Bundesliga’s piped in sound makes for an interesting debate
Saturday at 1:03 pm
As the German Bundesliga has returned to action as the first major soccer league for the past few weeks, something in the broadcast has sparked a debate among viewers.
The Bundesliga is artificially adding recorded crowd noise to the broadcasts. The games are being played in front of empty stadiums, which means you could hear the communication between the players on the field without the artificial sound. Only some of the games have the extra noise, which is even stranger, but it has affected the viewing experience regardless.
The first week of matches were all quiet, but the big Bayern Munich-Borussia Dortmund match on May 26 had the piped in sound cranked up to 11. It was hard to miss and sparked some debate.
Amusing to hear the announcers in Dortmund-Bayern talk about how quiet it is in the stadium when the sound engineer has the fake crowd noise turned up to 11 today on the broadcast.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 26, 2020
The piped in crowd noise is way better in practice than I thought it would be in concept.
— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) May 26, 2020
Have you experienced the faux crowd noise Fox and some other networks have added to their Bundesliga broadcasts? Does it improve your viewing experience?
— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) May 28, 2020
Let's put this to the people. How do you feel about the fake crowd noise for #DortmundVsBayern?
— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) May 26, 2020
Based on a couple informal polls, it is trending as somewhat popular. Put me firmly in the camp of get rid of it and burn it with fire. It so obviously sounds fake and as much effort as they put into trying to match the chants to the action during the game (having the home crowd whistle during an extended string of possession for the away team, for example), it still lags behind how a real crowd would react.
I also am used to watching games with little or no crowd noise. I’ve watched far too much U-17 or U-20 World Cup qualifying (both men and women) where crowd noise is rare if not entirely non-existent. I find it enjoyable. Apparently not everyone agrees. I’m aware that I don’t understand the language the players are communicating in, but that’s not really the point.
The amusing part is that only some of the games have fake crowd noise. It seems to be random which games do and which don’t, but Fox Sports isn’t putting much effort into the Bundesliga at this point. Their contract with the league ends at the end of this season. The Bundesliga is heading to ESPN in the fall. Fox has no shoulder programming or halftime shows during these broadcasts despite positive ratings.
Fox Sports/Bundesliga numbers:
Dortmund v Schalke: 365K viewers, most-watched Bundesliga ever on FS1, up 489% over pre-pandemic Saturday average. Most watched on streaming service as well.
Union Berlin v Bayern Munich: 361K, 2nd most-watched Bundesliga match on FS1. (1/2)
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) May 19, 2020
Tom Hamilton explained what the Bundesliga is doing in a story for ESPN. Turns out the fake noise is coming from Germany, via Sky Deutschland.
“We created audio samples for specific scenes: penalties, fouls, decisions from VAR and how people would react,” Alessandro Reitano, Sky Deutschland’s SVP sports production, told Hamilton. “We created samples from the dedicated fans and there is one guy, a Sky sound producer, who is watching the match live. Their job is to insert a specific sample if an action happens.”
Derek Rae, who has been doing English commentary remotely for Bundesliga matches, explained part of the process.
Thread: A lot of interest in the “enhanced audio” track which Bundesliga viewers in some parts of the world have been fed as the default. In other parts of the world, it’s not used at all. In 🇩🇪, a middle way: main coverage is without it, but you can press a button to access it.
— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) May 26, 2020
That SAP button would have been a welcome addition for U.S. broadcasts considering not everyone prefers it.
The concept has been an interesting wrinkle that most people probably didn’t think about when considering the return of sports in empty stadiums. It will also be interesting to see what other innovations come in the next couple months as more leagues and sports return.
Bits and pieces