talkSPORT enlists Glensound for expanded commentary operation

The decision by UK radio station talkSPORT to embed commentary into an enhanced Twitter profile page shows the importance of IP in broadcasting today but also highlights the part the commentator continues to play in sports coverage.

For the 2012-13 English Premier League football season talkSPORT has substantially expanded its commentary operation to cover every match for international distribution. The station shares UK rights with BBC Radio 5 Live but from August 2012 it started a four-season contract broadcasting live commentaries of all Premier League games in English, Spanish and Mandarin online and through international partners.

talkSPORT Live runs as a standalone service, separate from the broadcaster’s UK analogue and digital broadcasts. On Saturdays and Sundays there can be up to six games in progress simultaneously, so talkSPORT has built a dedicated commentary area at its London headquarters.

This features both double booths, accommodating a commentator and summariser for ‘A’ matches featuring at least one of the leading teams, and single booths for solo commentators. There is enough free capacity in this area to add additional booths to handle up to 30 games on the same day.

Commentators work to live coverage coming from the Premier League’s official TV feed, with clean effects at the ground added to the radio output to give atmosphere. Audio equipment at the talkSPORT studios includes 32 commentary mixers: 25 three-channel Glensound Electronics Fader 3s and six six-channel Fader 6s. These feature Penny & Giles 60mm faders for level control by the operators and independent monitoring of two outside sources.

Senior station engineer Peter Ockelford specified individual faders on the units, something Marc Wilson, sales and marketing manager at Glensound, says is unusual: “We had not developed this before on a commentary unit and it was great to have an opportunity to work through the requirements that Peter had for the project and develop three new units that meet what he wanted.”

The mixers are connected to four custom GS-FW029 production talkback and monitor systems, which provide intercoms for ten different Fader units along with selectable input monitoring of 12 inputs. The commentary is then fed into internet streaming encoders as part of the online distribution service provided by digital agency Tibus, which, like talkSPORT, is part of UTV Media. The output is coded according to the specific platforms: MP3 for web listeners and AAC on iPhone and iPad.

Highlights programmes are complied for later broadcast, with editors using a specially written program to identify goals and incidents such as penalties and sendings off. Goal Logger was designed by Nick Prater of broadcast software and technical support company NP Broadcast and feeds the output of the Glensound mixers into a Linux-based capture computer.

By pressing an Event Mark button in the booth, each commentator can highlight an event as it happens. These are then stored and can be accessed by an editor using a web browser editing system. “We could have put together something using existing bits of technology,” Prater comments, “but there was nothing available that gave a single, unified timeline and workflow, which is what talkSPORT needed for this.”

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