With Stadiums Empty, TV Tries to Get Noise Just Right

Australian network picks from 57 audio clips to match the action
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 5, 2020 9:50 AM CDT
With Stadiums Empty, TV Tries to Get Noise Just Right
Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy kicks the ball Thursday during the English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool at Etihad Stadium in Manchester.   (AP Photo/Peter Powell,Pool)

There's clearly a difference between an English Premier League match and one played between friends on a local field. But when you take away 54,000 fans who would otherwise be singing and cheering at Liverpool's Anfield—if it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic—they sound the same. So Pierre Moossa of NBC, has embraced adding crowd noise to telecasts of games being played in empty stadiums, the AP reports. "All the different sports are trying to find ways to cover the game behind closed doors, but as you get down to it, certain sports are more tied or associated with certain experiences than others," Moossa said. "It did surprise me how much something that is not natural to the game itself, meaning that it’s being enhanced, would make such a difference to the viewing experience." Crowd noise likely also will be added when Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and the NFL resume.

Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon said he wants some noise. "You don’t want everyone to hear everything you are saying all the time," he said. Only the Korean baseball league is regularly piping in crowd noise to stadiums, though the sound is barely audible during games on ESPN. Or Premier League games on NBC and NBCSN can be viewed online with only the natural sound. The most praised system was created by Fox Sports Australia. Each of the National Rugby League's 16 teams has at least 57 specialized clips taken from previous games, for outcomes including a score and error. The clips vary, depending on if the team is home or away. The network's Steve Crawley compared coordinating the sound and action to "playing an instrument." Engineers have to be a step ahead of what's happening on the field. "This isn’t just a roar, a clap or some background murmur," he said, adding, "We have worked very hard to get the right mix." (Fake fans didn't go over well.)

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