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Live sound: No margin for error

15 years of experience in the field of audio management for television make Libardo López one of the most experienced sound engineers in our region. He is a publicist but also trained in the field of electronics. TV&Video had the opportunity to talk with him about the challenge offered by sound work for the transmission of a live event.

The production of live sound in sporting, musical or informative events is the most important challenge that a sound player can have. In fact, every transmission is a challenge. It requires a hard work of prior preparation for a few days depending on the type of event, a few more days to do the assembly, rehearsals and tests necessary with all the technical and human equipment for a transmission that can last about two hours.

The nature of the event determines the complications. A musical event is more complex than a sporting event because the latter, for example a football match, has sound devices for two or three announcers, perhaps two other announcers in the studio, playback for VTR's and replay systems, and the match itself, which after a good location of microphones to collect the sound of the environment develops without major setbacks. "In an event like this, the audio manager is dedicated to ambient sound. A good sound stands out in the amateur bars, when kicking a ball, the refereeing signals, an ideal mixture is sought, that there is a good compensation of all the sounds to avoid that no sound covers another, "explains Libardo López.

The musical, on the other hand, has the component of additional demand of quality of the musicians. They request a greater number of microphones and 12 that are used in a football match can reach 35 or more in a live musical event. "This significantly increases the risk of error. It is simpler in a newscast because fewer microphones are used but other complications arise such as the additional monitoring of 4 or 5 video tape machines that are shooting journalistic notes, "adds López.

Some considerations

- Publicidad -

Libardo López suggests that as a first step we must consider what kind of event is going to occur and in that sense look for the ideal teams to cover it. Once this is established, problems can be prevented before transmission. It should be considered if it is an open or closed place, if protection is required for microphones in case of rain or wind, if on the audience you have some degree of control. In a stadium it is very difficult to control the public. This, for example, determines clear parameters for handling sound levels. Once the location of the strongest fan bars is established, the sound management for this area of the stadium can be defined.

"To constantly follow the game, ultra-directional microphones must be properly employed to achieve a clear sound from the source to which each of them is directed. These parabolic microphones have a range of 20, 30, 40 or 60 meters. They are wonderful because they allow you to follow the plays very closely," says López.

For the public, other types of omnidirectional pickup microphones are used and the sound to be transmitted is sought in the mix. It is very important in these cases to know the event well. In this it helps a lot to make a good microphone diagram to determine the points of the stage that will carry sound reception elements.

The sound is always mixed in relation to the main characters. The ambient sound in relation to the announcers, the orchestra in relation to the singers, the background with respect to the characters. The protagonists must be clear and that the rest of the sounds serve to support and create the atmosphere.

Another important thing is to prevent absolutely everything. Have a spare for each essential part. Know the possible interferences and be attentive to the eventualities. If you go the image can be covered with another camera, but if you go the audio ....

Developments sought

Although in Latin America new technologies are reached a little later, it is being updated permanently. "I would love to have a long-range microphone transmission system. Normally you have 20 to 30 meters of maximum range without fear of failure but it would be good to have wireless microphones with a range between 60 and 100 meters with the ability to transmit a clean and pure sound to a console. Or better to have a microphone at 200 meters with the certainty that it will not present any type of interference, "says Libardo López.

- Publicidad -

A powerful wireless microphone system requires ultra-frequencies. But in reality this would be the ideal to avoid the laying of cables. Electric power cables create inductions to sound cables and that noise can damage the transmission. The sound cables can go with those of the cameras but not with those of electrical energy. To which López adds, "and of course the men of the electric current seek the short way, and the soundman and his assistants must extend more cable."

"In terms of consoles, perhaps the reduction in size would be ideal," says Libardo López. "It is also important to have the best cables with gold contacts and without joints, that is, if I need a 200-meter cable I can have it and not join two out of a hundred that can affect the sound quality somewhat."

In the end

The live sound is lived in the moment and what went on the air was the result of all this effort. There is no opportunity to repeat it. Because of the sound you can go to the floor the transmission or you can present the opposite case that thanks to the sound everything goes well.

"A live broadcast must always be carried the best equipment and have everything necessary from the technical point of view and the best human resources. Any kind of risk must be eliminated. Even so, in some productions the sound is taken as Cinderella. Sound is the other half of an audiovisual production," says Libardo López.

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