And Which One Is the Quarterback?

The San Francisco 49ers took on (and beat, 24-16) the Denver Broncos at London’s Wembley Stadium on Halloween, and the sound mixers got a bit of both tricks and treats.

Though the third time for CBS and the NFL in London,  it was the first time for A1 Kevin Little, who found the game fairly straightforward and not much different from an NFL match in the States. However, he notes, on-air talent Bryant Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf didn’t have the luxury of a sonically enclosed booth to work from. Instead, they worked out in the open the way their UK counterparts usually do for soccer matches.

In addition, the UK fans were also getting explanation of plays by a Brit announcer over the stadium’s PA system.

“The PA system was louder than anything you’d ever hear in the States for a football game, and the [PA] announcers are more descriptive and do a lot more talking,” explains Little, who has mixed the NFL for CBS for 13 years. “So I had to be careful about how hard to push those microphones. When you bring up the announcers, you’re also adding more crowd effects. The crowds were louder than in the U.S., if you can believe that.”

One counter action for that was to have the announcers’ headset boom microphones set as precisely on axis as possible in order to get the greatest off-axis noise rejection.

The London NFL game posed the same issue facing football mixers at home this year: the repositioning of the umpire and his microphone. He remains wired as usual, but he’s now only as close to the action as he used to be for the last two minutes of the first half and the last five of the game. Little says that bringing that microphone up at those times can actually unbalance the mix that he had managed to achieve during the rest of the game.

“You get used to the sound of the game as it is after an hour or so, and bringing in that other perspective suddenly doesn’t always work that well,” he says. “The microphone that used to be our highest priority has now become one of the lowest priorities.”

Much of that kind of on-field effects had to be derived from the four parabolic microphones working on the sidelines. However, that concept was apparently a novelty to the Brits.

Little says submixer Chris Carson had to give his British A2s a crash course in parab handling in the days leading up to the game, giving them lessons in how to hold and point the parab dishes and giving them targets to get them used to how the parabs are supposed to sound.

“Chris had them listening on headsets and running the mics so they could hear how just a very minor change in the point can make a huge difference on the sound from the field,” Little explains. “They had literally never operated a parab before, and, without the umpire mic being where it used to be, the parabs were the only way to get the quarterback cadence, so Chris instructed them to follow the quarterback when they came out of the huddle. The only problem was, they kept asking, ‘Which one is the quarterback?’”

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