Live From MLB All-Star 2019: The ‘Other Team’ Smooths the Sound for Fox Sports
Mixers Carpenter and Qua aim to put the viewer in the game
Over the past 20 years, the audio for Fox Sports’ broadcasts of the MLB All-Star Games has been tuned tighter than a tenor guitar, and, every year, longtime broadcast-audio teammates A1 Joe Carpenter and effects submixer Bob Qua brainstorm to find new ways to tweak it further.
“We’ll just come up with ideas and trade them back and forth like writing them on cocktail napkins,” quips Qua.
The pair is just back from doing the audio for MLB’s first games in London, where circumstances constrained them to produce a fairly conventional audio show in an unconventional location.
“There was a lot of foul-ball territory on both sides [of the bases],” he explains, “and we weren’t able to put mics in the outfield. It was tough trying to cover those areas from 100 ft. away just with [shotgun] microphones.”
At last night’s All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland, they were able to stretch out and refine some of what they’d been doing to make this special game more so. According to Qua, they brought the in-ground outfield mics used in past games into the infield, creating a dense mic plot of at least 14 transducers around the bases and across the infield apron, right up the edge of the grass.
“In the past,” he says, “we’d been finding problems with the strength of the RF signals from the outfield mics, because the signal was being absorbed by the grass. This game, MLB was really gracious about letting us put more mics near the bases.”
Plenty of Pickups
The pitcher’s mound offered an opportunity, too: a triangle of lavaliers embedded in the ground around the rubber created a small L-C-R array, which fit nicely into the broadcast’s 5.1-surround format. The rear surrounds were filled out with a number of Audio-Technica AT4050 and 4025 stereo microphones aimed at the stands, along with a pair of Sennheiser 416 shotguns aimed left and right from the booth, where Qua did the mixing on a Calrec Brio console. (Carpenter used a Calrec Apollo, and pre/postgame audio mixer Jason Blood was on a Calrec Artemis, making for a Calrec triple play at the game.)
Home base was covered by three parabolic mics — two aimed at the plate and one aimed back at the pitcher to catch the pitch-back glove sounds — and four more along the foul lines by the dugouts.
They also picked up banter around the plate but could be turned off if discussions, such as disputes about calls, grew heated beyond what the seven-second delay could handle. “We want to get in close, but we’re not snooping,” says Qua.
Several players wore lavs during the game, engaging in dialogs with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and color commentator John Smoltz, a relatively new source of sound for ballgames and one that fans are responding to. (At least one pitcher promised to tip them off to the next pitch at least once just before the windup.) Skycam carried a microphone.
Qua and Carpenter are marking two decades as a team, and the ability to know each other’s moves without having to signal them means that the soundscape they create is virtually seamless.
“My effects are all mono, and Joe is great about pulling back the surround crowd sounds to really isolate the key ones at critical moments,” says Qua. “We’ve developed a way of working over the years that make it all feel and sound really natural. We want to make it sound like you’re in the game, not just at the game.”
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