Winter X Games Go All 3D, All 5.1

For the Winter X Games from Aspen Jan. 26-29, ESPN has taken the all-discrete-5.1 audio used for the Summer X Games last year and applied it to an all-3D-video picture for the first time. The network covered several events at last year’s Winter X in 3D, but this year’s coverage is all 3D all the time.

As a result, additional shotgun microphones have been laid out at certain venues on the mountain to reinforce the 3D picture. For instance, on the 7,000-ft.-long X Course, extra long and short shotgun microphones will be used to create the Z axis for depth.

This year, ESPN is creating more sound than ever at an X Games event but doing so with less cabling, says Kevin Cleary, senior audio technical producer, ESPN Event Operations. “We’re actually going from four production trucks on the event last year to two trucks this time.”

NEP Supershooters’ SS32 and SS21, fitted with Calrec Sigma audio consoles, are working the show’s audio, with Jason Blood and Florian Brown as A1s and Steve Kaura and Joel Groeblinghoff handling submixing.

To enable the increased inputs with a smaller audio infrastructure, ESPN deployed a MADI network with 17 Calrec Hydra I/O boxes located around the campus feeding a Stagetec Nexus Star MADI router.

“We’re using a MADI router to connect all of the venues as well as all of the submixes, comms, and audio transmissions,” Cleary explains.

All the audio available on all the channels of both main-mix and submix consoles are available to any mixer at any time, smoothing handoffs between venues. “That will make more inputs available for effects,” he adds. It’s an expansion of a strategy used on last year’s Winter and Summer X Games shows.

A MADI system was chosen over an embedded-audio approach because MADI offers up to 64 channels versus the 16 available with audio embedded in video signals, using a master clock for synchronization with picture.

The reduction in system complexity enables more-nuanced audio that will enhance the 3D picture. “We’re getting more show out of less infrastructure,” says Cleary. “That’s a great thing to achieve.

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