ESPN captures sensitive sound for Invictus Games
The Invictus Games (May 8-12) offer another form of extreme sports for television. In the international Paralympic-style multiple-sport events, launched in 2014 in London, wounded and disabled armed-services personnel and veterans take part in such sports as wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing.
This year, ESPN is broadcasting and hosting the event, at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, near Orlando. Prince Harry, himself a veteran of the Afghanistan war, has been the Games’ active backer and is on hand, along with First Lady Michelle Obama.
But the Invictus Games pose their own challenges when it comes to sound. According to ESPN Remote Operations Specialist Kevin Cleary, the nature of the competitors prevents wiring athletes for sound, and audio relies on shotgun mics. These are placed around the various venues as part of remote field packages, assembled and distributed by RF-services provider BSI and comprising a shotgun mic, transmitter and receiver, and a return over fibre to remote units and from them to ESPN’s two control rooms and their Studer Vista audio consoles. These control rooms have been used for ESPN’s REMI (remote integration) broadcasts.
“It’s a huge venue, but using the remote field packages gives us a lot of flexibility as to where and how we can deploy them,” Cleary says. “The control rooms at Wide World of Sports have the same kind of REMI capabilities that we have in [ESPN’s Bristol, CT, and Charlotte, NC, facilities]. “These Games involve a different and special kind of competitor, and this approach helps us adapt ourselves to their broadcast needs.”
The complex encompasses 220 acres and nine individual sports venues; a tenth, erected for the Invictus Games, is an above-ground Olympic-sized swimming pool, situated on one of the soccer fields. At the complex’s indoor venue, the HP Field House, existing conventional audience microphones are used for crowd- and ambient-sound capture.
As significant as the sports for this event are the music performances for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. In a remote-production configuration resembling that for the Super Bowl, a dedicated Music Mix Mobile truck handles on-air mixes for performances by artists including Rascal Flatts, Flo Rida, James Blunt, Rachel Platten, Phillip Phillips, and Laura Wright. The broadcast of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies is being done through Game Creek’s Pride A and B units.
It’s not quite the Super Bowl, but it is more integration of sports and entertainment than most events have. “It’s a very special event,” says Cleary. “The music adds to the impact, which is something we learned doing the Special Olympics. Music and sports go together more often now.”