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Treading Water in the Freelance Pool: A Day in the Life of an A-2 on a Live Sports Broadcast (Part 5)


Whew! We made it to the last part in our series! You’ve learned about what to expect in a typical day as an A-2 (Part 1). You were introduced to a vast list of characters that you’ll be working with (Part 2). I gave you some key tips and tricks of the trade (Part 3). Heck, I even built you your very own starter tool kit (Part 4). What else is there to know? Umm…..LOTS MORE. In this final part of the series, I’ll take you through setting up the booth and actually going LIVE. So, let’s follow the money to where the action is. Read on…..

Depending on what your A-1 wants, setting up your booth or announce table now would be a good idea. There seems to be a standard in our industry for the setup of the announce position. Typically, there are three announce headsets (Play-by-Play (PXP), Color, and a handy-dandy Spare), two “stick” mics (hand-held) and IFB’s for these positions (IFB = Interruptable Fold Back). Most often, as we look at the field of play, the order from left to right is as follows: Statistician, PXP, Color and AD or Stage Manager. Consult your producer to make sure this is how your talent wants it set up.

Your “booth kit” may contain:

  • 3 announcer headsets. Be nice and wipe off the headset ear cups of all make-up and ear grunge.
  • 2 stick mics – EV 635’s or RE 50’s, for example.
  • 2 IFB boxes to amplify the fold back (to their ear pieces) lines for the talent. Their stand-up will require Telex ear pieces. The talent may or may not have their own. It’s always best to have extras, though and they blow easily.
  • 3 Talkback boxes for talent headsets. These act as IFB boxes, cough boxes and also route the muted headset mic to the director and producer in the truck via a separate talkback circuit.
  • 2 or more PL boxes and headsets for intercom to stage manager, statistician, PA’s, etc.
  • Crowd mics hung out the window. I bet you know what these are for!!!
  • Cables, Y-cords, power supplies and adapters for the above.

Occasionally, you are required to set up the TV monitors and lights and other yucky video stuff. SORRY! While we’re talking about the booth (or table), let’s chat a moment about the talent. Most of these kids are pretty nice. They work hard before the show preparing and rehearsing and all that. They might even treat you like a human being. To some of these people, you are just a carnie that they must depend on for all things technical. They may not think twice about reaming you because they can’t figure out that the volume knob makes it louder, or the ear piece won’t work if it’s not plugged in. However, they are the engine that drives the whole show, so BE NICE and keep them happy.

Just before we go live, we play back a pre-produced pre-show and/or teaser. These are usually recorded and packaged sometime before the show. It may include an interview on the field of play with a player, coach or owner. During pre-record time, your job is to wait around for a decision on to whom to talk to is made, changed, blown-off, changed again and finally accomplished. Remaining calm and focused is an art form. Bring a book.

So, now, we go live to air. If all goes well, now is the time to take a breather. you can hang out on the court, field, locker room or by the truck. The locker room is a good source of free food and good company, so schmooze away. Your job is to wait for stuff to break. Keep a radio on to stay in touch with the A-1. Bring him/her a coke and kick back.

What we do isn’t brain surgery. Sometimes, you need to let some things slide and not pay as much attention to detail as one would like to in a more controlled environment. Someone once described live sports TV audio production as “paper plate audio”. As the A-2, you are called on to be the ambassador between the truck and the house, the teams and the vendors, the players and the talent, other media representatives and a vast concoction of other people. Maintaining perspective and letting the higher-ups sweat the big stuff has kept me employed for quite some time. Enjoy it. I know I do.

Rom Rosenblum is/was a freelance A-2 and is currently an Applications Engineer for Clear-Com. He continues to freelance as a mixer for live TV sports broadcasts and has worked everything from Roller Derby to the Olympics. He admits to once upon a time playing Tom Lehrer songs on the piano for patrons of various disreputable restaurants in Texas.