I had fun last Tuesday and Friday at Scotiabank Place doing sound for Rogers TV for the Ottawa 67s hockey team.
We had the big Delta truck hidden away in the Scotiabank Place loading bay. As they were OHL games it was live to air. There was a bunch of feeds to deal with – 6 mics above the ice with 2 camera mics for ambience, 3 commentator headsets, 1 wireless mic in the hallway for interviews, the CD player for the replay swish effect, the cart for the theme music, feeds for sound for the replays, and a mono feed from the PA for the opening and national anthem. The nice thing is that Scotiabank Place is pre-wired through to the loading bay so set-up was a case of getting everything into place and just plugging-in.
Foldback for each of the commentators is a mix-minus. They each get only what they need so they can tell what’s going on and can hear each other.
The priority when doing sound for a hockey game is obviously making sure the commentators are heard clearly. One of the challenges is the range of volume they put out! When things are slow and the puck is being passed around a lot, they talk quietly but of course when someone scores they get pretty loud. I set up each of the mics with a compressor with 2:1 ratio to keep things from going over the top.
The ambience is not so important but a lot of the atmosphere is the swish of the skates and all the other on-ice sound. A lot of fader-riding is needed to follow the play from end to end. The killer is when there’s a goal in front of a big crowd – you have to pull back quickly but tastefully so the commentators can be heard over the noise. Sometimes the spectators are so loud the ambient mics are pulled all the way down to silence and yet the director is still shouting over the intercom for less ambience – it’s all being picked up by the commentators’ mics!
Talking of the intercom, one of the biggest challenges of doing live or live-to-tape TV sound is that you have to keep half an ear on the intercom for direction whilst riding the faders on the mixing desk. Most of the talk on the intercom is to the camera operators but you can’t ignore it in case the director slips in instructions for you. The difficulty is that your brain only has a single path for verbal processing so you have to somehow listen to the loudness of the commentators’ voices while listening to the words of the director’s voice. A lot of things are planned up-front but, being live, a lot happens on-the-fly.
Tuesday’s game was reasonably relaxed – the 67s lost embarrassingly to the Brampton Battalion 3-0. It could have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for their goalie – Clint Windsor – making 52 saves. In contrast the 67s only made 10 shots on goal. After the game in the truck I played “Bad day” by Daniel Powter – it seemed appropriate.
Friday’s game was a lot more exciting both on the ice and in the truck. The 67s lost valiantly to the Oshawa Generals in a penalty shoot-out. When they faded from 2-2 to 5-2 down at the end of the 2nd period we really didn’t expect anything special from the 67s after Tuesday’s performance but in the 3rd period they fought back with 3 goals to force extra time and the shoot-out.
© Mike Ellison.