Daley Sports Talk

Dan DaleyWe sat down to a phone interview recently with Dan Daley, broadcast journalist and self-described “long-suffering Mets fan from Queens” whose beat is covering technology for sports and audio production. Dan has written for TV Technology and Variety, among other notable publications. We talked about IP networking and MADI, object-based audio and 4K, plus some cool mic techniques that are being used in the field.

WS: First, we’ve been hearing a lot about sports broadcasters putting wireless lavalier mics on athletes to catch the audio in the field. Tell us about that.

DD: That is huge. It started with the NBA, and then moved into the NFL, after the NFL scrutinized the hell out of it. They experimented with placing wirelesss on different player positions, so what you’re hearing now is the mic placed on the back of the center and that signal is sent to the console that is controlled by the NFL, which opens the fader on that microphone at a preset number of seconds before the snap and closes it a preset number of seconds after the snap. We’re getting some really great audio from the field as a result and I think the NFL experience is making everyone else look at it.

WS: Lately it seems like sports has become an overnight sensation. Why do you think that is?

DD: I think it’s safe to say that live sports is the single most valuable property in broadcasting right now. First, there’s the fact that television content itself is exploding; think about all that original content from HBO and AMC. But sports has one thing that even the Sopranos doesn’t have, and that is immediacy and ‘liveness.’ It offers something that almost nothing else does, which is live. It’s one of those things that nobody wants to watch archived. No one wants to watch yesterday’s game. That’s why you see these gigantic, humongous money deals by Fox Sports and ESPN and all the different teams and leagues.

WS: What does this mean in terms of technology trends like IP audio networking, or AoIP? As you know, we introduced IP networking as one more routing option for our audio consoles last year, and we’ve seen quite a bit of interest in it.

DD: Audio networking is becoming huge. It’s the buzzword in the business. As you know, right now it’s used mainly in workflow areas because of the latency issues (caused by associated video, which needs a lot of bandwidth), although one area we’re seeing AoIP moving into as far as live production goes is in the coms. Backchannel communication is important but if you drop a word or half a word here or there, or you have a sudden latency event (due to the high-bandwidth needs of accompanying video), that’s not the same thing as having your on-air announcement do that. I think that is one area where AoIP will make its incurrence into the broadcast world.

WS: But, there’s also a somewhat surprising development with MADI, right? When we introduced a MADI interface for our audio consoles some time ago, we thought it would be useful, but we’re continually amazed just how often this is used to get audio around.

DD: Right. Remote production people discovered something that was in the recording studios 20, 25 years ago and languished there until relatively recently, and that’s MADI of course. I think we’re all surprised that MADI has become a standard transport within the remote infrastructure, and it’s pretty much well embedded there until slowly over time when broadcasters switch over to AoIP.

WS: What do you think about 4K and the multiple channels that will come with ultra HD? Do you think we’ll ever put all those channels to use?

DD: It’s not so much the number of 4K channels that is of interest to broadcasters as is the ability of what I call high-channel count audio to personalize the viewing experience, meaning that the end user can place objects – whether it’s the sound effects or the announcer – in different parts of his or her audio spectrum. Or, he can choose languages, so instead of having to rely on superimposed translations on the screen, he can choose the language he wants to hear. That is huge when you get into something like World Cup analytics, and having all those different language feeds going on.

WS: Automation has impacted live production in a lot of areas, and we always ask ourselves as a mixing console manufacture how will mixing change over time? Any ideas?

DD: Automation is changing the production environment, definitely. But, ultimately, the mix is still a matter of multiple discrete elements and how you put them together. I mean, you got the workflow that gets the elements to the console, and that’s becoming increasingly automated. And you got the process that takes place after the mix goes out, and that is increasingly getting automated, especially when you look at things like loudness monitoring and now that they actually put a price tag on those violations. The audio mix is that last point for human hands to touch, and of course, that is becoming more automated too with doing the live mix in 5.1, and so you have automatic fold-downs and down-mixes to stereo, for example. But mixing is the nexus of all audio production and will probably always remain so.

WS: Before I let you go, I have to ask: are you a sports fan?

DD: I’m a very much a fan of baseball and football. And, I’ll admit that I’m a long suffering Mets fan from Queens.

WS: Thanks, Dan.


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