In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of isolation, or emphasizing the desired audio as compared to the ambient noises.
We also discussed how the directionality of a microphone, as defined by its polar pattern, affects the audio that is emphasized. In Part 2 we discussed how to capture better on-field audio for baseball.
As stated in Part 2, there are three keys to capturing better on-field audio: Using more microphones, locating microphones closer to the action, and using more directional microphones for better isolation.
In this 3rd article we will focus on how to capture better on-field audio for football. Let’s examine how the networks typically capture audio at a football game.
Football – Typical Network Setup
For a typical college or NFL football game, the networks will utilize the following:
• four large parabolic microphones, manned by operators, located along the edge of the field,
• a wireless microphone on the referee,
• handheld wireless microphones for on-field reporters,
• a very long shotgun microphone suspended from the cable-cam (camera suspended over the field),
• shotgun microphones strapped to the top of the field level cameras
The parabolic microphones will capture the quarterback signals, player collisions, the football being kicked, etc. It is becoming quite common for a lineman to have a microphone imbedded in his pads to help capture the quarter back signals. You can often hear the microphone being turned off just after the ball is hiked.
The operators are located opposite each other, typically just behind the line of scrimmage, until they reach the area where the team is located. Once a team reaches a likely scoring position, the two operators from the other end of the field will be relocated (literally running down the sidelines) to the corners of the endzone about to be scored on. For more important games, such as “The Game of the Week”, or playoff games, two additional operators, with hard-wired parabolic microphones, will be place in each end zone.
The four parabolic microphones on the sidelines will be equipped with wireless microphones which transmit their audio back to the production truck. The audio from the parabolic mics is fed to the sub-mixer who is responsible for on-field sound and wireless mics. This sub-mix is then fed to the main mixing board as a single channel. Each parabolic mic is also equipped with a wireless receiver so the sub-mixer can give the operators instructions.
The diagram below provides a graphical representation of how the pickup pattern of the parabolic microphones cover the field.
Football – Very Low Budget Setup
When the budget is very low, a single camera-mounted shotgun mic can be used to cover a portion of the on-field action. Obviously only one side of the field can be covered. Locating the camera on the “home” side allows the coach / player interactions to be captured as well as the on-field action.
The diagram below shows the pickup pattern of a typical shotgun microphone along the sideline. Notice how the cardioid pickup pattern extends outside of the playing field. This will allow crowd noise to be captured at a level equal to the play on the field.
Adding a second camera-mounted microphone along edge of the field allows both sides of the field to be covered.
Other field sports such as soccer, rugby, etc. would use the same basic setups.
Using a small parabolic microphone instead of a shotgun mic on the camera reduces the level of crowd noise that is captured. The diagram below shows the conical pickup pattern of a typical parabolic microphone pointed toward the field. Notice how the pickup pattern reduces the amount of crowd noise that will be captured as the camera turns parallel to the field.
Football – Low to Mid Budget Setups
Using two medium-size parabolic microphone will greatly increase the level of audio captured during the game. The diagrams below show the pickup pattern in this setup. If the budget allows for two large parabolic microphones the quality of audio will be increase once again as the large parabolic microphone will approximately double the amplification provided by the medium sized units. Two medium sized parabolic mics, one on each side of the field, will provide better audio than one large unit, as the microphones will be closer to the action.
Football – Safety
The parabolic mic operators are located very close to a violent sport and are often involved in collisions at the higher levels. Operators must be warned of these dangers and cautioned to be very aware of the action on the field. In addition, the safe design of the parabolic mic must be considered when making a purchasing decision. Sharp edges, and protruding metal parts must be avoided.
In Part 4, I will share typical setups for gymnasium sports, and discuss hardware cost.
Paul Terpstra has more than 35 years of engineering and product development experience. He founded Innalytical Solutiong, Inc. in 2004, to provide a wide range of engineering services including forensic engineering, Finite Element Analysis, electomechanical design, machine design, and machinery repair. Paul was recently granted his eleventh U. S. Patenr.
In April of 2012, Paul and Patrick Santini, an Innalytical Solutions customer, created Klover Product, Inc. Previously in 2011, thay had jointly dveloped a paabolic microphone for Fox Sports when Fox audio engineers grew disatisfied with the available products. That original test unit turned out to be the first prototype of the microphone that would latr become the Klover MiK 26. The Klover MiK 26 parabolic microphones have been used exclusiely by Fox Sports for football broadcasts since 2012.