Monitoring Q & A


TV-Bay Magazine
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Issue 107 - November 2015

What elements of modern console technology has made a large impact on your craft?

Rob Wolifson: Historically, shows were set up differently, you had more time to prepare. For example, if a show was on at noon in one studio, the breakfast show would be done in a different studio, so transitioning from one show to the next was fairly easy.

We dont have that luxury anymore, these shows are done in one studio, back to back. Whereas before we had to use lots of patch cords and make manual connections to go from one show to the next and then continue to patch throughout the show now we can recall templates at the push of a button. You can get things done quickly and still maintain quality and reliability. Thats a huge gain.

Michael Couto: A board thats designed for the job I do is critical. My focus is always on the integrity of the broadcast, and the ability to react fast to a breaking story is a big part of that. Once were on the air I dont have time to scroll through menus to solve a problem. With the Artemis in particular, Ive got everything I need laid out in front of me. Its tactile and immediately in sight, just the way I need it.

Everyone who works in broadcast audio has one thing in common: a need to easily access critical functionality, and to do it fast.

Tony Williams: Calrecs built in automixer has been a godsend for shows like Question of Sport where its a free for all between the host and teams, whose dynamics can range from a whisper to a scream at the drop of a hat! There is no audio dub, so having this feature helps free up fingers and cleans the general mix without too much coloration between open channels.

The ability to use variable delays on multitrack outputs is also useful. Ive used this to supply clean feeds to a multi-channel Skype setup thats prevalent on many shows. Combining these and the automixer facility virtually eliminates the awkward audio dips from contributors on the incoming Skype lines when they talk over each other. We were able to have 16 channels of Skype interaction without any noticeable dropout!

Michael Abbott: File management is important. I am fortunate to work almost exclusively on Calrec consoles. I use the offline editor for the Alpha series desks and this capability allows me to arrive on a production ESU with a snapshot that has the majority of programming already done.

I use the GPI options for triggering fade in/out of camera mics and play-out of SFX. Plug-in servers have given me a palette of processing that I could only dream of in the past. Snapshot Recall provides for dynamic scene changes. Replay is an important element that allows me to go from live production to post production with a minimum of programming.

Randy Flick: The tight spacing of the faders on Calrec consoles make them easier to use. There are different points in the broadcast where you have to fade some music up, fade another track away, and get rid of something else; four or five fader movements at one time. Calrecs tight faders allow that to be done, on one hand sometimes, so thats one thing I love. Others channel strip spacing make that more difficult, and mixers with smaller hands are really at a disadvantage.

I also love the headroom of the console. In sports, you never know where something is going to happen that has a really high SPL (sound pressure level). A handheld guy with a camera mic spins around, and all of a sudden hes shooting the crowd and someones screaming at the mic because their team scored a goal - the console can handle that extra SPL, even if its louder than you guessed it would be!

What differences have come about due to the many ways content is delivered in recent times?

Michael Couto:
NBC News is very much focused on mobile. Presently, however, my mix is geared for a 5.1 television broadcast. There are some folks downstream of us re-purposing content for mobile and the web, and there is no doubt that the way we consume news is changing, be it via the web, social media, or direct to our phones. It is something we will all be dealing with soon.

Andy James:
There is now a huge range of different ways we can now offer content to the audience: online, social media as well as the more traditional methods. This means we need to be able to offer a variety of different formats and mixes to the intended audience. On many sports programmes the viewer can choose the audio mix they want to listen to: full mix, refs mic, clean effects, radio or TV commentary. All these different audio mixes have to be configured, mixed and distributed from the OB, and the number of mix busses available on modern consoles simplifies this. The communications requirements also increase for every destination we need to feed, and audio distribution from site becomes more complicated. This means the role of the OB guarantee engineer is now one of the most demanding at site; they are the real unsung heroes in the OB audio world!

What are the biggest changes have you encountered during your career?

Rob Wolifson: When I started, audio was still done in mono, and we were just experimenting with stereo. To go from mono to stereo was quite something. We didnt have the equipment or knowledge to do it properly at first, so we worked it out as we went along.

Another big change was to 5.1 audio. In our studios, were still honing our surround skills. At first it was fashionable to do everything in surround. Eventually we decided to take our time and get it right, because most of us agree that with surround sound, less is more.

Fred Aldous: I dont think you can narrow it down to a single event. From an audio perspective it was moving from stereo to 5.1. Not only did we need to learn how to mix in 5.1, but we also had to identify the compromise between a 5.1 mix and a stereo downmix that was being derived from the 5.1 mix. At FOX Sports we only deliver 5.1 to the affiliates, they do a downmix for their SD feeds themselves.

Michael Abbott: I started working on the Grammys back in the 1990s, providing the performers with multiple stage mixes, working on a single analogue 40 input / 16 output console. Multi-coloured china-graph grease pencils were my analogue recall! The Grammys today has 10 audio mix positions and another 30 technicians for 20+ live performances that are engineered on a variety of digital consoles. IP-managed data transport has become a mission critical element, requiring the engineers to have IT skillsets.

Randy Flick: Two big changes: moving from analogue to digital, and the move to fibre.
I started mixing on analogue Q2s and S2s. When we moved to Sigma and Alpha digital consoles I realised you can set up one fader and copy and paste the next fifteen down the line instead of setting each one up individually. Thats one thing I love about the transition.

I also like the idea youre using fibre to get audio into the console instead of copper. I covered a lot of golf, and was using long 25 pair cable runs to get the effects mics from the holes, outfield and announcing towers because it was too much to run multi-core cable. It could get very complicated. Plus, in wet conditions everything would sound like it was on fire, crackling away! Incorporating fibre right into the consoles has been a godsend. Sports that cover a lot of area such as racing and the Olympics benefit immensely from fibre operation.

Tony Williams: Fibre technology has come a long way in helping clean up signals gone are the days of earth lifts and frying multicores. The connectivity between systems has become a lot easier, and if planned correctly, patch bays and brasso could become a thing of the past!

The biggest change was the arrival of 5.1, and the compromise to deliver a mix thats also suitable for the majority of viewers listening in mono/stereo.

Tags: iss107 | monitoring | sound engineer | supervisor | head of audio | sky | freelance | industry | questions | q&a | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus

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