Echo Collective: Fields – Pro Hockey Ambiences

 upper deck mics no windscreen 2

Guest Contribution by René Coronado

I’m very proud to announce the launch of the new sister site to echo | collective - echo | collective: fields!

The fields project will take me out of the comfortable confines of the studio and have me in the real world gathering ambiences and other sounds in high res surround.

We launched with three libraries: pro hockey ambiences, hospital ambiences, and Texas rodeos and ranches.

I’d love to talk a bit about the biggest of the three libraries – Pro Hockey Ambiences.

My general philosophy on life as an audio guy is that it is that the things that are closest to me are the things that I have the greatest capability (and responsibility) to record.  We’re the most intimate with the sounds in our own backyards, and it takes a closeness with a certain sonic landscape to really gain the insight required to capture those sounds at their height and at their most real.  It’s also important to remember that my backyard is certainly not everyone’s backyard, and so things that are common and routine to my ears may in fact be exotic and exciting to ears in other parts of the world that are not used to the things that I am used to.  To stop and re-evaluate our world with a new curiosity is to re-discover the beauty in the sounds we take for granted or even filter out.

I’ve been attending pro hockey games for over 10 years.  I went to a few games at the old Reunion Arena in Dallas before the American Airlines Center was built.  Once that building went up I had managed to get close enough to the teams that I was given press passes, responsibilities, and lots and lots of access.

from the audio desk pano

I’ve witnessed almost every important pro hockey moment in that building in person since it was built.

I was there with my PCM D50 rolling front the music platform when Brendan Morrow scored the quadruple overtime goal late on a Sunday night to send the Stars past the Sharks and into the Western Conference Finals.  It was the loudest moment I’ve ever witnessed in sports.

I was there when Mike Modano played his final game on home ice in a Stars uniform.  In the moment they played his tribute video,  Jeff K, the in-game host and music director did the smartest thing I’ve ever seen and just let the crowd own that moment.  No music, no prompts, just pure love and respect pouring down from the seats to the ice.  I recorded that 5 minute standing ovation from that same platform with that same D50.

quad rig

Last year, with the sounds of the arena so firmly ingrained in my mind I started a project of developing a comprehensive documentation of the sounds of that place that I love so much.   Any sports fan knows that a game can be an emotional roller coaster, and that some events only happen once a month, once a season, or once in a lifetime.  I knew that in order to really capture the sound of that place I’d have to do multiple games in the hopes of capturing those fleeting moments that aren’t part and parcel of every single game.

Really good, throaty clean boo’s only happen a couple of times a season.  Really huge euphoric highs happen at about the same rate.  Something strange happens every season, but each season’s strangeness has it’s own flavor.

With all of this in mind I built a rig that I would keep on hand and run out to every game I could make that year.  The rig was four Line Audio CM3s mounted in dual ortf on a crisscrossed pair of stereo mounting bars running straight into a sound devices 788.  Simple, lightweight, versatile, and mobile.  On game nights I would get home from the studio, kiss the wifey, grab the rig, head to the arena, and find a new perch to cover.

From each perch I would roll an entire game.  One night I was rolling out in the hallway, the next I was out on the camera platform, the next I was up in the nosebleed seats, the next I was down under the bleachers at event level.

underground-tall

Every night had it’s own challenges.  Out in the hall and in the concourse I had to deal with curious fans (and some obnoxious ones wearing road jerseys), building security wondering what the heck I was doing with that bag of wires, and even a little boredom since I was at a game and not seeing it at all.  The platform had still photographers to shoo away, business discussions from the expensive seats to edit out, and sight lines to preserve.  Underground was easy once I got down there, but security was tight as the game I chose was the first after the Boston marathon bombings.  The season’s strange event happened when the home team scored, the goal horn sounded, but the goal song never played over the P.A..  It was the perfect clean goal sound, and it was because of a technical meltdown on the music side.

By far my favorite location was the penalty boxes.  On the last home game of the year I got to the arena super early, and with the blessings and assistance of the in-house audio crew I mounted my mics right on the penalty box cameras.  This created a SUPER wide image because of the distance between each camera, and gave me the perfect perspective of hockey and hockey alone in front of the front mics and crowd alone in front of the rear mics.  The location and the recordings were magical, and this was further aided by the fact that it was a major rivalry game with tons of opposition fans in the house causing mayhem.  Some goals scored by the road team got crowd reacts on par with home goals, only free of the goal horn and goal song.  Super clean and super rare.  Competing chants, penalty box countdowns and exits, body checks right under the mics, and the super wide perspective make this one game maybe my best sporting event recording I’ve ever done.

Once all of the recording was done I brought it all into a gigantic session and began the process of editing.  The session ended up about 24 hours long, and that’s after cutting out all music and PA.  From there I went through each individual game and identified and extracted every crowd event.  These included Oh reacts, cheer reacts, individual fan callouts, goals, and any other sounds of interest.  On games where the home team was losing I got tons of great boos and individual fans calling out the refs and the players for sucking at their jobs.  On games the home team was winning I got great cheers and general happiness.  Every section had the one or two super loud fans that were chirping every one in shouting distance the entire game.  Hockey fans are passionate people.

 

hallway pano

Once the unique events were all extracted they were sorted into categories and ordered by intensity.  What was left behind was a perfect uniform crowd idling sound from each perspective I recorded.  I found the three best 3 minute chunks of each idle, extracted those, and then went back for even more material.  From what was left I used strip silence to reveal all of the remaining pure hockey sounds (stick checks, shots, hits, etc) and with them each aligned and batch crossfaded I created a “game action” track from each location that had much more going on than the idling crowd tracks.

This took months of work in the gaps of my other projects.

A few weeks of metadata entry and voilà – a massive quadrophonic collection of my favorite sports crowds in the world.

With the amount of access I have to both equipment and locations in the arena, it would be my own fault if I didn’t do a project like this.  I’m very proud of the final result, and I invite you to head over to the ecf page and pull down the high res demo files to hear what I get to hear every day in my backyard.

 

Special thanks to Rene Cornado for putting together this article.  Check out Echo Collective: Fields and check out René on Twitter @rene_coronado

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