d&b ‘surround sound’ to energize stadia


d&b fanblock editorial November 2020 Image: d&b audiotechnik

COVID-19 is causing huge hurdles on all fronts – be it businesses, education or the sports venue sector. Amidst all the cacophony caused by the fatal respiratory disease, venues, teams and fans alike are coming to terms with new ways to consume sports in a coronavirus-ravaged world.

Since COVID-19 struck the world, most action-packed games have been a closed door affair. In the United States, despite the very grave pandemic situation, the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have greeted limited number of fans back to the venues with strict social distancing rules in place and wearing of face covers have been made compulsory.

However, due to games being played sans fans, the euphoric crowd noise is missing from stadia and the electrifying atmosphere which a thrilling and riveting match or any other event offers is totally absent due to empty terraces or arenas with very limited spectators. The NFL has recently made it clear that sound must be played during all games as during COVID times arenas present a very dull atmosphere totally amiss with the usual fan frenzy.

In the United Kingdom, few pilot fixtures with fans in attendance were held over the summer to reintroduce fans gradually across the board. However, a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases has put all such plans on the back burner and it is now back to square one in UK – stadia sans fans.

Any staunch supporter watching Premier League or English Football League (EFL) match on TV have grown used to ‘fake’ crowd noise complementing the match footage as broadcasters look to enhance the viewing experience. The ‘fake crowd noise’ is solely for viewers’ benefit and cannot be heard by players and coaches.

Now, fans sitting in their couches and enjoying high-octane games from the comfort of their homes can savor a stadium sound application, creating a live crowd atmosphere at empty sports events. And this will be made possible by German audio technology and solution company d&b audiotechnik which recently announced a partnership with leading theatrical and creative sound designer, Autograph.

A global leader in the development of sound experiences, d&b’s newest venture d&b Fanblock – powered by Autograph Stadium Sound, delivers a real-time controlled, immersive sound solution to venues without fans or with a reduced number of fans on site – which is the scenario these days in stadiums.

Stephen Hogg, Head of Sports Projects, d&b audiotechnik, UK, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

The modus operandi is as such – Using a d&b sound system design positioned within an arena, d&b Fanblock creates a multichannel surround sound system which, when blended with Autograph’s cutting-edge playback software, results in a stadium resonating with the much-missed sound of fans. The players will also go on to benefit from the razor-sharp technology offered from the stables of d&b and Autograph.

The audio content consists of non-team specific sounds including background ‘bed’ loops to provide a continual atmosphere within the stadium and club-specific chants made possible through cooperation with Fan Chants.

The entire software’s immersive experience will also enable audience around the globe to make the journey and transformation from quiet spectators to frenzied fans by sending their personal chants into arenas through Fanchants.com.

Designed and developed by long time theatrical and dramaturgy experts, Stadium Sound by Autograph creates a live crowd atmosphere at sports events that can be dynamically controlled in real-time to directly respond to the events of the game. Engineers in the venue operate the system live to be able to follow the energy levels and punctuate the dramatic moments as they unfold.

Averred Amnon Harman, CEO d&b audiotechnik, “By partnering with Autograph, we’ve come up with a revolutionary new sound solution. No longer will sports teams hear the echo of empty stadiums and venues, instead with d&b FanBlock, they will once again hear the strength and passion of their fans while on the field.”

d&b Soundscape DS100 can magnify d&b Fanblock, a revolutionary sound system processor that allows the creation of multidimensional, immersive audio experiences.

Explaining how the Fanblock solution will be unique in itself and different from the fake crowd noise one gets to hear so often these days on television, Robert Trebus, Project Manager, d&b, stated, “Fanblock provides a much more realistic crowd atmosphere. There is no comparison. When broadcasters add crowd noise to the sound in an empty stadium, the two mix very synthetically and it sounds fake.”

Trebus added, “Our sophisticated system allows for object-based signal management, allowing complex sound events to be moved dynamically around the stadium in real-time, and add additional subtlety and detail to the effect of Stadium Sound in response to the actions on the field. This approach allows spectator chants to grow from one section before building out to fill the entire stadium. When we play the Stadium Sound composition in the stadium, it sounds as though the fans are right there with the players – the positive effect that Fanblock has on the game should not be underestimated.”

Powered by Autograph Stadium Sound, d&b Fanblock will not only facilitate the sports industry spring back to life, it has also provided a new business opportunity and revenue stream for d&b rental partners at a time when the economy is bleeding white due to the COVID-19 menace the world over.

Harman further observed, “While we are facing an increasingly challenging time in the industry, here at d&b we continue to innovate and address the needs of the market. It is an example of our dedication to continuous improvement and providing new opportunities for our partners and end-users alike.”

The system is scalable and fits into any size stadium or arena around the world.

Trebus informed that the concept for Fanblock was first conceived when d&b realized that eerily silent stadia were weighing heavily on the mental conditions of players and supporters alike. The feedback from players and coaches has been positive so far.

“Early on we conducted a simple test with the players and coaches where we switched off the system for a short period of time and they immediately reacted and asked for the system to be deployed again. The acoustic impression of an empty stadium is extremely daunting and we are delighted to be able to resolve this and bring the energy of a crowd back into the stadium,” Trebus added.

The custom sound design package offers club-specific chants, made possible through Autograph’s content partner, FanChants. Apart from regular cheers for goals and club chants, the platform even incorporates booing.

He continued, “The short answer is yes, if you have booing in your sound package you can have booing! Fanblock by Autograph Stadium Sound creates a live crowd atmosphere at sports events that can be dynamically controlled in real-time to directly respond to the events of the game.”

Trebus also revealed that d&b has integrated the My Applause smartphone app into Fanblock, facilitating fans at home or in the stadium to send personalized singing, applause – or boos – into the stadium.

After the successful roll-out at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in London, UK, Trebus says d&b is hoping to extend the reach of the Fanblock application across more facilities. The technology is not just devoted to soccer and can be applied to any venue that wishes to recreate a vibrant crowd atmosphere in a COVID-19 environment.

Trebus concluded, “We are currently working on a range of Fanblock deployments with a number of sports facilities and clubs and we look forward to announcing more projects soon.”

So, fans can get ready to enjoy to the hilt any game or musical concert or anything for that matter with d&b’s simulated sound experience which is sure to energize the living room atmosphere and keep audience glued to their television sets. And, of course, make vibrant the stadium environment.

d&b is internationally regarded as a leading company for sound reinforcement systems in installed and mobile applications, and enjoys a reputation for quality of construction, standard of service, system integration principles, and pioneering technological development. Founded in Germany in 1981, d&b headquarters is located in Backnang, Germany.

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