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Olympic Sound Design: 3,600 Microphones and Counting

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

The modern Olympics are one of the largest 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 first held International broadcasting.. Over 14 hours of black-and-white footage was sent to the first geostationary satellite, from which it was sent to 23 countries around the world.

The Syncom3 satellite was just launched 2 months ago, It made the broadcast a remarkable achievement. But that wasn’t the only challenge.

In late 1963, Tokyo’s acoustic experts became the new Yoyogi National Stadium acoustic system. Key issues.. The main stand was covered with a tent-like roof by architect Kenzo Tange. It’s a momentary architectural classic, but it’s been a headache for sound designers. The canopy reflected the sound beneath it, creating a bass boom. The delay from the speakers meant that the amplified voices of the people behind the stadium were almost incomprehensible. Also, the frequency response of the speaker itself is very limited, eliminating almost anything outside the range of the adult human voice.

Olympic sound design

More than 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 speakers so that the stadium audience can hear the sound as they see it happening further into the field. 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 setup. We needed a microphone in a convenient location, such as a ceremonial platform, a royal box, an orchestra, or a control room, to receive interviews and announcements. However, these microphones were fixed in place.


The opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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

As the number of spectators in the subsequent Olympic Games increased, we changed from wanting to hear the action to feeling like we were in the front row to feeling like we are now. In the middle of the action.. And each innovation at one Olympics is the expectation of the baseline for the next Olympics.

Sound engineers pioneered the 1984 Summer Olympics Acoustic simulation To model the sound of the main venue Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, It was used to predict sound characteristics throughout the stadium.This allows for advanced modeling of the acoustic characteristics of All venues At the 1988 Seoul Winter Olympics.

I saw the introduction of the Sydney 2000 Digital audio networking, NS Sending high quality uncompressed audio Via the Internet without significant loss or delay – new technology at the time. It can now be found in studios, music venues, schools and conference centers around the world.

Sound of the COVID era

COVID has completely changed the sound design of the Olympic Games. NS Lack of spectators It means that there is no roaring crowd. This changes the sound of the space.Sound echoes around the stadium Very different When there is no body or clothing to absorb sound. And when relatively silent compared to the constant loudness of tens of thousands of people, we hear cicada calls, light humming, and camera shutter clicks.

This is partially addressed by Fake crowd noise.. Customized recordings of cheering at a similar event at the last Olympics are being played from speakers around the stadium.

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

But from a sound design standpoint, having an empty stadium isn’t all 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 cracks, slaps, and rattling impacts associated with racket, wheel, body, and Earth collisions. You can hear the coaching of the bystanders and the screams of the players on the team more clearly.

Studies show Expect such a sound Being in an incredible sound scene.How such a lack of nuance can affect Realistic We recognize that there is a recording.

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

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

The Olympics are once again at the forefront of sound design innovation.As Nuno Duarte, Senior Manager of Audio for the Olympic Broadcasting Services Put it lately: “No problems have occurred. There are challenges and opportunities.”

This article was first published conversation..



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