BSI Looks for More Audio in More Places

Broadcast Sports Inc. (BSI) is known for its RF cameras and services for sports shows: the PGA and LPGA Tours, the Triple Crown and Breeder’s Cup, the BCS National Championship, INDYCAR, NASCAR, NFL, X Games, the U.S. Open golf tournament, even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But the company, founded in Australia and relocated to the U.S. in 1983 after CBS sought its services for the Daytona 500, has a significant audio side.

Peter Larsson

BSI Co-Founder and GM Peter Larsson

It’s perhaps best known for its proprietary MIC1500 Blue Steel microphone used by ESPN commentators. Four of them were on hand for the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day. They’ll also be visible at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, where BSI, owned since 2001 by L-3 Communications, will provide seven RF camera systems, four Blue Steel microphones, six additional wireless microphone systems, and a full complement of communications devices for the event.

“I can remember the days when we would call January a slow month,” says BSI co-founder/GM Peter Larsson. “Now, 30 years later, it’s right on par with some of our busiest months in the summer. I’m thrilled to start out our 30th-anniversary year on such a positive note.”

In addition to a variety of anniversary celebrations planned for this year, the Hanover, MD-based company will also be expanding its UK offices, deploying several new technologies and unveiling a business enterprise at the NAB Show in April.

Spectrum Still the Big Challenge
Larsson says the biggest audio challenge of the past several years has been the reallocation of RF spectrum: “The UHF spectrum has become so crowded that, in some markets, like the Dallas-Fort Worth area, there’s little left available for us itinerant users.” He notes that the additional administrative and management burdens imposed by the more intense regulation of RF spectrum requires two staffers dedicated solely to the tasks of identifying spectrum needs in various markets for broadcast sports events and requesting use permissions from the FCC.

BSI was poised to place additional effects microphones into cars for this season’s NASCAR races. However, the organization has asked that this be delayed until either the 2014 or 2015 seasons because a new car design is scheduled to debut this year and the additional wiring that the extra mics would require could complicate prerace car inspections.

When the mics do go in, though, they’ll add another dimension to NASCAR’s already cinematic soundtrack. Larsson says more Shure SM11 dynamic microphones will be placed in the wheel wells, where they’re pick up the gravel and other granular sounds from the edges of the tracks, and near the cars’ transmissions.

“When the drivers slam the gears, it makes a very intense sound,” he says. “It will get the viewer even deeper into the car with the driver.” Drivers will continue to use the David Clark noise-canceling aviation-grade microphones that Larsson says are the best for use in the high-SPL environment of the NASCAR cockpit.

The growth of large-scale events, from the Olympics (BSI plans to open an office in Brazil to position it for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics) to the peripatetic X Games, is compelling BSI and others involved in sports broadcasting to more deeply explore MADI as a transport format for audio.

“We’re running out of physical space on the sides of the trucks, and MADI is becoming the way to handle large volumes of audio signals for large-scale events,” he explains. “The days of just running the audio on DT-12 are over because of the sheer volume we have to deal with now. We’re ramping up our MADI capability to match the infrastructure of the new generation of remote trucks.”

BSI also plans to begin building its own line of retail products this year. The company’s engineering team at its London office has designed a proprietary RF camera that will lead the line. A complementary line of RF microphones will follow, but timing will be contingent on FCC rules, which will likely delay those products for a year or two.

That London office is the launch pad that will take BSI farther into Europe. The company has already secured contracts for surfing competitions in Spain and speedway motorbike competitions elsewhere in Europe. Larsson told the Baltimore Business Journal that he wants to pursue Formula 1 in Europe as well.

Additional announcements, he says, will be made at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

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