Summer X Games’ Audio Will Have Their Share Of Firsts

This week’s Summer X Games is when it all comes together – literally. For the first time, the events are all closely positioned between the Staples Center (Moto events), the Nokia Theater (BMX and skateboard Verts), the Event Deck (skateboard and BMX events) and Lot 7 (Big Air and Rally Car events). That proximity, says Kevin Cleary, senior technical audio producer, event operations at ESPN, which broadcasts the 17th Summer X Games July 28-31, is a big help for a complex show.

“With many of the venues and events closer together, you really get some perspective on how amazing they are,” he says. “When you see the Big Air ramp in the lot next to the Staples Center, next to a six-story building, you realize how big it really is.”

First Summer X in Discrete 5.1
The new configuration for the Summer X Games underscores some key firsts that will occur there this weekend. First and foremost is that it’s the first Summer X Games in discrete 5.1 surround, since ESPN went all-discrete earlier this year. In addition, each of the three mobile units on site — ESPN’s SS25 at the Park Street location, manned by main mixer Jason Blood and submixer Steve Kaura; ESPN SS32 at the Staples where Mark Cochi will mix and Devin Barnhart will submix; and the Denali Summit truck covering the Moto events, mixed by Florian Brown and submixed by Dan Bernstein — will be able to act as their own release points, sending signal directly back to ESPN’s distribution hub in Bristol CT (via ESPN’s production center on the same L.A. Live campus as the X Games). Previously, each truck’s signal had to be transported to a separate broadcast center prior to distribution.

“Each venue is now its own point of release, so we don’t have to worry about going point to point before getting to the viewer,” says Cleary. “Now, any venue can go hot at any time right to the viewer’s home. Each truck has its own transmission racks for this.”

Cleary says that there will be some new sounds to capture this year, such as the fact that the Rally Car events are outside on the street. “We’re going to get really great resonance off the sides of the Staples Center and the Convention Center,” he predicts. The new Moto Enduro X, which incorporates off-road elements including rocks, boulders, logs, sand, mud, a water-hole and special obstacles like giant tires, has been added to Summer X Games this year and will bring new microphone placement challenges inside the Staples Center.

First Time with All MADI, Fiber
But the mix of MADI infrastructure over fiber cabling that was introduced at the Winter X Games gets extended at this year’s summer edition, as does the use of a combination of Calrec Alpha consoles for main mixes and Digico SD10 broadcast consoles for submixes.

“There’s significantly less analog connectivity in this configuration, and that’s a first for the summer games,” says Cleary.

2D and 3D From The Same Mobile Unit
Another first for any X Games broadcast will see the 2D and 3D mixes coming from the same mobile unit. The same unit will simultaneously create the 2D and 3D mixes for both the domestic and international feeds. “”We’ll have one mobile unit doing four shows — 2D and 3D domestic feeds and 2D and 3D international feeds,” Cleary explains. “It’s going to be a challenge to sort out all the feeds and where they’re routed. The MADI and fiber will help with that, too.”

The mandate from one X Games event to the next is always to take the show to the next level — a tall order considering that there will be three X Games events in 2012, including another European one, and a total of six are projected for 2013, including four in Europe. The technology is what helps let each successive event top the previous one, says Cleary.

“This year we have the highest level of MADI and fiber yet, which lets the mixers pass the signal between themselves easily, and discrete 5.1 transport is a more efficient way to get it to the home,” he says. “It’s going to be a great show.”

SVG will be at the show, so look for more detailed reporting later this week!

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