Vancouver is still a bit concerned about the El Niño effect on next year’s snowfall, but NBC is ready with some new approaches to audio for the 2010 Winter Olympics Games in Vancouver (Feb. 12-28). Like the Beijing Olympics broadcast, the Vancouver Games will be in HD and 5.1, but Bob Dixon, director of sound design and communications for NBC’s Olympics coverage, promises more-aggressive surround mixing at certain venues next year. The luge and bobsled events will benefit from NASCAR-like “speed-shot” microphone techniques.
“We are excited to start to explore the potential of Olympic coverage with surround techniques,” Dixon says. “ I think it will be fun and will add to the viewer experience.”
There will be a number of technology changes as well. All NBC audio coverage will be via Calrec Alpha Sigma and Omega digital consoles, a decision Dixon says is aimed at achieving a consistent operational experience for mixers as well as consistent sound characteristics across all events.
“When I write the manuals for channel structure, for how inputs feed certain output groupings,” Dixon explains, every operator will be able to follow it in exactly the same way because they’re all working off the same surfaces.”
Upmixing will be smoother and more automated, thanks to the 2008 Olympics experience. Dixon recalls how, at the Beijing games, a feed needed to be upmixed to match other audio but the mixer was stymied because it was a mono feed, which could not be upmixed. To get around that, the mixer took the stereo feed from the international broadcast on channels 3 and 4 and ran those through one of the Linear Acoustics UPMAX:neo systems that NBC was using and then placed the mono feed, which contained the announcer audio, in the center channel.
Dixon says NBC mixers will use this technique in Vancouver. They will also use the Linear Acoustic Aero.qc, introduced at NAB, for which Linear Acoustic President Tim Carroll, who was at the Beijing Games and heard about the mono incident, added the capability of extracting a mono announcer feed.
“The sound effects that appear on tracks 3 and 4 are exactly the same ones that appear on tracks 1 and 2, so there are no phase or level issues, and it sounds great,” says Dixon. But he emphasized that most feeds will be live and in discrete 5.1 from the venue to the home.
There will also be some new microphones in Vancouver. Dixon will be trying out Sony’s new DWT-B01 beltpack transmitter and the DWR-S01D dual portable tuner combination, which delivers 24-bit/48-kHz digital audio. “You can address the transmitter directly from the camera, to see audio levels, battery levels, and change frequencies,” he says.
Also new to the games will be Audio-Technica’s AT8022, which places two cardioid elements in a compact coincident capsule configuration for X-Y pickup, as well as Sennheiser’s new HMD25-XP/HSP4 headset, which adds an HSP4 condenser cardioid boom mic to Sennheiser’s HMD25 headset. NBC has been beta-testing on its NFL broadcasts.