MLB Postseason: Fox Sports Gears Up Sound for NLDS, NLCS, and World Series

Fake crowd sound will be combined with noise from real fans in the stands

Major League Baseball’s postseason is under way, and it’s going to sound good.

MLB Network A1 Joe Carpenter has mixed many of the truncated season’s games via REMI, with audio backhauled to the network’s Studio 3 in Secaucus, NJ, and West Coast games routed to Fox Sports’ Pico facility in Los Angeles. For the postseason, he heads to Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX, first for the National League Championship Series and then for the World Series, which will be played there in MLB’s own version of a COVID “bubble.” (The American Division Championship Series will be held in San Diego’s Petco Park and Los Angeles’s Dodger Stadium, which will also host the American League Championship Series.)

In the process, he’s trading Game Creek’s Riverhawk production truck for the vendor’s Yogi rig, the same truck and Calrec Apollo 5.1 console from which he mixed last year’s Fall Classic. This allows him to simply plug in a thumb drive containing stored EQ, dynamics, and routing-parameter settings and be virtually ready to go.

Global Life Field is hosting the 2020 MLB NLCS and World Series.

“We’re just using the same truck for the whole month, and there are actually no travel days off during the Championship series,” he explains. “If they go seven games, we’ll play seven nights in a row.”

Carpenter will also be working without his regular submixer, Bob Qua, who is unavailable this year, ending a 16-year buddy streak. Instead, Joel Groeblinghoff will handle the effects mix inside the stadium.

Carpenter says much of the same microphone arrays used last year will be deployed for this year’s postseason games. That includes Sennheiser SK250 transmitters and MK2 lavalieres positioned in the bases. A Q5X transmitter will be fitted with a DPA omnidirectional lav on the umpires and, he hopes, two players from each team per game, with the possibility of also wiring them with an IFB earpiece when they are on defense (despite an F-bomb’s being dropped by Oakland centerfielder Ramon Laureano during a Wild Card game last Thursday). MLB greenlights the use of microphones on the umpires but gives each ump an on/off switch to use at their discretion; miking players is at the teams’ and the individual player’s discretion.

Shotgun mics will focus on the infield. The outfield this year will be more challenging than last year: Globe Life Field has artificial turf, which means that Carpenter cannot bury wireless microphones and transmitters there.

“I’m back to the drawing board for that,” he says. “But, since I can’t put the mics in the outfield, I’ll put as many as I can on the edge of the outfield dirt. We’ll have a heavy infield presence.”

But there are other sources, including SkyCam, which will have a microphone mounted on it this year. Carpenter says he wants to take advantage of the lightly attended event’s relative quiet — the stadium will be allowed to sell up to 11,500 tickets (which is 11,500 more than Dodger Stadium can sell, due to local COVID restrictions) — to pick up more on-field audio, including moving his parabolic A2s around to keep them close to the action.

A Different Crowd

Although there will be more than 11,000 fans in the stands, that’s less than a quarter of the stadium’s 49,000-plus capacity. So crowd sounds will be a combination of the usual complement of shotgun mics and so-called curated audio, in the form of prerecorded crowd noise and effects. These are being supplied by Sonofans, a Los Angeles-area firm founded to address sports’ new live-sound challenges.

Sonofans will provide prerecorded crowd sound for the broadcast. However, owner Fred Vogler, a six-time Grammy Award-winning producer and mixer, says that the same audio feed may be used in-venue, through the stadium’s PA system, mixed from his Los Angeles studio. Systems operators will monitor the game on a Fox-supplied video feed, pending agreement by Fox Sports and MLB.

Fox Sports has also selected Sonofans for venue and broadcast sound for its NFL games this season, starting with Week 2.

For NLCS and World Series, Sonofans will deliver a four-channel feed configured as front-left/right and rear-left/right. Carpenter says the front array tends to be bright-sounding and fairly generic in terms of content, whereas the rear array has more-specific audio elements, with less dynamic range. He finds this more realistic and predictable, the better to integrate with actual crowd sounds in the broadcast mix.

What’s less predictable is how the crowds will react, with none of the NLDS, NLCS, or World Series teams as the “home” team.

“It’s going to be different,” Carpenter says. “I can’t imagine the fans from Texas being that vocal without their team there. I mean, everyone cheers for a home run no matter what, but I don’t think they go crazy like a hometown crowd. But there will actually be people reacting now, so that will give it a more of a live true feel.”

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