NBA All-Star Weekend: It Might Get Loud

Borrowed from the documentary featuring The Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White, “It Might Get Loud” is appropriate for one of sports broadcasting’s signature events, one for which sound and music are integral parts. The NBA All-Star Game on Sunday Feb. 17 and its lead-up through the weekend — Celebrity All-Star Game and Rising Stars Challenge on Friday; Shooting Stars, Skills Challenge, 3-Point Shootout, and Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday — will be fast-paced and feature lots of audio.

Turner Sports will broadcast all the events except the Celebrity All-Star Game, which is on ESPN. With the same crews also setting up for and doing the Thursday-night preshow talk program for Turner, notes Turner Sports VP of Operations and Technology Tom Sahara, in addition to being loud, it’s going to also be hectic.

“The same crew will be setting up the pregame show with Charles Barkley and Shaq at the NBA location in Houston and at the Toyota Center venue,” he says. “It’s a big production.”

It certainly is. The sprawling truck configuration has the NEP’s NCPX truck covering the All-Star Game itself and SS24 handling All-Star Saturday Night. NCPXI produces the Inside the NBA studio show; NEP ESU handles distribution and transmission duties; the Turner TS-HD2 truck is used for the entertainment shows at the arena. Lyon MU5 is working NBA-TV’s George R. Brown Convention Center productions; MU11, NBA-TV’s Game Time show from the nearby Hilton hotel.

“We’re focusing on the unique characteristics of each of these different events, so each one really requires a separate unit,” says Sahara. “The complexity of the audio lies in integrating all of these multiple locations, so we’re partnering with NBA-TV for some of the music elements of the weekend from stages around the campus. There’ll be lots of fiber connectivity between the different locations. Our crew is laying about 3,000 ft. of fiber cable from the convention center to the compound, and, in that, it has to traverse three separate buildings.”

There will more microphones in place this year for all of the events, which Turner has broadcast in discrete 5.1 surround since 2005. But the real nuance on an NBA show, which tends to emphasize the bass characteristic of the urban music styles so closely associated with the sport, is managing the low end. According to Sahara, that’s accomplished with a combination of EQ and low-pass filtering, along with judicious placement of shotgun microphones, whose high degree of directionality is used to avoid picking up direct sound and reverberations from the venue PA systems.

He adds that there will be more digital microphones in place this year to capture court effects and crowd sound. These include two Neumann D01 large-diaphragm AES42 mics, two Sennheiser MKH8070 long shotguns, two Sennheiser MKH8060 short shotguns, and a pair of Neumann KMD184 cardioid AES42 mics, these last used on the crowd.

The advantage of the digital microphones for this show, says Sahara, is that a digital signal makes the audio less susceptible to noise in the long cable runs between venues and trucks, as well as less vulnerable to noise from lighting and power cables.

The Quantum5X player mics that Turner has been using this season on players, coaches, and officials will be used throughout the weekend. The league has become more comfortable with on-court sound from wired players, Sahara says: “They’ve actually embraced it now.” The player audio is used only on replays, and a league representative is present to advise on its use.

The big show starts next weekend. Enjoy the big sound.

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