Hockey Night in Canada surrounds viewers with Holophone

Every Saturday night, the crews of CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC), one of the most widely watched weekly sports programs in the country, are responsible for bringing the action of the NHL’s games to viewers’ living rooms. On any given Saturday, there can be two-three early (Eastern) games and one or more late games (Western). With a push towards broadcasting games in High Definition, the HD crew was looking for a means to capture high-quality audio to accompany the true-to-life video transmission. One of the technologies they selected to accomplish this is Holophone’s H2-PRO surround microphone due to its ease of use and realistic sound capture.

The Holophone surround microphone has currently been used to cover several of the Toronto Maple Leaf home games at the Air Canada Centre. According to Kathryn Von Bezold, one of the audio mixers for the Eastern HNIC games (i.e. Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo), the construction of the H2-PRO allows her to make every viewer feel like they’re in the best seat in the house. “I want the viewer to experience the sudden rise of the crowds from the sides and behind while still focusing on the game in front,” Von Bezold explains. “The H2-PRO has helped me with that because the mic captures sound similar to the way our ears and head process it, so it’s as close to what’s happening as possible. For me, the whole thing with surround is that everyone has been focusing on transmission and mixing, but surround is also something that goes back to the beginning- how are you recording the sound? With the H2-PRO you are actually starting with surround.”

The H2-PRO’s elliptical design and multiple mic capsules allow the surround microphone to capture up to 7.1 channels of audio much like the human head receives and interprets sound, resulting in an extremely realistic recording with no signal mixing or manipulation required. For games at the Air Canada Centre, the H2-PRO is typically set up at the center of the stadium in a 5.1 format, down near the ice, and is paired with the tight follow camera.

In addition to superior surround capture, the mic has also been a real timesaver for the HNIC crew during pre-game setup. “The H2-PRO actually saves you time because previously you had to set up more mics to attain the same sound produced by the H2-PRO — that means more time,” Von Bezold explains. “Because you’ve got one surround mic, you saved a whole pile of time, which is pretty critical when you have to do a show setup the same day.”

When capturing sound for the HNIC HD broadcasts, the crew also has to be concerned with mixing in LT/RT (left total, right total) for those viewing the game in standard definition and for HD viewers without a surround setup. The recordings captured by the H2-PRO are easily converted into this type of signal. “You have to think of people that listen in LT/RT, as well as those that listen in surround,” Von Bezold continues. “The sound captured by the H2-PRO is easy to transfer to LT/RT.”
As Von Bezold explains, the CBC also selected the H2-PRO due to its versatility between audio mixers. “The mic can be used for live sports recording (for crowd or effects), studio recording (i.e. variety type shows either for audience, close micing a performer, or music mixing) and also for boom work (i.e. hand held EFP [electronic field production] recording). In this way, live mobile mixers, studio mixers and boom mixers/recordists are utilizing the same mic, making it compatible for pre, live, and post mixing.”

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