The MLB All-Star Game Promises Sound Surprises for All

If you’re not sure what to expect in the way of sound for the MLB All-Star Game tonight on Fox, you’re not alone. Underscoring just how big the league has become, A1 Joe Carpenter says it’s the first All-Star Game in memory for which neither he nor any of his crewmates have ever worked at the venue, the recently refurbished Kansas City Royals’ home, Kauffman Stadium.

“That’s pretty unusual,” he muses. “Usually, at least one of us has worked at the stadium before.”

It’s also not the only thing that’ll be new this year. Carpenter is looking forward to working with a custom-made parabolic microphone dish, one that was tested by colleague Larry Myhre on some NFL games last season. It’s what Carpenter refers to as a “true” parabola, more bell-shaped with a sharper angle from the center, versus the more conventional semi-spherical commercial ones usually used to capture highly focused sounds for broadcast audio. He expects to load the custom parabolic with some combination of a lavaliere and other microphones, possibly including a stereo or M-S–type mic, and position it behind home plate, where it can be used to enhance the bat-crack effects.

“The thing is, it’s going to have such a super-tight pattern that we’re not sure how it’s going to work out yet,” he says, noting that too close a pickup on the plate area might capture some audio the league would prefer not be broadcast.

Compounding the situation is the fact that, with the Home Run Derby last night and the long list of players who will want access to batting practice at the stadium before the All-Star Game, there’ll be no time to experiment with precise placement. As a result, Carpenter plans to have A2/submixer Fred Ferris, who is placing his conventional infield-area microphones, such as bat-crack and dugouts, ready to make adjustments to the new parabolic between innings.

“We’re really not going to know exactly how to use it best until we hear the first pitch,” he says.

In addition to Ferris, A2s Anthony LoMastro and Bob Qua will be working the base line, outfield, and other mics. Carpenter says the All-Star Game often has at least as many microphones as a World Series game because so much activity takes place on the field during and between plays, thanks to the diversity of the player population for the game, as well as the fact that the stadium itself sometimes has to become a bigger presence in the broadcast if the game moves too quickly as a result of a heated pitching duel.

“We might want to accentuate more of an entertainment style to the sound if the game starts moving along too fast, looking for some nuances around the field to pick up on,” Ferris says. In fact, Qua will be mixing effects through a 32-input Midas console with an eight-channel sidecar mixer. Those will augment the 25 or so channels of effects, ambience, and commentary that Carpenter has on the Calrec Alpha console he’s mixing from aboard the Game Creek Fox truck. Qua’s analog console uses a Nexus base device housing audio interface cards and connected via single-mode fiber to the Stagetec digital Nexus Star router that will be the hub for fiber distribution of audio around the stadium.

Two players per side are also allowed to be wired for sound, using the Quantum 5X Player Mic, as well as the home-plate umpire, all on delays. Other A2s positioned near the dugouts will be ready to change out wireless packs, provided and managed by CP Communications, as players change, which they do virtually every inning in All-Star Games. (A decision by the league and the teams to wire coaches is pending.)

As if there weren’t enough unknowns for this game’s sound, Carpenter says he’s looking forward to using a surround microphone for the first time on an All-Star broadcast, although exactly where the Soundfield DSF-2 and its DSF-3 processor will be positioned remains to be seen, another mystery that will have to wait ’til Carpenter’s crew actually arrives at the park.

The unknowns awaiting them may be compounded slightly by the fact that the All-Star Game has taken on new importance for the larger season it bisects, determining, since 2002, home-field advantage for the World Series. That, says Carpenter, takes some of the lightness out of what had been more of an entertainment proposition.

“We might have a little less access than we’d like in some cases,” he observes.

On the other hand, with this many sources for sound already on the field, there’ll be lots to listen for on Tuesday night.

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