Workflow Solutions | Technical Solutions
Sky Sports Crowds
We were given the task of creating an authentic, as-live audio experience for customers when live sport returned after the initial national lockdown. Less than 2 months after the pandemic began, we started testing and developing, with the process moving from concept to executing the complete solution in just 1 month for the return of the English Football League and Premier League.
Focusing on the return of live football, the initial project enlisted EA Sports to supply a catalogue of samples of previously recorded sound at Sky Premier League matches (originally delivered to EA for use in their FIFA games).
This was used to create a loop of sound to run continuously to the degree that the human brain was unable to detect any repeating sounds or recognise the loop. Removing kicks, whistles, shouts, and screams transformed this into a sanitised background wall of sound that could be used without the risk of profanities and anything that would sound at odds with what was happening in the game. With this background in place, there was scope to tailor and customise the soundscape on top to match what was happening in the match moment by moment.
With most of the Premier League teams having more than 50 unique chants, our team of producers checked and approved chants that met broadcast standards and had the correct copyright clearance. This took a huge amount of planning from the Augmented Operators, through to the Sound Supervisors balancing the mix and Sky TX, and MCR managing the detail throughout for all takers and channels for broadcast.
Investing in several augmented audio kits, including Genelec 8030, Behringer X-Touch Compact, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Novation launchpad mini, allowed us to tailor to the specific needs of the operators. With multiple audio triggers usually associated with DJ software Ableton Live used to trigger crowd reaction fan chants, each of the initial 6 trained sound supervisors managed around 16 faders and 128 buttons.
Our Dubbing and Sound team processed and cleaned the available audio files to make them fit better with the bed stadium audio. Approximately 8 chants were developed for each team for each different match specifically selecting home and away chants to keep the sentiment equal in terms of being non-bias. A catalogue of roughly 300 chants were narrowed down to 160 over the entire Premier League portfolio.
During the peak of the 2019/2020 season, we were outputting 8 simultaneous games, all with individual augmentation and enabled the Sky platform to toggle between natural sound and the augmentation – with roughly 75% of the viewers choosing augmented sound, highlighting how important the authenticity of sound in the stadium was to the viewer at home.
Building on the success of the EFL and EPL rollout, our assistant producers and sound teams spent hours creating specialised augmented audio projects, including catalogues of chants and FX beds, for Darts, Boxing, and Rugby League, so a wider portfolio of Sports and wider reach of fans benefitted from the innovation.
Launched in June 2020, Sky Sports Crowds was the first augmented crowd sound solution to go live in the UK for the resumption of the Premier League 2020/2021 season.
Kevin McCue - Director of Production Platforms
Alex Judd - Technical Management
Harry Brown, Mark Ledwidge, Adam Peri, Nik Taylor-Pugh, Carlton Waghorn - Sound
Senior Director, Sky Sports Boxing