Football is generally considered the hardest-hitting contact sport. With games played in all types of weather — from blazing heat to drenching rain to ice and snow — this environment is not conducive to temperamental electronics. The Baltimore Ravens are among a select group of NFL teams that operate their own broadcasting group. As the location audio and postproduction firm contracted to provide audio services to the team, Soundriven has been tasked with capturing on-field audio for use on the team's television shows.
The Baltimore Ravens Broadcasting Department (RAVE-TV) has two shows on the air. “Ravens Wired” offers television viewers a first-hand, on-the-field look at what takes place during a game, and it has two segments: “Wired,” which follows an individual player or coach, and “Behind the Bench,” which focuses on team activity from the sideline area. The second show, “Ravens Report,” is a sports news program designed to give Ravens fans access to coach and player interviews, news about the Ravens and related information. For our involvement with these programs, wireless audio equipment plays an integral role.
For “Wired,” the Ravens team player selected for any given program is outfitted with a Lectrosonics SMDa super-miniature digital hybrid wireless UHF beltpack transmitter. To withstand the pounding the player will likely experience on the field, the transmitter, which is paired with a Countryman B6 microphone, is wrapped in plastic (to increase its tolerance to moisture) and mounted to the rear of the shoulder pads using a combination of double stick tape and zip ties. An aluminum plate — tailored to protect the transmitter, microphone connection and antenna — is placed on top of the assembly. The setup is covered with adhesive-backed foam padding, making a package that is completely smooth, without protrusions or exposed weak points.
To help ensure trouble-free operation amidst a variety of unknown and unanticipated occurrences, we also deploy a Lectrosonics RM remote control with the SMDa transmitter on the wired player. Being able to modify audio gain, lock and unlock controls, or change frequency, has been tremendously important for us because asking a player for his pads, pulling everything off to expose the transmitter and then making adjustments is simply not an option. By using the remote control, we can manipulate multiple functions without any inconvenience. An NFL football field can be a hostile RF environment, and while the frequency coordinator does his best to assign clear, open frequencies, things don't always go according to plan.
The player's SMDa transmitter broadcasts to two Lectrosonics UCR411A digital hybrid wireless receivers. One receiver is for the cameraman, whose sole job is to follow the wired player, and the second receiver is used for charting. The person responsible for charting captures the audio and stamps it with time code. This enables the program directors to know exactly where any given segment occurred during the game so that it can be tied to other game footage.
“Behind the Bench”
For “Behind the Bench,” an associate cameraman and I follow the activity up and down the field from the sidelines, with most of the coverage coming from the team's bench area. For this, I use a boom mic and a Lectrosonics UM200 beltpack transmitter, which feeds the cameraman's UCR201 compact diversity UHF receiver. As is the case with the wired player, a second 200 series receiver is used for charting. In addition to these two setups, we use another 200 series transmitter and receiver, which feed the radio announcer's microphone output to our “up top” game camera.
As is the case with any live broadcast project, there is only one opportunity to get it right. Hence, both the selection and deployment of the wireless equipment are critical. We've found the Lectrosonics equipment to be particularly compact and robust. The fact that a remote option is available has been a big plus. Without it, we may not have always been able to go forward with production.
Don Barto Jr. is co-owner of Soundriven.