Audio Team Aims for Nuances During League Championships

Baseball fans watching the National League Championship on Fox will hear a bit more detail as mixer Joe Carpenter and submixer Bob Qua, working out of the NCP 10 and Game Creek Dynasty trucks, build a denser soundscape for the series.

“One thing we want to do this year is hear things from the field that are interesting and relevant but that aren’t where the camera shot happens to be focused at that moment,” says Carpenter, who also mixed the Braves-Giants NLDS on Turner. “We usually don’t open the base microphones unless someone is on base, but, sometimes when you do, you’ll catch some interesting stuff,” like the Yankees’ Derek Jeter calling pitcher Mariano Rivera off the mound for a quick confab during last year’s World Series.

“It might be a coach calling from the dugout or something like that,” says Carpenter. “The camera is looking elsewhere, but what you hear is something that makes the game a bit more interesting at home.”

Carpenter says this kind of sound also piques the interest of Yankees’ play-by-play announcer Joe Buck. “Joe is very involved in the game; he’s one of the few announcers who wants all the effects in his headset mix. When he hears something like that, he’ll react to it, and the camera might go with it, too. It’s a little thing, but, when it works, it adds a lot.”

Umpires will likely be wired for sound this year, although they have their own kill switch and the audio is routed through the league and to tape before it’s offered to broadcast.

Carpenter expects to increase the number of microphones on the field this year, for a total of more than 70. “Bob has a 32-channel Midas board and a sidecar mixer, so there’s 40 channels of effects along.”

“Last year, we noticed that some players, like Jeter, will talk to fans in the boxes when they’re in the on-deck circle. So we might take a mic that has been in a little-used place in the past and refocus it on that,” he explains. “Also if there’s something in the stands that we think is going to be a regular part of the crowd effects, such as a band, then we might set up a mic for that, so, when they do pop out in the mix, we can bring them up and the camera can move onto them.”

Carpenter is also using channels three and four of video to bookmark more-isolated field audio. “I always have my submix going to channels three and four, so all of the audio always exists somewhere,” he says. “For the real-time replay, I think we’re going to get more into isolating specific bases so that, if something happens and there’s not a microphone right there, then we’ll have some relevant audio of it somewhere. We’re trying to use all the channels to tape for isolation instead of just as generic effects.”

Carpenter and Qua — this will be their fourth year doing post-season play as a team — are also always looking for the occasional odd spot to place a microphone, although exactly where is always the X factor.

“You put a lot of microphones out on the field, and sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot of reward for a lot of work,” he says. “But you do it because you never know when you’re going to get lucky.”

He recalls a game in Boston when they considered putting a microphone on the Volvo billboard atop Fenway’s left-field wall, known as the Green Monster, but ultimately decided against it since no one had ever hit the sign. “Sure enough,” Carpenter recalls, “that night, someone hit it good. You really can’t have too many microphones.”

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