StageRight Recording and StudioLive Fill the House for ESPN

July 30, 2010

It should come as no surprise that broadcasting Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports is a complex and highly technical undertaking. Working in the intense environment of a remote truck, the engineers take audio feeds from the broadcast booth, sideline reporters, and off-site analysts, as well as sound from court or playing field (ah, the crunchy sounds of contact!). When the show is also broadcast from a restaurant or similar venue, the network often provides a courtesy feed for the restaurant patrons.

In such cases, ESPN may call in a freelance engineer like veteran broadcast, live sound, and recording engineer Brian Robertson of StageRight Recording to handle the house sound for the restaurant. With his background in broadcast engineering and live sound, Robertson is an obvious choice to work on live sportscasts for ESPN, Versus, and other companies. Working with broadcasting companies is my no means his only gig; Robertson has mixed front of house for the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Florida for seven years; was the FOH engineer for Vonray for six of the band’s peak years and worked on the band’s studio recordings; mixes a lot of corporate gigs; and much more. But he enjoys the big-league sportscasts and has the skills and experience to pull them off.

Earlier this year, ESPN was broadcasting an Orlando Magic NBA basketball game that included a talk show at the Jostens Center at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The talk show was being broadcast from the Wide World of Sports Grill, and Robertson was hired to mix the sound for the restaurant.

At the heart of his rig was a PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 digital mixer. “I love the sound of the StudioLive mixers,” Robertson explains. “I’ve mixed on everything from Mackie mixers to Calrec Alphas, and I think they sound better than a lot of higher-end digital consoles, including the Yamaha M7CL. And they’re much more affordable. We do a lot of other gigs besides sporting events, including many corporate events, and after buying speakers, power amps, and outboard processing, we were on a tight budget. My partner initially wanted the M7CL but I convinced him that the StudioLive 16.4.2 had the sound quality and features we needed, and it fit our budget very well. Now he is very happy with our decision.”

ESPN uses dual feeds for Wide World of Sports. But the current remote truck has space for one audio room, and the main audio suite needs to be isolated so it won’t pick up extraneous sound. Rather than bring in a second remote truck, which is very expensive, the network has a second audio suite in a cargo trailer, parked next to the truck, and connected with seven Wireworks DT12 audio cabling systems. The trailer’s audio suite sends a feed to the big truck, which feeds the tape machines and sends a feed to the broadcast booth. Eventually, ESPN          will have a remote truck with two audio suites, but until then, if you’re looking for Robertson at a Wide World of Sports broadcast, you will probably find him in the trailer.

To create his house mix—which also would have served as an emergency backup for the TV mixer, had the main feed failed—Robertson took a split from the stage snake. Other feed went to an onsite command center via an Adder Box KVM extender and fiber optic cable; this feed was taped for broadcast. Robertson’s feed went to the StudioLive 16.4.2, which fed the house P.A. He was mixing four mics and the stereo program feed, so he only needed six input channels, and the TV mixer did not want a lot of room sound, so the goal was to keep the volume low and provide dispersed coverage with two powered speakers for the mains and two powered remote stacks.

Remote stacks are a great solution for broad, low-volume coverage, but they require delays on the remote stacks so that the sound arrives coincidentally throughout the room (more or less). If you don’t have an external delay processor handler, that’s a problem. Since the Magic game he mixed for the Wide World of Sports Grill, Robertson has added a StudioLive 24.4.2, which offers room delay on each of its four subgroup outputs, allowing him to use remote stacks without requiring external delays. “Having built-in room delays is very convenient,” observes Robertson. “I also really like the additional aux sends, the fully parametric EQ, and the enhanced gate and compressor on the StudioLive 24.4.2. I’m getting a lot of use from the StudioLive 24.4.2—the additional input channels make it perfect for corporate gigs, where we also often use it for multitrack recording.

“We’re so happy with PreSonus mixers that we’re planning to buy a second 24.4.2, and we will keep the 16.4.2 for smaller gigs.”