Using a strategy initiated at last year's shows MADI was the name of the game at the 2012 Summer X Games in Los Angeles as ESPN continues to streamline its broadcast imprint. Using fiber-optic cabling over an embedded-audio approach to connect all the venues within a 27-acre radius in downtown LA—as well as all of the submixes, communications, and audio transmissions—offered more inputs, smoother transmission between venues and a more efficient and compact layout. Spec'd by ESPN's Senior Technical Audio Producer Kevin Cleary and supplied by Hi-Tec Audio this year—with onsite support from Group One's Technical Sales guru Taidus Vallandi and Chris Fichera—four DiGiCo SD10Bs were placed in key locations. Three handled effects sub-mixing for Motocross, Big Air Ramp/Rally Car, Street, Park & Vert Events feeding two Calrec Alpha desks via MADI at 48kHz located in an ESPN SS32 and Denali Summit remote trucks. International feeds, using the other SD10B, created from a separate mix gathered from all the venues for ESPN International, are sent to the main router also via MADI.
Blue Sky full-range monitoring components were paired in tandem with the DiGiCo consoles at every location—with SAT 6.5s or SAT 5s set up alongside SUB 8s. This is the second year that DiGiCo consoles have submixed both Winter and Summer X Games, with Blue Sky systems on site for nearly eight years of events.
Seven DiGiCo SD Racks—totaling 368 channels overall—were stationed around the venue (approximately 3500+ feet) and linking back via redundant Optocore fiber loop carrying 448 audio signals.
"The X Games audio production crew has settled in on a winning combination with the DiGiCo consoles," explained Fichera. "DiGiCo SD10Bs in the critical submix positions integrate seamlessly to several DiGiCo SD Racks connected via Optocore located around the venue and is a system that can be replicated over and over again for consistency and ease of operation. The submixers are happy because they've learned the console, are comfortable using it, and it makes the whole flow of the system work easily. This cost-effective and consistent package can be replicated anywhere in the world for any ESPN broadcast events."
"I think the neatest feature of the DiGiCo SD10Bs is the ability to have MADI interfacing to the trucks and Optocore to the SD Racks," offered ESPN's Shawn Peacock, who handled 200 inputs and used 96 channels for both the Big Air skateboard and Rally Car events. "In this configuration—with the distances between events within the venue and around downtown LA—that is the thing that really allows us to pull this off. The ability for us to talk across MADI and have these interface boxes as far as they are is huge."
International mixer Chad Robertson agrees. "The MADI capability is very handy and is becoming more common, especially on a console at this price point and footprint. Also, the Macro buttons come in very handy and the monitoring section is very robust, which is very advantageous. Overall, the SD10B is easy to use and intuitive, plus it's been convenient to have all of us submixers on SD10Bs at the event. With everyone on the same console, we can compare notes and help each other out if we have any issues or questions."
Over at the motocross track, it was Devin Barnhart's second year on the SD10B. "One feature I used a lot last year and again in this event is the multiband compression. That helped a lot on the ramps because the sound coming off the metal ramp is a very high-end, kind of cheese-grater sound, but with the multiband compression, I was able to pull down all of the top-end frequency without losing the rumble of the motorcycles. That's a great feature of this console. Also, it's hard to distort the pre-amps. Last year, I wasn't able to go back and pay attention to what my actual pre-amp levels were… By the time the event starts and you're throwing up 40-plus microphones and motorcycles start spinning around, you're just trying to catch up as fast as possible."
Marc Cochi built snapshot sessions to handle the roughly 166 mics total (80 for Park plus 86 for Street/Vert) on his SD10B. "I'm using one side of the desk for inputs, kind of like a recording desk, with outputs and cameras on the other side. I'm then mixing off control groups because with that many microphones you really can't follow them around. The console is really easy to use and it sounds great. That's what I love about it. In television, and sports TV especially, routing is the biggest issue; sonics come second. The SD10B has got easy routing and it sounds great, and I'm pushing it hard. It's weird to set gain structure for a guy slamming a bike into a metal rail; it's just not a normal thing. So if the pre's don't handle it you're in trouble. But these do and they sound great doing it."
For a more in-depth snapshot of X Games' audio intricacies, see Dan Daley's coverage here: http://sportsvideo.org/main/blog/2012/06/29/x-games-live-big-sound-from-a-more-compact-set-up/