Hearing Things

This weekend was a particularly active one for me. Friday had me driving all over the tri-state area to pick up my brother from Rutgers, bring him to a doctor’s appointment, and then drive him the hour or so back to school. Then, it was another hour and a half back to Philly for me. Saturday was spent driving my girlfriend to and from work, and cleaning up/reorganizing my apartment since her parents were coming over on Sunday evening. I pretty much ended up doing the opposite of spring cleaning, moving furniture, taking air conditioning window units downstairs, putting in screens, etc. After all the driving around and hectic rearranging of stuff, I was pretty beat. I felt like I hardly had a weekend at all!

Lucky for me, Sunday Night Football was there to help me settle down at the end of the night. Laying back on the couch with a glass of wine and watching the Steelers almost blow a huge lead in the second half was the perfect way to unwind after a long weekend of “not-work.”

I found myself listening very closely to the audio captured at the game, particularly the “crowd noise” track. Most of the time, this track is just an ambient audio that is captured to bring the excitement of the stadium to the viewer at home. It seemed at times though that I could hear particular things being said in the crowd noise track, either by the players on the field, the crowd, or the coaches. The sort of “inside look” one can get from picking out these snippets of audio can be quite fulfilling, and I made a sort of fun game of my own where I was trying to piece together on-field conversations and bits of trash talk – although, not all of it was exactly safe for network TV!

The Holophone H2-PRO

The Holophone H2-PRO

All of this got me thinking about the audio equipment that must be used at these games. So I looked it up! I found a neat article about a mic that is being used in NBA and NFL games called the Holophone H2-PRO. It appears that the ambient noise at a game is actually captured from a centralized mic or set of mics near the center of the field. I suppose that means that the loud bits that can be made out over the general din are just spoken at the right frequency or at the right angle to be noticed. The article mentions that its good to get the “individual” noises so that the television viewer gets the feeling that they are actually in the crowd, hearing the immediately adjacent people louder than those who are further away. However, it also mentions that an improper setup can make these sounds too loud, ruining the overall experience. So maybe that’s what was happening during last night’s game? I’m not sure. But here’s to hoping that the next time we film an audio-centric video production piece here at DDA, like a tv or web commercial, documentary, cd-rom or web training tool, or interactive Flash player video, I’ll be able to use my newfound knowledge of ambient audio recording techniques to good effect!