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From Aspiring DJ to Sky Sports: A1 Mixer Alex Judd on Being at the Forefront of Audio Change

22/09/2021

From aspiring DJ to Sky Sports: A1 mixer Alex Judd on being at the forefront of audio change By Heather McLean, Editor

Monday, September 20, 2021 - 14:49

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Sky Sports' Alex Judd, hard at work programming a Calrec console

I've worked in five different audio-related positions whilst being at Sky, says Alex Judd, technical specialist and A1 at Sky Sports. Throughout that time, I've mixed chat shows for Channel 5, live music productions, boom operated on dramas, guaranteed, managed staff and freelance teams for seven years, designed and planned multiple audio installs, and mixed over 20,000 hours of live audio for broadcast.

My biggest career progressions have been when I have been trusted to perform at a high level, where there are either lots of viewers, or big stakes in project timelines.

However, Judd adds it has not always been a career progression without bumps in the road: I think the most defining moment was when a show I tried to supervise when first starting out went horribly wrong. I questioned whether I wanted to continue doing this as a career. Fortunately, I just went back and gave it another go.

It's not an easy job to develop in without mentors and the support of others. There's so much to learn, and you need guidance on what is important to know and what to ignore when first staring out, he adds.

Forefront of change

Judd looks back at the challenges he has faced over the course of his career: Technology changing was quite an interesting one. Before we built Sky Studio in 2009, I recall myself and a colleague naively thinking we'd cracked it. All of the studios had different quirks as they had been built at different times with different tech, so understanding all the local knowledge was crucial to getting shows to air. Then we moved into Sky Studios and started all over again. At that point I realised this would happen multiple times through my career.

Now I'm on the forefront of that change, he continues. It looks like there are not that many staff jobs out in the industry, so Sky is special in that way. There are multiple directions to move in a company this size, but it's important to focus on the value and skills you bring to any current role you are seeking employment in.

The hardest thing can be to stay abreast of all of the often evolving requirements of the project, especially when managing multiple projects. You need to have a clear overview of the interdependent technologies deployed to make the different jobs work. Joining all the bits of the puzzle together is the challenge, but its' also a big part of the attraction

Sports broadcasting audio is an exciting area that gives Judd a buzz: The initial draw for me, working in sports broadcasting audio, was mixing live shows. The buzz of planning and executing the details of a big production came later on, but it was all intertwined with the thrill of live mixing, and also setting up communications. There's an art in all of it, especially when it goes well.

The draw for me now is in understanding larger scale systems and tech which can be used to facilitate live productions from an audio perspective. I have always been into technology and had fun being creative with how to use it. Once you start to understand how systems connect together it almost becomes like puzzle to solve.

Alex Judd, technical specialist and A1 at Sky Sports

An objective ear

Today, Judd's job is all about looking at the big picture for audio at Sky Sports. He notes: My role is currently solely focused on technology, innovation and Sky Sports audio output on a macro level. I'm focussed less on firefighting issues brought on by COVID, and now engage the industry manufacturers with new tech plans and ideas that we are rolling into our cloud based virtual production suites. I also work with our sound team and production teams to help enhance our production sound by introducing new tech, workflows, and by pushing for sound to be at the forefront of what we do for live broadcast. We are pushing immersive 5.1.4 audio to be on all our top tier sports.

He adds: I enjoy the creativity of high-level thinking, and when a project or design is implemented well. I also enjoy learning from mistakes and challenging the way things are done in order to innovate. Some things I've tried have worked really well after bedding in.

He goes on: My current role is a culmination of hours spent thinking about and listening to sound with an objective ear, and with a commercial thought process to deliver projects tailored to their specific use. Getting the job was really about positioning, timing and having the backing and trust of many different managers and stakeholders to lead in this position.

On the difficulties of his current role, Judd notes: Initially what was hard was just trying to understand the architecture of how all of the systems joined together, along with all the new people and their differing roles. It was like a whole new world from live production, but at the same time totally connected due to the technology.

The hardest thing can be to stay abreast of all of the often evolving requirements of the project, especially when managing multiple projects. You need to have a clear overview of the interdependent technologies deployed to make the different jobs work. Joining all the bits of the puzzle together is the challenge, but its' also a big part of the attraction.

On what are the most challenging aspects of working in live sport audio today, Judd comments: It depends on which angle, or which hat I'm wearing. As a sound supervisor, it's the sheer volume of circuits, and aggregation of comms and audio combined with production demand. From a technical engineering perspective, a lot of the systems aren't intelligent networks so
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