George Curry works at the Calrec Alpha console in Game Creek's Dynasty remote truck. Personally, I've been watching New York Yankee games on the YES network since its inception in 2002. With first-class announcers, crisp graphics and 5.1-surround audio, it's always stood out as one of the best sports broadcasts in the business. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have the Yankees on the field. But behind the scenes is a hard-working, talented team of directors, producers, audio engineers, camera operators, video technicians and mixers who make it all seem effortless to the end-viewer.
On a recent game day visit to the stadium, I was able to observe them at work, led in part by chief audio mixer Greg Curry. Manning the Calrec Alpha desk on the Game Creek's new Dynasty mobile truck, this veteran sports mixer, with a background in studio audio, has the job of bringing the sounds of the ballpark to the listener—in full surround.
"I've got a pair of dishes behind home plate, in the wall," notes Curry. "They are spread as a stereo pair, and are loaded with DPA 4011 cardioid condensers in a Big Ear (parabolic dish). Then I have another pair of Big Ears, with one pointing at first base and one pointing at third base, which we call 'pick (pickoff) mics' in baseball. They have AKG 451 cardioid condensers in them. Along with that, I have two mics on cameras at low first base, just on the outside of the dugout."
Curry went on to describe the other field mics in the stadium. "I've got a few mics in the bullpens, and also a stereo pair of AKG 414s outside of the announcers booth, above the press mezzanine, running cardioid in an ORTF pattern. I've also got a pair of roof mics, up in the façade, again behind home plate. That maintains a strong centerline for me, as it's supposed to sound like you're in the crowd at the game. In the rear surround speakers, I try to deliver the best stereo crowd image that I can."
In the truck, Curry mixes through a 5.1 setup of Adams A7Xs, with a pair of Adams A8Xs for stereo monitoring. The Calrec console acts as an ingest point for stadium microphones, announcers, spot mics, video machines, the PA, video wipes, bug boxes, graphics, sound effects and music. "The truck is integrated using a very extensive Evertz router, which configures all sources and destinations and performs the necessary conversion between formats: embedded audio/video, AES, MADI and analog," notes Curry. “It's wired for 17 EVS video recorders. The audio to and from these units is embedded.”
Curry adds, “The router architecture in the truck has made it possible to have these recorders running in the ‘8-channel’ mode, which enables us to record a discrete surround signal in order to play back our pre-taped and field highlights in full surround. The embedded outputs of these EVS recorders are converted in the router and sent to my Calrec audio desk via MADI."
Currently, he runs four main outputs. "The primary is Main 1, which is the 5.1-surround output," he notes. "I also have a stereo version of that on Main 3, just to keep things clean. Main 2 is my effects mix, which are all of my field effects in surround. That gets recorded on 'tape,' so that when they cut between cameras, they get the same sound regardless of which camera they cut to."
Curry handles EQ/filtering and dynamic processing using a combination of outboard hardware and console software. "I don't want peaks in the LF/RF to cause the announcers’ stem of the program to go into gain reduction," he says. "I also want to minimize the triggering of any downstream protection processing. I want to have all the processing on this program to be achieved in the truck, before it leaves for the outside world."
The surround signals are fed to inputs 1-6 of a Dolby DP571 E-encoder, running in the "5.1+2" mode. "The Dolby metadata in my Dolby E encoder is carried through to control the Dolby decode devices in Master Control, which strip off the '+2' portion of our '5.1+2' Dolby E transmission, recording the stereo effects to use in their highlight packages," continues Curry. "The remaining surround signal is folded down to an Lt/Rt output to provide for end-users that require a stereo program. The entire surround signal and metadata are converted to an AC3 signal, which is the output format for the surround end-user transmission."
An invaluable part of the audio production team is A2's M.J. Law and Jim Parente. Both veteran audio techs, Law functions as the truck-compound and field A2, with Parente handling the announce booth. They both bring a level of expertise that clearly makes Curry's job behind the board go as smooth as possible.
So next time you turn on a YES Network Yankee 5.1 broadcast, or any baseball game for that matter, take a moment to appreciate the effort behind the screen. It's truly the definition of team effort.