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Chiefs Football Surrounds the Crowd
The Kansas City Chiefs have been broadcast on KCFX-FM and the Chiefs Radio Network for more than two decades. Broadcasting a game on the radio may sound like a simple undertaking, but it's far from plugging in a small mixer and two mics. Dan Israel, executive producer (and pregame show host) has been involved with the broadcasts since 1989. Near the end of the 2011 season, he took time to tell Radio magazine how a broadcast is put together.
The Chiefs have broadcast in stereo since 1990, which at the time was an unusual idea. While the announcers are essentially mono (panned center), the sound field from the stadium provides a stereo field, which immerses listeners in the experience. This experience is part of the foundation of the network's production goals.
There are two main production goals for every game broadcast. The first is to provide a compelling broadcast that is beyond what other broadcasters provide. This includes local and network TV coverage of the game. The second goal is to bring as much of the game-day experience to the listener as possible; this is done by painting a sonic image that includes the players, the audience, the announcers and other on-site elements. This sonic image has been provided in stereo for more than 20 years. With the 2011 season, surround sound was added. We'll start with the stereo portion of the mix and add the surround later. For simplicity, we'll also focus on a home game broadcast.
To create the aural image, the broadcast team gathers several audio elements. Front and center are the game announcers in the booth, Mitch Holthus and Len Dawson. There is also a sideline reporter, Kendall Gammon. Holthus and Dawson wear BeyerDynamic DT190 headsets, which have fully enclosed earpieces and hypercardioid mics. The earpieces help isolate outside sound from their monitor, and the hypercardioid mic elements drastically reduce excessive pickup of other sound sources.
While they convey the description of what is happening, the sounds of the stadium immerse the listener in sound, like he is sitting in the stadium. This ambience comes from several sources to create the surround mix.
There is a stereo mic setup on the field just behind the Chiefs bench. These shotgun mics are set up with their elements spaced 90 degrees and about 12" apart. They are panned mostly hard left and right in the stereo mix (about 9:00 and 3:00 on a pan pot). There are also two parabolic mics on the field. While it's common to set the parabolics on either side of a team's bench to avoid having to run around the bench, this only provides a mono signal of that end of the field of play. Instead, Israel places a parabolic on either side of the field so they follow the line of scrimmage from both sides. These mics are also panned mostly left and right (about 10:00 and 2:00 on a pan pot).
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