Pictured at the Stagetec Aurus submix console during
the NBA Western Conference Finals, Jonathan Freed
used a Nexus network/router system to distribute
audio and to control his digital mics. LOS ANGELES, CA—Searching for a method to control his collection of digital microphones over a great distance, sports television mixer Jonathan Freed discovered that Stagetec’s Nexus audio network and routing control system fit the bill nicely, and adopted it for coverage of NFL and NBA games toward the end of 2010.
As Freed related, using Neumann’s Digital Microphone Interface (DMI) as a converter for his Neumann and Sennheiser mics also offered the opportunity to remotely control them using a laptop. But the location of the audio truck can be a challenge.
“In sports television, the console is usually very far from the microphones that you’re using on the field or the court. The limit of control to the DMI box via USB is only tens of feet. So there’s really no way to connect a laptop over 1,000 feet back to the DMI,” commented Freed.
“Because of the great distances, I started looking for systems that would allow me to transport the audio back to the mixing desk and also allow me to control the microphones. There are several solutions on the market. That led me to the Nexus device, purely because it would allow me to control the digital mics over fiber from any distance.”
Freed adopted not only the Nexus Truematch digital mic preamps but also the XER-M interface card, which supports the control and processing of digital mics compliant with AES-42, allowing control of settings via the Nexus GUI.
Initially acquiring a demo system to evaluate Nexus on the road and on-air, Freed quickly quickly took a shine to it. “I began noticing all the other terrific aspects of the systems— it’s extremely versatile, expandable and scaleable, and the performance is incredible with analog mics as well as digital.”
One major challenge at any televised sporting event is the distribution of audio signals to the many broadcast entities typically set up in the truck compound, especially using traditional copper wire solutions. “Copper is easy, but it takes a lot of man-hours, it’s a lot of weight to carry around, and the performance isn’t as good as a fiber network,” he pointed out. “The scalability of the Nexus system to do things like compound distribution, as well as bring the mics in from the sports field, is really attractive.”
Freed has been handling audio for NBA games for the past 22 years, and during this season’s games utilized Nexus to transport mic signals from the announce booth and his crowd and effects mics located near the booth. Those included Sennheiser MKH 8060 and MKH 8070 mics, both with and without the MZD digital adaptor, as well as his Neumann KMD crowd mics.
“I come from several decades of recording studio work prior to television, so I’m a very big fan of being careful about where you put your crowd arrays so that you’re not folding in a number of mics at great distances from each other and trying to turn that into one convincing sounding point in space,” he said.
“I like getting my ambient mics and surround field from one location, and then trying to make it sound like you’re seated in the stands at the center of the court. You can hear people behind you clapping and talking, as well as the size of the ambience. When it all falls right together, it’s sort of a holographic experience.”
Speaking just prior to the NBA Finals, Freed added, “Lately, our shows have been discrete 5.1 so I’ll put a surround array up high and augment that with a front-facing stereo pair, then mix those together to adjust the size of the crowd.”
When the final games roll around, he continued, “It can expand to many more cameras and a lot more spot mics for the Finals, when we have lots of time and lots of expectations to deliver great sound.” At that point in the year, a submixer is added to handle the effects mics and supplement the production mix.
It’s a different discipline to mixing music, he acknowledged. “It’s loud, noisy sports on TV. But there’s a benefit for the consumer if it sounds great, exciting and big.” And digital technology, especially the pickup clarity and absence of noise associated with the digital microphones, has really helped Freed deliver that experience: “The detail is just tremendous.”