It’s about the audio cues, dummy

Premier League football returns to TV

Glenn Cummins, an associate professor at Texas Tech University, is making an academic career from something we all instinctively know – everything’s better when it sounds right and making something that doesn’t look or feel quite right sound better goes some way to improving it.

For example, when it comes to sport, a TV director and vision mixer dictate our limited, usually 16:9 view of proceedings. To a great extent we rely on the host broadcaster’s sound mix of the crowd in the stadium to make important inferences about a particular incident on the pitch. Other cues remind audiences to stop chatting or to get off their ‘phones and return their attention to the game

Viewer options

As covered in a previous post, we know that this evening’s first televised English games for almost three months will be broadcast by Sky Sports with team-specific crowd noises and chants made in collaboration with EA Sports’ FIFA. In a new Sky Fanzone ‘video room’ friends will be able to chat during the match and vote for their favourite chants.

“The chant with the highest votes will be broadcast on a ‘watchalong’ feed on one of the main sports channels, that will also have additional polls and predictions on screen,”.

David Gibbs, Director of Content and Advertising Products at Sky

Not everybody likes it, and when we covered the return of Bundesliga football in the first new Informed Sauce podcast, Matt Armstrong-Barnes did point to the fact the many people will switch it off.

However, it’s all about making this new and largely unwelcome football watching experience feel as natural and comfortable as possible, so fans and neutrals alike can at least feel better engaged and closer to the action

“I think it is a bit more jarring when we are constantly reminded that the stadium is empty, that this is not natural. That creates a tension. As we see more of this, we’re going to see perhaps some differences in in how the broadcast is shown to us so that we’re not seeing those reminders of an empty stadium. As long as we don’t do that it’s easy to surrender to this illusion that life is normal again.”

Glen Cummins

Crowd-sourced sound

Wired writer Alex Lee reminds us of a novel idea around crowd-sourcing atmosphere for televised football from Denmark. There, AGF Aarhus used Zoom to create aa mass match viewing experience for fans who registered for a virtual ticket but were given an actual seat number in the stadium and then allocated to virtual meeting rooms that represented blocks

When fans registered for a virtual ticket to the match, they were able to choose an actual seat number in a block represented by a virtual meeting room. Fans on Zoom call screens were vision mixed onto a 40-metre-long screen erected in front of one of AGF’s stadium stands. Pre-recorded sound from previous games was mixed in with the sound from fans in the Zoom meetings. Fans were encouraged to sing rather than cheer to cope with white noise audio issues generated by latency and sync.

Canadian startup ChampTrax HearMeCheer app hope to help combat this by capturing sound from the microphones on fans’ phones and aggregating it into a single distinct audio stream.

Icelandic company OzSports uses a broadcast camera-based augmented reality system to place avatars of fans into empty stadium seats. Viewers at home create an avatar of themselves in the OzSports app that they can dress and faceprint in club colours.

In these unusual circumstances, it’s all about keeping fans, sponsors, advertisers and the sports main stakeholders as happy as possible with the product that it is possible to put on screen. Let’s wait and see if thee current initiatives are enough or whether viewers will quickly get bored with the artifice and begin asking for newer, more sophisticated add-ons.