Live At AES Symposium Addresses Broadcast 51 Challenges

by Steve Harvey. The Surround Live Symposium, held at the Manhattan Center the day prior to the opening of the AES Convention, focused largely on the challenges of broadcast audio in 5.1 from the perspective of end-users as well as manufacturers.
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by Steve Harvey.

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The Surround Live Symposium, held at the Manhattan Center the day prior to the opening of the AES Convention, focused largely on the challenges of broadcast audio in 5.1 from the perspective of end-users as well as manufacturers.

Kevin Cleary, ESPN senior technical audio producer, kicked off a look at audio challenges in the real world with the observation that the job of the mixer and the audio team is to try to “create the live, immersive feel” of the event. But there are a number of basic challenges, he continued, regarding what to include in the surround soundfield, and where. What do you get in the rear channels, he asked. “When the camera perspective changes, what do you get?”

Cleary presented a number of examples from ESPN’s coverage of NHRA drag racing that demonstrated extreme dynamic range, from “SPL in a class of its own” to the sound of the mechanics’ tools as they worked on the cars. The network’s proprietary X Games, which typically include a dense but stereo music soundtrack, highlights the challenge of vocal placement versus the announcer, who is always in the center channel. That’s a problem solved by the artist or label supplying mix stems that allow ESPN to place the singer in the center channel, rather than as a phantom center, so that the program audio doesn’t expand and collapse as it goes from music to announcer, Cleary explained.

Tom Sahara of Turner Sports reported that modern stadium design puts revenue-earning seats in every available location, leaving little space for mics. “That separation is no longer there,” he said. The solution has been parabolic and shotgun mics that can “reach out” and capture the sound of the event.

Sahara, who overseas a large team of engineers covering NBA games, the NASCAR Summer Series and MLB Division Series, favors the 5.1 mix over Lt Rt. “Downmixing is your enemy,” he stated.