LaLiga could continue to use artificial crowd noise and digital fans even when supporters start to return to grounds after ‘overwhelmingly positive response’
- La Liga president Javier Tebas wants reduced capacity at stadiums soon
- Use of pre-recorded crowd noise and virtually-filled stands have been a success
- They could be used to augment the lower noise levels and sparsely filled stands
LaLiga say trials with pre-recorded crowd noise and virtually-filled stands to help viewers forget they are watching games in empty stadiums have been so popular that they could even keep using them after supporters have been gradually allowed back into stadiums.
LaLiga president Javier Tebas has indicated that he would like stadiums back with reduced capacity as soon as possible.
Asked if crowd noise and overlaid graphics of supporters could be used to augment the diminished noise levels and sparsely filled stands – at least until stadiums are full once more – LaLiga head of communications, Joris Evers said: ‘I would say yes.
La Liga say trials with pre-recorded crowd noise and virtually-filled stands have been a success
‘The idea is for this technology to be complementary to what is actually in the stadium.’
LaLiga has pioneered the extensive use of pre-recorded crowd noise with ‘DJs’ in commentary boxes inside stadiums mixing cheers for goals, and groans for near-misses as and when the action on the pitch demands.
‘The response has been overwhelmingly positive,’ said Evers. ‘In Spain viewers can choose between the original audio and video and the EA Sports crowd noise and virtually filled stands, and if you follow the audience numbers you’ll see that the virtualised channel is getting the vast majority of audience share.
‘It’s a big responsibility because millions of people watch LaLiga around the world in more than 180 countries,’ added Evers. ‘We want real fans to be back in the stadiums as soon as possible but while they can’t be there, we wanted to make the viewing experience better by filling the empty space.
Javier Tebas would like stadiums back with reduced capacity as soon as possible
Evers explained to Sportsmail: ‘The sounds are divided into categories. We’ve got a channel playing a very neutral crowd sound to fill the empty space and a second channel playing a noise that recreates the anticipation sound that crowds make when they feel something is about to happen. This is manually operated; basically it has to follow the feeling of danger of a goal being scored.
‘Then there are several different channels, also manually operated, that deal with the various ways the “danger” gets resolved. This is when the operator must play the appropriate sound reaction to mimic the way a crowd would respond.
‘This is maybe the most important part of the project when it comes to giving the audience the feeling they are watching a game played in front of a crowd.’
The task of mixing crowd noises authentically so they don’t jar with what’s happening on the pitch is not an easy one, which is why La Liga say they use operators who are at ease with the software used, normally DJs or producers that work with music production software Ableton Live on a daily basis.
crowd noise and overlaid graphics of supporters could be used to augment the diminished noise levels and sparsely filled stands – at least until stadiums are full once more
‘They also need to have enough passion and knowledge about football to be able to understand and recreate the way a home crowd reacts in a stadium,’ Evers added.
Each of Spain’s 20 LaLiga teams also has their own soundtrack with songs and chants specific to the club. This soundtrack mixed with general crowd noise is used as a backing track to games that mixers inside the stadium then have the responsibility of embellishing by responding to the action.
Football returned to Spain on June 11 and LaLiga is happy with the way the supporter absence has been dealt with not just with virtual noise but also with crowd graphics.
Mediapro head TV director Oscar Lago said the first challenge for broadcasters was to minimize the number of shots of empty seats by moving camera positions higher up in the stadium. The cameras that were previously located pitch-side, are now in a higher position in order to avoid the image of empty stands in all close ups and in replays.
LaLiga is happy with the way the supporter absence has been dealt since the restart
Global sports and virtual advertising company VIZRT were called in to, along with wTVision, provide virtual crowd images that were super-imposed on viewers’ screens, and that by ‘Chrome keying the ball’ did not cover the ball every time it went up into the air.
The next task was to do something to mask the absence of supporter noise inside the stadiums.
Mediapro and LaLiga had previously provided crowd noise from all league stadiums to EA Sports for use in their FIFA game. Now EA Sports returned the favour by providing the ‘atmospheric audio’ from the game back to the league and its broadcaster.
EA Sports producer Andrew Vance says: ‘This is the first time that EA audio has been represented in a real broadcast.’
Audio Artist Paul Boechler added: ‘We have this amazing catalogue of hundreds of previous matches that have been recorded. We are just giving that back as a way to enhance the broadcast.’
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