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Heavy Audio Presence: Audio-Technica Takes the MotoGP Challenge Onboard at Jerez

11/05/2022

Heavy audio presence: Audio-Technica takes the MotoGP challenge onboard at Jerez By Michael Burns

Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 10:01

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At MotoGP's Jerez outing, Audio-Technica was on the case with a complex array of mics

I'm sitting in the Audio Control Room (ACR) in the Dorna Sports compound at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto in Andalusia, watching as the bikes of the MotoGP race around the multiview screens, and experiencing the thunder and zoom of their engines in 5.1 audio around the small mobile trailer.

In charge of this immersive audio landscape taking place on 1 May is Pep Mendoza, sound manager for host broadcaster Dorna Sports, who sits ready at the Lawo mc 56 mixing console, attentive to the requests coming through his Audio-Technica headphones from the race director in the International Programme Feed (IPF) gallery across the compound.

You may think that if things are loud, it's easy to capture. But with a high level of contamination from the environment, it's difficult to focus on anything. You need to find microphones capable to work under the extremely high sound pressure levels (SPL) of the bikes

The desk inputs, set for Audio Follow Video, move in time with the main feed; there would be no way anyone could handle the fast switching of the inputs from so many sources. Suddenly there is a crash, Mendoza reaches over and smoothly adjusts his faders, and the pebbly sound of the bike and (safe) rider skidding across the gravel on a corner fills the room.

This total immersion is aided by the clever placement of hundreds of microphones around the track and onboard the bikes, all supplied, like all the production headphones as well as the press conference audio system, by Audio-Technica. The transducer specialist has recently signed a second consecutive three-year relationship with Dorna to be the official Microphone Solutions Services Provider to MotoGP.

The R&D is all driven by Dorna for MotoGP. Dorna writes all the software, so they know what they needed in terms of workflow for their broadcasts

Getting specific with audio

Rodrigo Thomaz is the Audio-Technica Europe project manager for MotoGP. A sound solution fixer, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Audio-Technica product range, which has proved invaluable when faced with the challenges Dorna and motorbike racing has been throwing at him since 2019.

Coming to MotoGP from music and other sports was a unique experience for Thomaz, even a shock. The most obvious challenge is the sheer volume that is created by the bikes and the environment itself, Thomaz tells us as that very noise envelops the paddock at Jerez. You may think that if things are loud, it's easy to capture. But with a high level of contamination from the environment, it's difficult to focus on anything. You need to find microphones capable to work under the extremely high sound pressure levels (SPL) of the bikes, but at the same time, perform in delivering high quality and detail.

We had to take time to decipher it, he adds. We created solutions for each portion of track, rather than approach MotoGP as one thing.

It is not a small task; on the weekend we were at Jerez, there were 22 track feed cameras alone, including a jimmy jib, ground cams, bridge cams and several fixed and tripod positions.

The set up used by Dorna Broadcast's previous microphone supplier was a lexicon of brands' says Thomaz, including mics from Audio-Technica. We replaced those, and of course every other brand as well.

The new microphone solutions Thomaz specified were all existing Audio-Technica models or could be modified when required.

At Audio-Technica, we have a history of creating microphones that have high SPL tolerance anyway, Thomaz explains. We always strive for a high level of detail and clarity, especially when you're talking about spoken voice, for a boundary mic, a gooseneck, a commentator mic, a handheld mic, and so on. But even our shotguns were designed with that in mind.

MotoGp at Jerez, cameras and mics at the ready

Chasing onboard sound

MotoGP has the highest number of cameras in a single sports broadcast, mainly because there are four onboard cameras for each bike. If you have a camera there is a need to have audio, says Thomaz. We are not talking about a static mic, these are objects moving at 350km per hour.

SVG has previously covered how Audio-Technica collaborates with Dorna to test prototype kit, such as the BP3600/ 8.0 Microphone Concept, but it has also been working on a modified version of one of its lapel mics, the BP899, specifically for MotoGP bikes.

Dorna does all the hard work, says Audio-Technica Europe's CEO Robert Morgan-Males. They've had years of experience of sending video and audio separately from a bike. The R&D is all driven by Dorna, they write all the software, so they knew what they needed in terms of workflow. In terms of the microphones, they knew how it's going to have to fit, they knew where it needed to physically be, they knew what the environment and temperatures were the bikes get incredibly hot around those engines - it was up to us to design a microphone solution that will work within those parameters. Environmentally our mics stand up to a lot already. With some modifications, we were able to get into that testing stage quite quickly.

We worked on that for two years with Audio-Technica, adds Mendoza. They created special little lavalier microphones for us. Right now, we have two on the bike.

It's not like a [racing car] where they have a lot of space and the driver is in a fixed position, he continues. The microphones and transmitters or receivers in the bike [have to be smaller] and the rider is moving all the time.

Microphones and components also must survive the constant stripping down of the bikes by the
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