The NBA’s solution to the COVID pandemic was not an easy one, but it has been very effective. The league has boasted no positive COVID tests in the bubble since July. If you told me last year that the NBA would be playing in a bubble in Orlando, with artificial crowd noise, I would have laughed in your face. Yet, here we are. In late September, approaching the first day of fall, preparing for the NBA Finals. Who would have thought? Not me.
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The teams have been down in Orlando for long enough now that they have been permitted limited tickets for their families. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of people like Jayson Tatum reuniting with their family at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. However, the majority of the crowd noise is still artificial. It’s weird, yet somehow still very amusing and intriguing. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.
Capturing Artificial Crowd Noise
A bubble, socially distanced benches, and artificial crowd noise. That’s the nature of COVID sports, my friends. It’s been weird, but we have sports nonetheless. So how does artificial crowd noise work? How do they know when to cheer and for whom? I will do my best to explain using some snippets from an interview with Chris Brown: the VP of sports production and technical operations at Turner Sports.
Capturing artificial crowd noise is something that we had been doing on our own. We’ve been able to take a mix of that with the help of the NBA, said Brown. “We take that collective knowledge and the collective library of crowd noises and what we call “swells” and leverage them into a tool that the NBA is using courtside,” the VP went on to say. So as the game goes on, there’s someone who is basically being the active crowd participant. Like a DJ.
So basically there is a “DJ” who is actively participating with the game, pumping in artificial crowd noise at the right times in the game. As the game ebbs and flows, the “DJ” reacts accordingly with a mix of sound and graphics that have been pre-recorded and cut to match the intensity of a live crowd. That’s pretty sweet if you ask me. The cool thing is that artificial crowd noise technology has gotten better since it’s inception. I am still kind of weirded out by it, but it’s cool. If this COVID life is the future, I am excited to see how the artificial crowd noise technology continues to advance.