, I thought it was the power cord, but then I could see that there was no synch on my program monitor, and the viewfinder on camera 2, which is right in front of me, was black, That’s when I knew we were dead in the water.”

What Fox Sports later described as “a rare electronics failure [that] caused both the primary and backup generators inside the Fox Sports production compound to lose power” had taken down the Fox Sports suite of production trucks. Within five minutes, Fox had moved its operations to the MLB truck next door, which was handling the international feed for the Series; it moved them back again once the 22-minute outage was restored. Disaster had been averted: the Calrec console had done an autosave, and all Carpenter had to do was redial the phone connections. Still, he says, “it was a pretty wild few minutes.”

Microphone Placements
The audio configuration that had to be restored was a complex one. Qua was managing 40 effects mics strewn across the field, including all three bases and the parabolic and other microphones set up by lead A2 Frederick Ferris, who is responsible for sound capture around home plate and the dugouts. MLB also permitted one player or one coach from each team to be wired for sound.

Not every microphone placement paid off. Qua notes the six lavaliere mics placed on the chain-link fences that protect the LED monitors in the two power alleys. Players did run into them, but they didn’t produce the hoped-for sound effect.

But another shot-in-the-dark placement — two wireless mics just beyond the deep-centerfield wall — produced a literal bell-ringer when Jorge Soler’s game-tying home run clanked nicely on a piece of tin there. “It was a long shot: it’s over 400 ft. out there, so not a lot of balls get that far,” says Qua. “It sounded nice on the replay.”

Another serendipitous placement saw a PCC boundary mic placed on the digital signage above the bullpens. Normally, a pair of Sennheiser 416 shotgun microphones there pick up pitcher and catcher glove sounds, and PCC mics are usually placed on horizontal surfaces, such as floors. The PCC here paid off. “It was up high,” he explains, “With the way the bullpens are shaped, they act like a huge parab, and the PCC was the microphone in the middle. It was a great-sounding piece.”

The whole World Series is sounding better than ever, but, as Qua and Carpenter survey the complex array of microphones covering the field, they know that it is going to get harder as they head to Citi Field in Queens for Game 3 on Friday.

“We had four days to lay this all out between the end of the ALCS and today,” says Carpenter. “Every Game 3 is always tough because we have to rebuild it all in a day and a half.”