Fred Aldous, who was recently inducted into the Sports Broadcast Hall of Fame, has been working closely with the Conservatory to help develop our Broadcast Audio Curriculum.
During one of our free AES events, Mr. Aldous spoke to our student body about his experience in the audio industry. From talking about his roots in his hometown of Ogden, Utah, he briefly discussed his childhood desire to become a musician.
“As fortune would have it, once I met real musicians, I knew my career as a musician was over,” Fred says. “Now about the only thing I play is the stereo.”
This passion for music led him to getting into the audio industry as a weekend news mixer. He discussed how he eventually grew tired of exclusively doing music engineering, and how his first experience with broadcast audio was for a skiing event being broadcast by CBS. After Fox started broadcasting football games, Mr. Aldous became one of the first freelance audio mixers for Fox. He went on to discuss his experience working with NASCAR, how he and one of his co-workers had pioneered the broadcast of the events by dedicating time specifically to allow broadcast viewers to hear the sound of the event without the announcers talking over it. This came to be known as a segment called “Crank It Up,” a segment which still continues to be shown to this day.
Fred was instrumental in getting microphones on referees for football games, and getting mics into the bases for broadcasts of baseball games at Fox Sports, allowing people to hear parts of the games that they had never heard before. These new ideas added a whole new level of intimacy to the events that previously had never been experienced.
As his four decade long career continued, he eventually got involved with CRAS through meeting a seasoned instructor Robert Brock. Brock invited Fred to give a speech about broadcast audio at CRAS, and that led to the development of the broadcast curriculum at the school that launched in 2013.
Among Fred’s lifetime of achievements include his mixing of 16 NFL Super Bowls and numerous Daytona 500 races. There are a number of differences between broadcast audio and music production, mainly relating to the pace of the work and the unforgiving nature of the live show. He hasn’t seen many new faces coming up in the field of broadcasting, and with all of the big name broadcast audio guys coming to their golden years, there is a massive need for new, freshly trained broadcast audio engineering talent. There are numerous career possibilities in broadcast audio, especially when you consider that virtually every town in the United States has at least one radio or television station.
Fred entertained a Q&A session after outlining his history, answering many questions our future broadcast engineers had on their minds. After being asked if mixing for live events is still exciting for him, Mr. Aldous began talking about how much of a rush the entire experience provides. It can become very nerve-wracking if you stop to think about how many people are watching the event, who are guaranteed to hear any mistake you make. Fred also expressed his disappointment with the broadcast industry’s apparent lack of growth in the field of internships, and recommended just going out and getting involved with helping broadcast teams.
Many questions were specifically focused on his work with NASCAR. CRAS and our Mobile Broadcast Unit have been in attendance at many of the NASCAR events held around the Phoenix area. Recently CRAS students were even allowed to mix a live stem of a NASCAR broadcast. Fred briefly touched upon the importance of weather-proofing the microphones and other equipment, and how difficult it is to do so without affecting the sound of the microphones. He discussed several techniques for weather-proofing the microphones. One of the most common ways to weather-proof a microphone is to apply an un-lubricated condom around the microphone, with electrical tape around the base where it connects to the XLR cable. He also discussed the use of delays to counteract the distances between the cameras and microphones and make the audio and video align, similar to setting up and time aligning large PA systems for concerts.
Speaking of the microphones and equipment that he uses in the events, he talked about running a Calrec Apollo desk, which is the largest offered by the manufacturer. Some of his mic choices include the use of Audix D3 microphones for low cameras, DPA 4007s, and Audio Technica 825 STs on the fence in NASCAR broadcasts. On his console, he uses 210 analog inputs, 192 AES inputs, and 56 MADI streams.
Watch more of Fred’s seminar on our YouTube channel here!