NAB 2016

SVG@NAB Perspectives: Quantum5X’s Johnson on On-Field Audio Going Global

Wiring athletes for sound has become an integral part of the broadcast-sports audio mix: all major sports and leagues in the U.S. have integrated the technique into their operations to varying extents. Now the trend is going global, says Paul Johnson, CEO of Quantum5X (Q5X), whose PlayerMic has become the icon for the concept.

He says he has seen an enthusiastic embrace of athlete audio in Europe in the past year, with three major networks — BBC Sports, Sky Sports, and BT Sport —implementing it, mainly for rugby and, to a lesser extent, for soccer. He suggests that this is a result of greater viewing of North American sports there.

“They are getting the NFL more often over there, and that could be influencing some of this,” he observes, adding that Australian football, soccer, and rugby have been using the technique for several years.

A more unusual application, however, has been the interest shown by India’s Star Sports for kabaddi, an ancient and highly physical game that has lately been getting primetime treatment on television. (The World Kabaddi League was formed in 2014, and, with 41 countries now participating in the sport, it’s angling for Olympics consideration.)

Player audio is particularly germane to kabaddi: the “attacker” player is obliged to chant the “cant” of kabaddi in a single breath, an activity that’s mandatory when a 30-second “raid” is in play to show the referee that the raider is exhaling and not holding his breath. With player audio, viewers as well get to confirm that.

Johnson says miking a kabaddi player is similar to that for rugby and soccer: the transmitter is secured in a pouch sewn into the back of the player’s compression jersey between the shoulder blades, with the wire to the microphone element crossing around to the front of the shirt.

At NAB 2016, Q5X is introducing the QR-2200 dual-channel diversity receiver with a 75-MHz bandwidth. It will also relaunch an updated version of its original QT-256 as the QT-3000 BeltPack, AquaMic, and PlayerMic, with new electronics and 3,000 frequencies across 75 MHz.

Johnson hopes to see even more penetration of athlete audio in the U.S. in the future. “We see great prospects for baseball in the next few years. They’ve been a little bit behind everyone else.”