Patrick Baltzell has actually been the sound technician for many of America’s most-watched occasions in the past few decades. He is sitting alone in the convention halls that NAMM, a trade show for the music do industry. Though i instantly recognize his signature thin frame and also curls the white hair, nobody looks as Baltzell stands come greet me v unbridled enthusiasm. It’s likely everyone in this room has actually no idea who he is. But Baltzell to be not just in fee of the audio for the previous 19 super Bowls (excluding this year’s) — he also currently designs and mixes sound because that the Grammys, Oscars, and also presidential inaugurations.

One hundred-eighty countries will it is in watching this Sunday’s Super bowl 52 in between the Eagles and also the Patriots. And, when everyone will certainly be cheering on the players, the halftime performer, and the person who sings the nationwide anthem, we frequently forget over there is someone, unseen, who has spent months making certain you deserve to hear every word and note. Baltzell talks with The Verge to offer an insider’s watch at just how to make sure everything is heard without a hitch throughout one that the country’s most-anticipated broadcasts.

You are watching: How do you get on the field for super bowl halftime

The Verge: How go the planning process begin through the Super bowl halftime show?

Baltzell: There room two sides to that. The an initial is the site itself, the nuts and also bolts. That starts in June for a Super key in February. We make our first site survey in June take a look in ~ the large picture that the space. Where are we walk to placed broadcast trucks? Where space we walk to put the audio compound whereby we construct all the speakers? and also we need to have trailers that are offices. We figure out within the stadium wherein we’re walking to eventually put amplifier racks wherein we have the right to store the speaker carts. We need to put the whole show on the field in 6 minutes.

Hold on. 6 minutes?

Six. Minutes. Native the finish of the first half that a football game to the start of the halftime show is in between six and also seven minutes. That’s exactly how much time you gain to develop the entire display on the field.


Then we’ll do two much more trips out there and also say, “How carry out we get wires?” fine drill big holes in the concrete floors and also run cable trays where we need them for the supervisor Bowl, i m sorry isn’t choose a consistent game. a regular game, there space two TV trucks for the two broadcasters castle invited. We have 180 countries and 25 languages. For this reason we need to accommodate 25 announcers transfer in Japanese and Russian and German and so on.

So, we use any component of the PA system that’s already in there and we need to work v their designers that work in-house and also create a method for me come take manage of all your speakers through a push of a switch for the pre-game, i m sorry is the nationwide anthem, and also the halftime show, and also then, that course, it goes ago to their control for the game itself, the referees, announcements, every that.

I heard the the performers lip-sync during the halftime show. Is that true?

No. Most of the command vocals are live. Background vocals are constantly pre-recorded. Many of the band is pre-recorded. The rolling Stones was an exemption in Detroit. They refused to do any kind of backing tracks so the was all live. So us still had to push their stage out in 6 minutes, and also then likewise connect it every up with actual drum mics, guitar mics, key-board inputs, the whole thing. Yet Madonna, for example, was simply live vocal, and also everything else was tracked. Katy Perry, very same thing, however even some of her vocals, the really complicated parts once she was flying, she gained really nervous therefore she pre-recorded and also we switched come that.

Ah, so you gauge top top the fly when someone demands a tiny support.

Yes. Many of the solos, like all of Prince, his etc playing was every live. V Springsteen the sax was live, the guitar was live. Some world just aren’t good lip-syncers and also some are. Madonna is clues on, probably due to the fact that she’s to be doing it for so long. Yet some, favor Bruce Springsteen, he transforms the method he sings it each time that sings it. Therefore it would certainly be ashamed if you had actually a close increase of him and also it no match.

But do they all pre-record the vocals just in case?

Yes. We speak to it a security track. We constantly record a defense track for the halftime lead singer and also for the national anthem. The huge notorious one that i play for everybody to be my very first Super bowl in 1998. The national anthem to be done through Jewel. She was brand-new then. She got so nervous due to the fact that she was a kid and she’d simply been nominated because that a Grammy. The at sight Bowl was in San Diego, she’s from san Diego, so they thought oh, we’ll acquire a local.

The morning the the Super key she said, “I don’t want to song live.” But, the starts acapella and also the music comes in later on. And we said, “Well then if you’re not going to song live then you’re going come wear in-ear monitors since it starts acapella.” and she said, “Nope. I can’t execute this. Ns not supplied to it. Just offer me the speaker wedges and give me the counting off in the wedges you recognize like, “One, two, oh say have the right to you see.”

We said, “When they speak ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Jewel’ the crowd is going come scream.” through in-ear monitors, you’re going come hear it... However with speakers, every little thing you collection in an north stadium, you can not hear it once that group screams. So clock here, she misses the very first word since she couldn’t hear.


Did anyone notice?

Oh god yes. We took a ton the heat. The just other time in my twenty years something occurred with the national anthem was once Christina Aguilera forgot the words. She sang the very first verse twice and also the exact same thing, that’s all talked about.

So to finish up about the timeline, the an innovative starts in September. In September they hire the halftime talent... Because we need that plenty of months to build these huge sets and also visions of what the display is going to be. The creative team gets together with the artists, producers, and also the NFL and also they every sit down. Mostly, the producers, the NFL just kind of indicators off correct or no. So they start developing the show. It’s just 14 minutes so you need to condense her best, greatest songs. No ballads. You need to put them all together right into a high energy 14 minutes.

Then once you have the song picked you have to think around scenery and cast. Are kids going to it is in everywhere, perform you want a marching band? What specifically do we want to encompass to do this point bigger than last year? for this reason that process takes location over September, October, and November. By December that needs to be locked down due to the fact that they have to build these huge elaborate stages that are developed just for the super Bowl. Then they just throw them the end afterward. Every one is custom. The crazy exactly how much money they deserve to spend. The artist don’t get paid however the production expenses are covered, which can be in excess of 10 million dollars.


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Patrick Baltzell rehearsing for the Super bowl Image: Patrick Baltzell
What were few of the more difficult halftime shows you’ve functioned on?

The most complicated was Prince. The means I do the at sight Bowls space these speaker carts. Yes sir 16 come 18 the them and also they’re put in this large ring on the sidelines aimed increase in the stands very carefully. We invest days tuning them and optimizing what energy gets to the top.

I usage these for each supervisor Bowl and also I don’t adjust the form based ~ above the artist. That’s no that critical. But I will make changes based upon the stadium. Some could be taller and some room flatter. Part I can acquire my speakers further away, and also some they’re ideal up against the sidelines, which renders it trickier. But, Prince was the most challenging because he’s nuts about sound. His team didn’t desire to carry out the speaker carts. Lock said, “We’re no doing that. That doesn’t job-related for Prince. We have actually done stadiums because that decades. Us know how to perform it. You need these huge giant speaker arrays.”

Sure, this is the most efficient means to perform it v a big tower we have to start in the parking lot and in six minutes we need to get all of this devices onto the ar in position plugged in, in the dark, checked and also working. Therefore I know what friend do when you have actually two days to fill a show in because that a stadium. This is a football game. The Super bowl is a huge deal, also for U2 and Bruce Springsteen and also Prince. And also they get nervous this is in 180 countries. Even though it’s just 14 minutes, the background of civilization that have actually done the have set a bar the is really high. You want to have your ideal show so later on when castle talk around the 10 best Super Bowl reflects it consists of you.

So I had to talk them off the ledge. Like, I know what you desire to do and what you usually do. Save in mind the this an initial and foremost is a championship football game. Also, i don’t also know if ns can style something that have the right to fit v the stadium tunnel, which, through the way, is 10-feet wide maximum.

All the sound needs to go through the tunnel the players walk through?

That’s the only method you’re walk to acquire it top top the field. Every little thing comes with the tunnels. Some have actually two, some have three, some have four.

That’s not a lot of space.

Right. For something as large as Prince wanted, the foot alone would be means bigger 보다 that so it would certainly all have to collapse down, go with the tunnel, get the legs put out right into position, and get this tower set up.

Would towers like that in reality sound better if it can theoretically be done?

It would certainly sound together good. Maybe a small bit better. Certainly, you can use fewer speakers due to the fact that there’s performance when you pair them together. As soon as you break them into small piles of four or five on the carts you sacrifice a lot. So I perform agree with that part, but, this is a TV show. Exactly how are friend going come shoot this v cameras when you have actually six big towers through speaker clusters?


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The speak carts supplied at the Super bowl Image: Patrick Baltzell
And world at the super Bowl are looking in ~ the show from 360 degrees.

Correct! everyone sitting under low would certainly be looking through a tower in ~ his performance. My small speakers are around six feet tall; 99.99 percent of the human being with my architecture are walk to see the entire show. Nobody can assure me that we might do towers and make it work and also I was beginning to operation out of time.

So i went back to the Prince guys and also I had actually to perform a entirety acoustic modeling research where you take it each frequency band and what the sound push level would be. I had to prove to Prince’s team that it would work, that I might deliver the very same sound push level the the large towers might do. Also, the towers would certainly wreck the field. They would weigh 5,000 pounds and also leave clues on the field. The was concerned it wouldn’t have actually impact. That these tiny piles to be bullshit.

Just particulars they’ve never had to consider.

Yeah. When you’re trying come squeeze onto a championship football game, gain your show on, and also get the off, the a whole different thing.

How many speakers carry out you usage in complete for the halftime show?

It’s most likely 120 the those full-size heat array, and 36 subwoofers. Sometimes I’ll put additional piles that subwoofers for results just along the sideline the aren’t traveling out on the carts. Favor if yes sir a large thunder or earthquake effect constructed into the tracks and they really desire the seat to rumble.

Thirty-six subwoofers no seem favor a lot to me for whole stadium.

It isn’t. You’re right, but in a stadium, the low end tends to hang roughly a lot for a while.

How much of the artist’s sound are you controlling during the performance?

A lot. For most of them, we get the tracks. It’s about 16 come 24 tracks from a Pro devices session. And also they will certainly be separated into drums, sometimes kick drum, snare drum, bass, guitars, keyboards, one-of-a-kind effects, lift vocals in stereo, and also a security lead track. Few of them we go ago and soon on exactly how much the the protection track is fed in. Ns mixing quite a lot even in just those 14 minutes.

Some the them most likely favor certain styles that mixing.

Yes. Several of the designers want come tuck the command vocal lower due to the fact that they carry out it every single night through the exact same songs. Yet a most this audience are huge football fans and you need $15,000 dollars to walk to the super Bowl. Castle older guys usually, who can not know every Beyoncé lyric. For this reason I try to convince them the we must lean top top the vocal simply a small bit for those who don’t know the lyrics and also actually desire to hear what the lyric is.

What was your favorite Super bowl halftime show to do?

Prince.

Even though you stated he was an overwhelming to occupational with?

Yes. It to be torrential rain. We developed the start of the present in CG. We verified the outside of the stadium through these large lightning bolts cracked down and then the ribbon board around the stadion was all electrified. Then, the end of the smoke comes Prince prefer he was shot under out of the heavens to start the show. The was the concept. Us took exterior shots of stadiums and also they built this huge lightning effect. Turns out top top the night of the show it yes, really was a lightning storm.


Does rain affect the speaker at all?

The rain doesn’t affect the speakers. The real functioning amps through the mics ~ above them room under the stage. Yet it affects the mixing board! males were hold plastic end my mix board because I’m outside so I deserve to hear everything.

You’re not spanned normally?

No, because there are human being behind me and also they don’t desire their sight lines blocked. Us made a quick wooden structure out of boards and also wrapped it in visqueen. We kept it down low throughout the game, yet during the halftime present I had actually two guys host it up over me so I can see yet the rain wouldn’t hit the . Otherwise, we’re in trouble. The the finish of the display for us.

So the truth that he performed in this torrential rainstorm, I give him so lot credit. That’s my favorite halftime show because it was virtually prophetic. We check out this lightning bolt start the show, and it to be a lightning storm ~ above the night that the show, and the truth that he said “Rain? i don’t care. Bring it on.”

And, all the speaker survived, whatever worked, the console didn’t stop.

What’s your process to tune a device for a stadium?


What does it median to tune one audio system?

The goal of tuning a sound system is to have actually the same high quality of sound no issue where you are within a venue. Essentially, make the efforts to enhance the acoustic characteristics of a an are with the speakers you space using. Ideally, you desire to obtain as near as possible to having the exact same levels, frequency response, and clarity for every seat.

Certain points that have the right to be adjusted to affect sound encompass location and direction of speakers, levels, driver polarity, phase and also delay, and also filter / EQ.

Audio engineers often use software favor SMAART to help them analysis the frequency responses transparent a venue and make changes accordingly. Often, pink noise is blasted through speakers, i m sorry is climate picked increase by reference mics collection up at various spots in ~ a venue, and also measured using the software program to make adjustments.


Well, there room two types of stadiums and they’re really different. One is the open-air stadium, which many of lock are. So all I have actually to address are my speak carts top top the field and maybe speaker that are in suites. Sometimes in a nicer stadium, the suites have actually speakers built into the ceiling. I’ll take it those over for the halftime show and I have to send a signal to them.

In those open-air stadiums, that pretty basic. I’ll take a quadrant and set up 10 microphones close to the field, then at the optimal of the reduced bowl, climate the next level up, and also then the following level up, and take a sampling vertically. It takes me normally eight hours... Occasionally two sessions. I publication two night sessions from 6 at night come 2 in the morning once everybody rather is done functioning on the field. It’s obtained to be quiet. If it rains, or it’s an extremely windy, i can’t do measurements. That a bust.

So you’re usually measuring the approximately noise in different portions of the stadium.

Yes, i energize the sound system with pink noise and also then I simply keep do measurement ~ measurement because this mic in former is gonna be indicative of all the front heat seats. Next one farther up, it’s going to be the measure up for that totality section. So ns actually taking snapshots of each of the audience areas and also optimizing it.

The problem is if you make it perfect because that the civilization at the optimal you most likely are walking to damage the human being in the former rows. So that’s just a juggling act. You make it the best that you deserve to for all of the seats and that’s the best you can do. You take it a tolerance, add to or minus 3dB in every seat.


What is pink noise?

There’s a reason why pink noise is used to calibrate audio equipment. Pink noise is closer to just how the human being ear and mind perceive sound, i m sorry is in terms of octaves, and not absolute frequency. White noise has actually equal strength per hertz throughout all frequencies, when the strength per hertz in pink noise decreases as the frequency increases. This means white noise sounds much more hissy and treble-laden in higher pitches, and lower frequencies in pink noise space louder and have more power.

For example, the difference in between 100Hz and also 200Hz, and also 5,000Hz and 10,000Hz space both one octave. But, in terms of frequencies, the difference in between 100Hz and 200Hz is 100Hz, if the difference between 5,000Hz and 10,000Hz is 5,000Hz. The relative relationship is the same, however the really mathematical distinction is quite large. Through white noise, all these frequencies contribute to the overall level in octave change, but with pink noise, every octave has the same amount the energy. Due to the fact that pink noise distributes power according to just how humans hear, in octaves, it’s used to measure just how the sound is perceived at various places within a venue.


Now, the gets yes, really tricky once we perform a stadion that’s covered. In the NFL, castle encourage the teams to build brand-new stadiums. If you construct a new stadium, girlfriend go ideal to the top of the list for at sight Bowls. It is a large incentive because that the owner to spend the money and put in a new billion disagreement stadium. The only means you’re going to gain the Super key in the north is to build a stadium through a roof.

If you have a roof, climate this is a fundamentally different stadium because that me due to the fact that you’re currently going to have actually a sound system. But, the sound system isn’t going to be as much as par because that a Super bowl halftime show. Why need to it be? it’s designed because that announcements. But, I deserve to still make use of parts of them. Therefore there are my speak clusters on the field and also they’re spanning this lower portion. Then these hanging clusters that are currently in the stadium, ns use parts of them to cover this center seating section and also the really upper deck seating. All of the speaker are currently in place and also they’re high quality due to the fact that it’s a brand-new stadium. They’re much closer to the seats. They’re no going to reverberate by shooting sound all the method up over there from the field.

That’s the strategy to stadiums like this, but it take away a really long time because I need to go and also measure every among the speakers because I don’t to trust that whatever is correct. Yes layers and layers of signal processing prior to it goes from the mix board, even if it is it’s mine or the stadion one, to in reality coming the end of the speaker. There are several electronics. Therefore I’ll walk physically listen to every single one the those in-house speakers due to the fact that I constantly want the perfect. I’ll take it at the very least two complete days to carry out the tuning top top a mechanism that’s a joint venture between my portable system and the in-house system.

What speakers carry out you prefer to use?

The finest speakers out there now are the JBL VTX speakers and also the together Acoustics K1s. Those two room both great speakers.


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Baltzell’s CAD drawing for the black Eyed Peas’ halftime power Image: Patrick Baltzell
What’s the most challenging space you’ve excellent audio for?

The worst display I’ve ever done was the Super bowl in 2004 in ~ Reliant stadium in Houston. The stadion is just unworkable because it’s obtained a roof and also the seat stop and the sidewalls walk up for another 20 to 30 feet and also then yes sir the steel roof and there’s no therapy anywhere. Therefore it’s notorious that tours don’t want to prevent there.

Really, they prevent it?

Yes. Well, they carry out a present once and half the audience asks because that the money earlier because friend can’t understand a single lyric at a concert.

It is since the sound is bouncing roughly everywhere?

Yes. It’s reflections. Now, the a football stadium so the owners deliberately carry out not placed acoustic treatment due to the fact that in football, the home crowd screams at the inappropriate times for the opponent. Top top a crucial play, when they’re trying to speak to every other, they can’t hear at all and also they make mistakes. It’s actually a huge advantage for the home team come scream ungodly in ~ certain an essential moments in the video game where lock trying come communicate. Therefore they deliberately construct the stadiums without acoustic treatment.

Most the the smarter owners break-up the difference and they go, “Okay fine don’t treat every the surfaces with acoustical material yet let’s have a concert where human being want come come.” Or they carry out rodeos in the southern in stadiums like Houston and also Dallas. You need to at least have the ability to hear the announcer, and understand them. Yet this one, it wasn’t prefer that.


What is acoustic treatment?

Once sound pipeline a speaker, any number of things can impact it, including the measurement of the space, and also the product of the surfaces it bounces off of. Stadiums in details are regularly designed with difficult and very reflective materials, like glass and also concrete, and are large, open spaces with high ceilings. In short, they’re no designed because that optimal acoustics. Sound will ping-pong around, causing excessive reverb trails which muddies what girlfriend hear, and makes speech difficult to understand.

Acoustic treatment, whether it’s foam wedges or rely baffles, are offered to absorb too much acoustic energy. Also coverage of simply 10 to 20 percent can help bring the reverb trace time under to one second, definition there is an increase in audio clarity and intelligibility. This not just makes the stadion “sound better” yet can also help isolate the sound and also prevent the from leaking external of the main arena.


So it’s no that they’re ignoring that part of the design process with football stadiums, they purposely skip it?

Both. It’s periodically ignorance, and it’s money since the final thing once you develop a new stadium or arena acoustic treatment. Whatever else is finished. By climate you’re over budget and also out of money and say, “We’ll come ago and visit the in 5 years allow me make part money on the investment first.”

That Super bowl in 2004, I wanted to paris the speakers. I had a solution, but they wouldn’t let me fly the speakers since they were blocking large brand-new scoreboards. Ns ran about with my design, I retained trying to move and change them and also minimize the variety of seats that would check out my speaker blocking them and they claimed I couldn’t carry out it. So ns did it through speakers top top the ground and also it to be a disaster choose I knew it would be. And also the just reason I endured to call the story is since that was the super Bowl wherein Janet Jackson’s boob came out.

Are girlfriend serious?

So every the e-mails the the sound to be the worst, the NFL could care less around that due to the fact that they to be doing together damage regulate over Nipplegate.

Most of the work I do currently are in decent arenas that have actually acoustic treatment. The arenas normally do due to the fact that they’re generally for concerts or basketball, or hockey wherein it’s no the exact same in terms of the screaming crowd.

It seems, also down come the the smallest level in say, nightclubs, the the high quality of sound and where speakers are put is the last point owners worry about but the the an initial thing world complain about.

Yes, that’s specifically right. Once I argue with say, the Oscars, around where I want to placed my speakers, I gain they want to have actually a big, clear shot of the work-related the art director did. However then they simply keep wanting me to be greater and higher, further out that the way, so that they can do these various other lighting results on the scene. In ~ the finish of the day, if every light went the end in the show except for a follow spot, we would still perform the show and also people would sit in ~ home and watch Meryl Streep to walk out and announce the winner, Jack Nicholson acquire up and get his Oscar, nobody would certainly leave. if the audio walk out, over there is nothing. The article is the audio message. Not exactly how well that lit, and also not how spectacular the see is.

Is over there a greater level that expected quality in the room once it pertains to a music awards present versus something prefer the at sight Bowl?

Sure. And it’s tricky since you’re offer so many masters ~ above a show like the Grammys. The hip-hop acts want it very loud due to the fact that they desire it like their shows, which is stupid loud, yet they feel like that’s the means the energy communicates, through subwoofers the end of control and also all that. Then you walk to a timeless piece the sounds ridiculous at that level. For this reason we’re do the efforts to acquire some object of consistency.

Beyoncé did the on the nation Music Awards. The Dixie chicken did a work again, please again of among her songs and also she heard it and loved it. For this reason she got to out to the country Music combination said, “You recognize what would certainly be yes, really cool is if I execute a mash-up through the Dixie Chicks. Lock doing my track the means they’re act it through fiddles and also banjos and stuff and also then i come out and kick it mine way.” the course, you’re not saying no come Beyoncé.

Then she tried come hijack the show. I’ve done that present for 28 years. Country guys are means chill. The whole display kind of sit in a pocket. When in a while, you obtain Keith urban or someone who wants to be a small louder, but by and also large, they leave me alone. And then Beyoncé’s camp reflects up and all they preserved doing is speak it needed to it is in louder 보다 what we’ve done for nearly 30 years. The producers come over to me and said, “Just rotate it up.” it is what i did because otherwise, she won’t leave. You know she’ll stay all night saying it’s still not loud enough.

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So where did you have the levels during her yes, really performance?

Exactly where all the other acts were. Who’s complaining around the sound throughout the show? No one. It’s for this reason smooth. Go anybody yet her want that? No. Just her. Yet she come in v that sort of tourism de force.


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