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Fred Aldous Q&A

Fred Aldous Fox Sports broadcast mixer is interviewed in the April 2009 issue of Mix magazine, where Fred Aldous talks about capturing sounds for Fox Sports broadcasts

Fred Aldous

Photo: Jay Beckman

How are you mixing for your various shows?

Everything we do from the field is 5.1. With Fox Sports, all our production material is 2-channel legacy audio. I use Neural Audio’s UpMix and put my announcers in the center channel, which is Fox delivery spec-standard, and then build my mix around that. Everything else from the field or track is discrete L, R, Ls and Rs. We encode that mix out of the desk to Dolby E, which is our transport stream from the remote to the broadcast center. Locally, I create a downmix using Neural DownMix and Dolby PLII. That stuff is recorded locally inside of the truck, plus sent down channels 7 and 8 of the e-stream. Our 8-channel assignments are L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs, and Lt and Rt. Once the Dolby E stream hits the broadcast center in L.A., they do all their commercial and studio show integration for game breaks.

How do you transport audio from the site?

During NFL and baseball, the audio from the site to the broadcast center gets muxed with video into a 270-Mbit ASI stream over a fiber system called VYVX, which is standard for all baseball and football stadiums. For NASCAR, we’re using digital satellite and sending it up digitally through a primary and backup C band, and a primary and backup KU band. All that gets muxed with the video like VYVX into an 270-Mbit ASI stream, and then we send the ASI stream over the satellite to the broadcast center. At Fox, they create their own downmix there to send out to the affiliates that are in SD 4:3 stereo.

How do your mixing styles vary?

NASCAR allows me to do a POV perspective with my audio. As the car goes around and the director takes a camera shot from the wall next to the track, I actually put you in that perspective and let the car come and leave the frame as if you’re at the camera. In the 5.1 mix, since the car in the screen comes in usually upper-left and leaves lower-right, I bring the car in the front-left speaker and exit out of the right-rear speaker. It sounds like the car comes through the room.

Is that an automated process, or are you physically panning it?

Everything is stationary; there is no joystick or stereo panning throughout the race. It’s all preset because there’s no time to pan on a live show that moves that fast. To create my surround out of a stereo miking situation around the track, I use delays and phase shifting.

How about for the NFL and baseball?

For the NFL, I mix from a viewer’s perspective as if you were a fan in the stands. The field of play stays in front of you even though the plays move from left to right. I leave you in the seat and fill the 360-degree surround field with the crowd around you. There will be times when somebody is yelling behind you or there is crowd reaction back there, but in front I keep the field effects, quarterback cadences and hits. For baseball, I can make it interactive and keep you involved by taking you down to the field once in a while because I have the bases and bullpens miked.

The Fox Sports truck features Tannoy monitors and a Calrec Alpha console with Bluefin.

How do you mike all of this?

For Daytona, effects sub mixer Kevin McCloskey had close to 120 mics around the track. Each camera has at least a stereo mic, but may also have an approach mic, a center mic and an escape mic. So as the car comes through and the camera pans with it, you hear it enter left, pan through center and exit right. We also have mics in the cars and placed around the track “roar” mics so when the director takes a wide shot or an angle shooting across the track, we can fill the soundfield with the roar of the track itself.

For NFL, it’s easier. I’ve got six wireless parabolic mics, stereo mics on the refs and four handheld cameras with microphones. For crowd mics, I use a pair in the announce booth and two stereo shotgun pairs for my near and far surround field.

What equipment is in the truck?

The trucks we use for NFL and NASCAR are from Gamecreek Video. They built the trucks specifically for Fox two years ago, and I was fortunate enough to have the owner, Pat Sullivan, allow my input to build the room alongside his engineers. The console is a Calrec Alpha with Bluefin, and for monitors I’m using Tannoy 8Ds for left and right, and a Tannoy 6D that was custom-built because of the size constraints we had. For surrounds and sub, I’m using Tannoy Arenas powered by ART SLA 1 amps and a Tannoy TS10.

What is coming next for broadcast audio?

I’m starting to work on some 7.1 mixes from the field, which will give another depth of perspective. We’ve already done some tests with 7.1, and it’s very hip. It will be L/C/R in the front, left and right-side surround, and a left- and right-rear surround, and of course the LFE.