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Not Your Typical Radio Remote

The author, DOE for Dan Patrick, tells what it’s like to cover the Super Bowl

For the past five years, “The Dan Patrick Show” has gone on the road for the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

The national radio program broadcasts Monday through Friday on approximately 350 U.S. affiliates and is syndicated on Premiere Radio Network; it is also broadcast as a TV show on NBC Sports Network and DirecTV’s Audience Network.

This year, DirecTV built Dan’s “Manscraper” on the top floor of the parking structure at Pier 40 in New York City overlooking the Hudson River. The two-story building featured a large set on the first floor (fashioned after Dan’s Connecticut “Mancave”), with a rear wall of glass giving the audience a view of lower Manhattan, including the new One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower. A spiral staircase led to the second floor, which was a regulation basketball court, complete with a backdrop of Grand Central Station.

The exterior of the two-story set at night. The new One World Trade Center is visible in the background.
CREDIT: Photos by Kat Coffey
The set under construction. THE TECHNICAL SKINNY
The show features Dan alongside his four co-hosts, The Danettes. Each of the guys has a turret with on/off/cough, headphone volume and talkback to two destinations. The hosts turn their own mics on and off, so in the booth we just ride levels on their mics, plus the phone calls and show bumpers we receive from the main studio in Milford, N.J.

Wheatstone Blade processors.

The Wheatstone E-1 console and monitor set-up. Several high-profile guests joined Dan during the week, and guest mics and headphones were controlled in the booth, which is typically a construction trailer located outside the main set.

We use an eight-channel headphone amp with eight stereo inputs. PGM is fed to both left and right channels, and the IFB interrupt is on the right channel.

Since this is a TV broadcast of the radio show, most of the camera shots are in the main studio while interviewing guests and taking phone calls, but during radio commercial breaks, fans get “behind the scenes” with what DirecTV calls “Look-ins.” Dan and The Danettes usually get up from their seats to go upstairs and play basketball, outside to the football field, greet their fans or give guests a tour. The guys and their guests have wireless lavs, which the TV audio engineer takes for the Look-ins. Our remote radio mixer also has all the wireless mics for backup, or if they stay to shoot hoops or do some other “non-studio” segment.

The heart of the operation is our Wheatstone E-1 console, which includes two Wheatstone Blades. The console has only 12 faders, so we utilized scene changes (events) to accommodate all our sources. There are four PGM busses, which have unique assignments feeding the TV truck, headphones, the main studio in Milford, and the on-set monitor speakers.

In the past, we’ve used the Vorsis M-1 and M-2 mic processors. This year, we demo’d two Vorsis M-4 Blades, for the five regular guys, plus two guest positions. Because the M4s are GUI-based, we split Dan’s mic and the guest mics to both the M4 and to dbx 286s mic processors for backup in case we needed to adjust anything in a big hurry, as the dbx has knobs!

Since this is a TV set, it’s a large room with high ceilings filled with not only the talent, but TV camera operators, floor directors, producers, lighting, other technical assistants and production assistants. We relied a lot on mic processing, EQ and dynamics to keep it from sounding like a big cave and to “gate” out extraneous noise from the crew and the huge fans that worked endlessly to keep the studio warm in the sub-freezing NYC temps!

THE PREP

The regulation basketball court, complete with a backdrop of Grand Central.

The TV show’s main set, as seen from the spiral staircase that connected the two floors. It takes about a month to prepare for this five-day remote broadcast. Configuring the Wheatstone E-1 for “The Dan Patrick Show” includes all mic and source assignments, setting up the two sets of mic processors, programming the talkback on the mic turrets for each talent, assigning the busses, creating “events,” setting up a utility mixer in the Blade, and assigning the programmable buttons on the console for talkback to the TV truck, on-set talent and the Milford studio (master control).

There are endless emails, conference calls and other phone calls to coordinate phone lines, Internet, T-1s, and making sure our audio trailer is actually within a reasonable distance from the set. There are also CAD drawings we share with the TV audio truck, so we can be sure we’re all on the same page regarding who provides what in terms of sources and talkbacks. The TV truck is usually located about a quarter mile from the set, so there is a ton of fiber between us. A week before we arrive on location, we pack up our two pallets of gear and get it on its way to the destination.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
After five years of “The Dan Patrick Show” pre-Super Bowl remotes, we’ve picked up a few things:

• Pack everything as if it might be dropped off the back of a truck.
• Cover the pallets of gear with tarps and tons of shrink-wrap because the final destination seems to always have rain or snow.
• ALWAYS have a backup plan for transmission because phone lines and Internet are unpredictable — that’s if you can even get the ISDNs to work at all, which, for us, was only once in five years!
• Fly the cables no matter what! It’s not fun digging out after a week of rain, freezing rain and snow.
• Bring clothing for all weather. It was sunny and warm in Indianapolis, and freezing and snowing in Dallas. Who’d have thought? Then there was the Polar Vortex in NYC. We are hoping for some warmer weather in Phoenix next year.
• Oh, and to have fun. After all, it’s radio!

Thanks to all the radio crew: Kat, Alan, Paul and Dan-o.

Jim Hibbard is owner of Pacific Mobile Recorders/Studio Builders, Sacramento, Calif., and DOE of radio for “The Dan Patrick Radio Show.” Contact him via jim@studiobuilders.com.

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