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Music City Is Set To Make Some Real Noise With IndyCar Street Race


Music City Is Set To Make Some Real Noise With IndyCar Street Race Big Machine Music City Grand Prix roars into Nashville with lots of mics and music By Dan Daley, Audio Editor

Thursday, August 3, 2023 - 10:54 am

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Eighty laps, 168 winding street miles, and more music than you can shake a guitar at. That's the third edition of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix (Sunday, Aug. 6, NBC Sports) in Nashville, where both IndyCar and the city are looking to what's becoming an annual event to burnish both brands.

The temporary 2.17-mile street circuit takes 26 NTT IndyCar Series racers by the Tennessee Titans' Nissan Stadium, through 11 twisty turns, and over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge above the Cumberland River (the first motorsports course of its kind in the world to cross a major body of water), and into downtown Nashville. All done to a soundtrack that will feature Florida-Georgia Line's Brian Kelley, Chris Janson, M tley Cr e's Vince Neil, Gavin Degraw, and other special guests.

Upshift, Downshift, Crowds, Roar If negotiating those turns are tricky, so is capturing the race's signature sounds. That's the job of A1 Mike Pope, aided by submixer Rob Sweeney. Some of the music might sneak into the broadcast here and there, but most of it will be that characteristic effects mix of upshift, downshift, crowds, and roar.

Street courses are obviously always a little more difficult, mainly in terms of access, explains Pope, who has mixed IndyCar races for 13 years. Of course, on this course here in Nashville, we've got some experience. This is our third year here.

Getting the audio signals around the sprawling downtown campus involves an infrastructure of eight Calrec Hydra network boxes daisy-chained into the Artemis submix console aboard the B unit of IMS Productions' three-trailer production rig (which also handles robos and graphics), buttressed by a parallel Dante network in spots.

The cameras on the truck still have two audio analog inputs, but they also have network connections, Pope explains. Those network connections are what we use for Dante boxes, which also can be configured for intercom. We've done that in the past, but, for this race, we're also using the Dante to bring microphone signals back, primarily for the upshifts or downshifts and maybe a roar - whatever is needed to get the signal back to the submix console.

With more than 50 microphones deployed in total, he can call on Audio-Technica BP4027 long stereo shotgun mics on hard cameras and shorter BP4029 mics for crowd capture and other applications. Sennheiser 416 super-cardioid shotguns have become indispensable for up/downshift sounds and for use on robo cams. A Shure VP88 rounds out the main four-pack of the various transducers that Pope and Sweeney use to cover the vast majority of the race.

All of those are workhorse mics, Pope says.

The camera audio inputs have become a valuable resource for racing effects capture, with improved pre-amps that can collect the full-range audio needed for motorsports. And, because the track is dedicated to IndyCar, the console gain and trim structures are already tuned for the sport.

A lot of the show is already dialed in for us, notes Pope, who mixes it on a Calrec Apollo desk.

Radio, Comms Are Complicated A pair of Calrec Brio consoles are used to mix the audio for the big-screen video around the track, some of which will make its way into the broadcast sound via direct feeds to the main mix desk. According to Pope, the radio mix, mixed by Pat Sellers, is perhaps the most complicated part of the event's audio due to the unpredictability of sources and is on a scant 1.5-second profanity delay.

You're a cat on a wire out there with the radios, he says of the occasionally salty audio nuggets that come across the RF infrastructure provided by BSI. But they're critical because, whenever audio leads the narrative, it's usually because of what's coming through the radios.

The show's comms are conventional but also complicated, built around an RTS ADAM platform with nearly 600 ports spanning seven trailers. It's a fairly standard configuration but made notable by its scale, says Pope.

Not all of them are active, he points out, but they're there. I would say we would have at least 12-16 external panels that we use. In general, it's structured mostly the same, but the comms load can change from a street course or an oval or a road course.

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has become somewhat notorious for its crashes - the track varies in width from 37 ft. to 80 ft. - and that takes a toll on the audio infrastructure, from the loss of the occasional microphone to destruction of some of the fiber cabling.

Sometimes a car can hit the concrete barriers and move it, and it can cut fiber, says Pope. We've had it happen.
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