How the whole elite wrestling kept their audio production moving during the pandemic
For the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to work as a Front-of-House (FOH) Engineer for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) LLC, an American professional wrestling organization that broadcasts live every Wednesday night on the TNT network. . But my luck does not end there: we are one of the few sports organizations that did not stop production during the Covid. And for that, we are incredibly grateful.
Looking back, I’ve been doing live audio since the mid-1980s, mixing FOH and monitors for bands in the Southeastern United States. While working in the music scene for many years in Florida, I landed a job as a FOH mixer at Universal Studios for a wrestling show. This is really when the streaming audio hit me and I thought, why don’t I do this more often? What was supposed to be a six-week gig turned into a 14-year career mixing audio for wrestling matches.
From there I was offered a job in 2019 with AEW as an FOH mixer and since then we haven’t stopped production due to Covid. Although things have certainly been very different. In the beginning, we were traveling to different cities every week to go live every Wednesday night, and everything had to be streamlined with as few moving parts as possible. We did this from October 2019 to March 2020 when Covid hit. Since then, we’ve been filming at Daily’s Place, an amphitheater in Jacksonville, Florida.
As a front-of-house engineer, I am in charge of the audio in the arena. Lyon Video, our main OB service partner for the show, encouraged us to use Calrec consoles, and I’m so glad they did because Summa’s workflow is so easy to use; I have lots of outputs and all the routing I need, and it sounds great. I also use a Waves server to add effects in the chain for things like reverb, delay and compression.
I had previously worked with Calrec offices; I started with a Sigma with Bluefin because that was what most trucks had back then. Then when HD appeared, most of the trucks were upgraded to Calrec’s Artemis and Apollo consoles. Of course, I had never seen or known a FOH mixer using a Calrec desk.
Before Covid when we were traveling as usual our setup was such that the main OB truck in Lyon had a Calrec Apollo console and they also had two 44 channel Summa consoles, one for FOH. With Lyon, we started to figure out how the team would route the signal to the venues and route it to three consoles at the same time. Then we started talking about networks; how much we would need and how they would work. This is where Calrec’s Hydra2 networking solution really made sense.
In more detail, our setup involves the use of fiber from the Lyon broadcast truck to three Hydra2 racks in the room, as well as fiber going to another broadcast truck for downmixing. We use a 32 Ã 24 Hydra2 setup for each location, a 24 Ã 24 at the announcer station and a 24 Ã 16 at the front of the house. We also have a 24 Ã 16 which we use for remote locations. We use fiber to connect to Hydra2 boxes for control. We have an announcer booth, a ring with 14 microphones around it, plus there is pyro, smoke and flames that we mic; even though we don’t have an audience right now because of Covid, we’re still putting on audience microphones.
After the trip was cut short due to Covid, the staff had to iron out our plans to produce the show in one location, that’s when we started using Daily’s Place. We used the same setup as when we traveled to different locations before Covid.
All of our staff and crew are tested for Covid-19 on the first day before entering Daily’s Place, and their temperature is taken each day they are on site. We also wear face masks around the clock and practice social distancing measures. We are so lucky that we did not have to close like so many other live events, and that is in large part because of the amazing staff and team we have. Each of them play a major role in running the show, not to mention that I can use some of the best audio consoles in the business. Everything about them is great – from the routing, the patching, the networking and their overall sound. This, of course, makes my job incredibly enjoyable.
This article was submitted on behalf of Calrec Audio.