Olympic sound design: 3,600 microphones and counting

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Professor Joshua Reiss of the Faculty of Electronics and Computer Science, Queen Mary, wrote for a conversation on the history of Olympic audio and its impact on the Olympic sound design of Covid-19.

The modern Olympics are one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but relatively few people actually see the action. Therefore, the game once every four years Audiovisual progress..

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held for the first time International distribution.. More than 14 hours of black and white images were sent to the first geostationary satellite, from which they were sent to 23 countries around the world.

Syncom3 satellite has just been launched 2 months ago, This made broadcasting a remarkable achievement. But that was not the only challenge.

At the end of 1963, the acoustic experts in Tokyo became the new acoustic system for the Yoyogi National Stadium. Key questions.. The main stand was covered with a tent-shaped roof by the architect Kenzo Tange. It’s a momentary architectural classic, but it’s a puzzle for sound designers. The canopy reflected the sound below, creating a bass boom. The delay of the speakers meant the amplified voices of people behind the stadium were almost incomprehensible. Additionally, the frequency response of the speaker itself is very limited, eliminating almost anything outside the reach of the adult human voice.

Olympic sound design

Over 900 musicians and singers participated in the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Twenty microphones were placed around the band and performers to amplify the music. Delays have been introduced into the loudspeakers so that the stadium audience can hear the sound as they see it playing further down the pitch. Recorded sound effects, such as the ringing of Japanese temple bells, were mixed with live radio and television broadcasts.

There was a limit to the configuration. We needed a microphone in a convenient location, such as a ceremonial platform, royal box, orchestra, or control room, to receive interviews and announcements. However, these microphones were fixed in place.


The opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

This meant, among other things, that there were also restrictions on speaker placement and levels to avoid howling sound loops. howlThis happens when a microphone placed too close to the speaker picks up too much of its own amplified and played sound.

As the number of spectators at the following Olympics grew, we went from wanting to hear the action, to feeling like we were in the front row, to feeling like we were now. In the middle of the action.. And every innovation at an Olympic Games is the benchmark expectation for the next Olympic Games.

Sound engineers pioneered the 1984 Summer Olympics Acoustic simulation To model the sound of the main hall Los Angeles Memorial ColiseumIt was used to predict sound characteristics throughout the stadium. This allows advanced modeling of the acoustic characteristics of All locations At the 1988 Seoul Olympic Winter Games.

I saw the introduction of the Sydney 2000 Digital audio networking, NOT. Sending high quality uncompressed audio Via the Internet without significant loss or delay – new technology at the time. It is now found in studios, concert halls, schools and conference centers around the world.

Sound of the COVID era

COVID has completely changed the sound design of the Olympics. NOT. Lack of spectators This means that there is no roaring crowd. It changes the sound of space. The sound echoes around the stadium Very different When there is no body or clothing to absorb sound. And when they’re relatively quiet compared to the constant volume of tens of thousands of people, we hear cicadas calls, a faint hum, and camera shutter clicks.

This is partially addressed by False crowd noise.. Personalized recordings of cheers at an event similar to the last Olympic Games are played through loudspeakers throughout the stadium.

Many sports broadcasters also overlay what they call Audio mats, The ambient sound of the full stadium when no action is in progress. However, the noise of the canned crowd is a challenge in itself, as it completely clashes with the sight of vacant seats.

But from a sound design perspective, having an empty stadium isn’t that bad. Sometimes it’s just different. The microphone is located very close to the sound source to capture only that sound. And with even less background noise, these spot mics can better capture the cracks, pops, and rattling impacts associated with racket, wheel, body, and dirt collisions. You can more clearly hear the coaching of passers-by and the screams of the players on the team.

Studies show Expect such a sound Be in an amazing soundstage. How such a lack of nuance can affect Realistic We recognize that there is a recording.

Experts were looking for new ways to capture, render and even enhance the sound of Tokyo 2020 Excited Long before COVID hit. More than ever, These Olympic games Immersive sound..

Microphone- 3,600 of them – Placed everywhere, suspended from the ceiling in closed areas, embedded in climbing walls and placed on water polo goal posts. The different sounds they pick up are mixed and played so that viewers can hear what the athlete might hear.

The Olympics are once again at the forefront of innovation in sound design, as Nuno Duarte, Senior Director of Audio for Olympic Broadcast Services Put it on last: “No problem arose. There are challenges and opportunities. “

This article was first published conversation..

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