NBA Summer League audio pushes the boundaries

Turner extends the use of multilobe arrays; Q5X is aimed at the little ones

The NBA Summer League is the Skunk Works of basketball, and this year’s series at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas featured some really cool innovations that viewers will likely hear this fall.

Dave Grundtvig, Senior Audio Supervisor, Remote Operations, Turner Sports, greatly expanded the application he developed for Shure’s MXA710 microphone array. Originally created for the corporate conference room market, the array includes a series of in-line transducers which, in conjunction with the proprietary IntelliMix DSP and auto-mixing technology of the MXA710, can automatically steer its microphone lobes according to programmable parameters. For example, it can be tuned to listen to certain types of sounds or frequencies and enhance or reject them.

“This time,” says Grundtvig, “we applied the microphone arrays to the entire pitch, instead of just the baskets.”

A total of six bays were deployed: two in the middle of the field on each side of the field, one bay under each basket and a microphone on each net. By choosing to activate a different number of transducers in each array (under-basket arrays, for example, used three lobes: one at the key, one at the near corner, one at the far corner), a total of 16 mic lobes are revenue from the court and were processed by IntelliMix software, which, based on programmed function parameters (thresholds for triggering and direction, for example), created a mix of effects managed by a combination of DSP and split of gain. This is an automatic mixing process in which the total system gain remains constant: each individual input channel is attenuated by an amount, in decibels, equal to the difference between the channel’s level and the sum of all channel levels.

Selective noise reduction has also been applied, also via IntelliMix software. When a particular combination of frequency and SPL is recognized by a mic lobe tuned for it, that “noise” is attenuated or removed, leaving more room for the sounds you want. For example, Grundtvig explains, sound effects (PA music, cheering) that enter an announcer’s microphone can be automatically and instantly reduced, keeping the announcer’s audio intelligible.

“Basically, I’m trying to capture subtle sound in a harsh environment,” he explains. “If I can get a 2-3dB reduction in PA sound in the effects or announcer mics, I can help make them both more pronounced and defined in the overall mix.”

Using automated and programmable systems like these, he says, allows for smoother transitions between sounds as games progress, as well as creating a broadcast soundscape that’s easier to shape. for the A1.

It could also, he acknowledges, reduce the need for live sub-mixers in some circumstances. “But, really, the goal is to create space, so that the [A1] doesn’t constantly focus on manually mixing so many faders. This gives you the space to fine-tune everything else in the mix.

Beyond basketball

The approach can be applied to other sports. Grundtvig says he’s still trying to get Major League Baseball interested in the concept of multi-lobe arrays versus the more traditional deployment of many individual shotguns or lavalier microphones, for example. In addition to streamlining the mixing process, it can also make more productive use of personnel resources – the time it takes to set up a network versus multiple microphones – and signal transport, which can be compacted over a single Cat 5 cable versus individual copper wires for each mic. The implications are significant for leagues and broadcasters, who are constantly looking for cost-cutting techniques, and for pro audio manufacturers, who can market products developed for other vertical markets to sports.

Grundtvig also predicts that Turner Sports will continue its ongoing experiments with Dolby Atmos for NBA broadcasts.

“We’ve done a handful over the last year, with audio only going up to Atlanta and DirecTV,” he says, noting that the infrastructure flow at the network’s facilities in Atlanta following the AT&T’s spin-off from parent TBS WarnerMedia will require more time to fully adjust to Atmos’ operations. “It’s still a proof of concept at this stage, and it will take some time to fully ramp up. But it shows a lot of promise.

Q5X focuses on “safe and non-invasive” techniques

Q5X was also on hand at the NBA Summer League, which created its own category of transmitter microphones with the small and lightweight PlayerMic, which was originally developed for the NBA and is flexible to minimize the risk of injury if dropped. . According Paul Johnson, CEO of Q5X, there is nothing to announce at this time: “We were here, as usual, to explore new ways to improve the audio of players, coaches and referees in a way that is both safe and non-invasive for the athlete. As you know, this is an ever-evolving quest.

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