New surround audio technology enhances sports broadcasts

Squarehead Technology has developed a unique audio technology that could open the door to a new way for audio mixers to zero in on players, fans and coaches from a distance. If all goes well, the company’s AudioScope system could make its debut next month in a boxing ring on HBO Sports.

Bexel, the Los Angeles equipment rental house, has secured U.S. rights to the technology.

HBO Sports is considering employing the system during a boxing match in February. The AudioScope system hangs directly over the ring in a circle a little more than 6ft in diameter with 300 microphones on the perimeter.

A small camera outputs a video signal of the area covered by the microphones to a control unit, which allows the operator to move a cursor around the image and zero in on the subject of interest.

The system allows the operator to do spatial filtering and extract the audio from any location, similar to the way a zoom lens on a camera is used. The operator simply zooms in and captures the audio. Output is 5.1 surround sound for HDTV.

All the event’s audio is stored in a hard drive system and the operator can later select audio playback from any location. The system is said to provide outstanding performance compared to shotgun microphones.

HBO Sports currently uses a Sennheiser microphone hanging above the ring along with corner mics on fish poles and lavaliere mics on trainers and, occasionally, the referee.

The system costs more than $200,000 to purchase, potentially limiting its widespread use.