Wakefield, UK, August 2008: NEP Visions, one of Europe's largest independent outside broadcast facilities companies, has been putting SoundField's DSF-2 digital microphone through its paces over the past year and a half, using it to provide 5.1 ambience on its HD transmissions for a variety of high-profile work, including the international feed for May's European Champions League football final in Moscow, and regular coverage of UK football Premier League and Championship matches for Sky Sports. And this summer, they’ve begun working with SoundField’s recently introduced DSF-3 digital processor, which completes an entirely digital signal path from the SoundField microphone to broadcast, and forms the basis for the 5.1 surround sound audio feed NEP Visions supply to their HD broadcast clients.
As Visions’ Deputy Head Of Sound Neville Hooper explains, the company has been aware of SoundField for many years, and purchased their own analogue SoundField system last year comprising an SPS422 microphone and a SP451 surround decoder, which sees regular use. But the company became serious with SoundField technology when the DSF-2 digital microphone was launched in 2006. "We undertook trials of several different systems in the days before regular HD broadcast services were launched, trying to find the best way to produce an HD-compatible 5.1 audio feed for use with our HD broadcast clients like Sky Sports," comments Hooper. "We just weren't happy with some of the cheaper multi-capsule solutions, which produced all manner of phase problems when the surround sound signals were folded down to stereo. But SoundField's system behaves like a point-source microphone, produces no phase artefacts, and gives you a simultaneous, phase-coherent stereo signal, which is essential, because of course stereo is still the most important standard for nearly every mainstream broadcaster. The DSF-2 gave us the best results of all the systems we tried."
Since then, NEP Visions have used Sky's DSF-2 systems on their regular work for the international satellite broadcaster, including the Premier League and Championship football matches for Sky Sports, and this year's NFL American Football games at Wembley. When working for other broadcasters, they have switched to their own analogue SoundField SPS422/SP451 combination to create their surround sound output, such as when covering the Rugby World Cup for ITV. The OB experts' most recent high-profile use of the DSF-2 system was at the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow at the end of May, where NEP Visions were responsible for generating the main international broadcast feed, used in simultaneous live transmissions all over the world.
"Another thing that really appealed to us from the start with the DSF-2 was the distance over which it would operate," adds Neville Hooper. "Sky have permanently installed DSF-2s in optimal positions at several UK football stadiums, but in some international venues we've been working in, we've had to mount the DSF-2 microphone eight to nine hundred metres from our OB vehicle. Nevertheless, we've never had any technical trouble — that’s one of the benefits of using a digital microphone for this kind of application. They’re pretty hard-wearing, too. The SoundField systems we’ve been using have been transported all over Europe, but they've proven robust and reliable. In our business, that's the kind of kit we like! And now, with the DSF-3 processors coming in from Sky, we can produce a direct-to-digital 5.1 stream."