June 08, 2020
By Eric Eldredge and Joel Guilbert, Dale Pro Audio
As "smart" microphones are becoming more and more widespread thanks to advances in digital audio technology, we have seen many new models coming to light geared towards immersive and conferencing use. But, with current events around the world changing how we will view live productions (especially sports broadcasts), can they be used in new and unique ways?
Our valued partners at the Sports Video Group held another DTV Audio online forum inviting manufacturers and broadcast experts to share their thoughts on this new frontier of microphone technology and usage.
Dale Pro Audio was a co-sponsor of this event, and our team of Broadcast Sales Professionals were in attendance. The webinar was hosted by DTV Group president Roger Charlesworth.
Ben Escobedo from Shure kicked things off, and spoke about their array microphones. These mics, originally designed for conference use, are starting to find new applications in sports miking, especially with the recent sanitary considerations with traditional microphones.
A new soon-to-be-released rectangular model has 2-foot and 4-foot versions, with similar technology but much easier to mount on a mic stand.
Brian Glasscock from Sennheiser had an update on their beamforming microphone, the Ambeo Sports Microphone array. Based on the MKH 8056 microphone capsule, it’s now smaller, down to 2.25 feet across! (The original design, seen above, was nearly 4 feet wide) With onboard DSP, it can reduce ambient noise to help zoom in on the target. He announced an API for their TeamConnect beamforming ceiling array to allow the mic to accept directional information - you could adjust what the microphone picks up remotely - controllable via CAT5 connection to the array.
Ben Cochran, technical advisor and engineer for Audio-Technica, discussed practical application of IP-Networked “smart” microphones. Leveraging off the shelf computer networking standards, we can run the backbone of the audio network. Mark Donovan (also from A-T) spoke of the long amount of development time it takes to develop these next generation digital mics.
Brian Rio, WarnerMedia, Karl Malone, NBC Sports, and Tom Sahara, Freelance, all came on screen to talk about some of their real-world concerns in putting some of these technologies in practice.
A discussion about ambisonic microphones ensued with Jonathan Freed, A1, Glasscock, Thomas Jensen, SSL, Rio, and Malone. "Less is more" seemed to be general sentiment when it came to the number of ambisonics microphones used in an production. Jensen then showed the 360 transcoder ambisonic decoder plugin for the SSL Series T console.
Malone, Mike Babbitt from Dolby, and Doug Deems, A1 Mixer, discussed some perspectives on mic patterns and placements for emerging Atmos productions.
Roger Charlesworth, Doug Deems, Fred Aldous, and Dana Kirkpatrick spoke of microphone selection, upmixers and upmixing strategies for Atmos, and their microphone wish list.
To close out the session, Sennheiser's Dave Missal and freelancer Tom Sahara talked about the importance of creating sanitary conditions for microphones and intercom equipment.
Dale's Joel Guilbert reflects on the proceedings: “There is a really unique opportunity in the sports world right now, being able to experiment with previously un-usable microphone positions - it will be interesting to hear how some new technological advancements in microphone and DSP technologies are going to be utilized as well”
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