NBC Sports Goes Deep To Cover NHL Sound Live and in Follow-Up Special
This weekend’s Penguins-Flyers match will be hour-long Wired: Stadium Series
Continuing the intensely intimate and comprehensive on-ice coverage that NBC Sports offered for the NHL All-Star Weekend, tomorrow’s 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on NBC will have up to a dozen players, officials, and coaches miked. In addition, all that audio will be rolled into an hour-long special, Wired: Stadium Series — Penguins vs. Flyers, airing on NBCSN Tuesday, March 5 at 11:30 p.m. ET following coverage of the Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators.
Four players apiece from the Flyers and Penguins, as well as both coaches and two referees, will be wired for sound during the game, and selected audio will be used during Saturday night’s broadcast on NBC. Fans will have the chance to relive the Stadium Series through sounds from the players, coaches, and referees in the hour-long special.
According to Karl Malone, director, sound design, NBC Olympics, the complement of audio gear on the participants comprises 12 Q5X QT-5100 PlayerMics.
“The PlayerMic provides us with the opportunity of not having to bother the players by approaching them with a transmitter to place, to turn on/off, or to change batteries,” he explains. “The flexible transmitters are placed into the shoulder pads of the uniforms even before the players get to the dressing room and can be remotely controlled either from a central-management laptop or a handheld remote control.”
The safety and comfort of participants also has to be addressed in this audio deep dive, Malone stresses.
“The need to have the mics operate in a sport that requires such a high degree of physical contact between players will be our main concern,” he explains. “Mic gain, frequency changes, and battery life, as well as power on/off, can be achieved without bothering the players. The safety of the players comes first, so we’ll be ensuring that, whatever hits they take, the mics stay in place.”
The feeds from all 12 RF microphones will be received by Lectrosonics modular receivers in a booth overlooking the ice; they will be QC’d and recorded clean and without dynamics. The Lectrosonics receivers feed a Calrec Hydra IO to the truck console, where Tim Dunn, senior hockey A1, NBC Sports, will QC again and apply some dynamic processing, such as compression, as needed before passing the feed to the router in the truck. NBC Sports will do a local record again on a JoeCo MADI multitrack but also feed to three Avid Airspeed 5500 video servers to record a dozen iso records with eight audio channels each, in order to include the RF mics plus all of Dunn’s regular ice-effects mics and talent mics.
Malone says this event is special simply because of the sheer number of audio sources involved.
“I can’t remember having personal mics on this many athletes in a game before,” he says. “It would be difficult for many reasons to mix the 12 mics live: you would miss conversations perhaps on iso-camera records that would have been good to hear. We also need to protect the privacy of the athlete. That’s why we are building a whole hour-long show around the content we get in this game.”
At the venue, NBC Sports will have six two-person ENG camera crews with audio focusing on a selection of the wired players, coaches, and refs. Each ENG crew will be responsible for covering two or three of the wired participants, says Malone. An ENG A2, receiving the same RF frequencies, will provide a wireless hop to the camera, with feeds of the mics recorded to camera as backup to the other records but also feeding audio to the camera operators so that they can hear and react to what they are covering.
From the venue, NBC Sports will send a single transmission feed, with all the RF mics on individual channels, to its Stamford, CT, master-control room, where logging can take place and editors can start to mark highlighted audio clips.
The Wired: Stadium Series — Penguins vs. Flyers special is the latest example of NBC Sports’ innovative NHL coverage during the 2018-19 season. The Peacock delivered a first-of-its-kind digital-only presentation using new puck- and player-tracking technology in real time at the NHL All-Star Game last month.
“The NHL is full of great personalities,” says Sam Flood, executive producer/president, production, NBC and NBCSN, “and those personalities often come out on the ice through chirps and banter between the players, coaches, and referees. We have always aimed to bring fans closer to the game, beginning with our ‘Inside the Glass’ broadcast position that NBC Sports established nearly 15 years ago. This special will go a step further and bring fans on the ice through the sounds of the game on Saturday night.”
Malone echoes that assessment: “Getting to listen to the conversations on and off the ice [is] going to be great. It’s access like this [that]we want all the time but rarely get the opportunity to present in the regular season. We are very happy to have that opportunity now. It couldn’t happen in a more fast-paced, dynamic, and hard-hitting sport.”