Get ready to hear the familiar noises of an MLB crowd this season, even in empty stadiums.
MLB plans to play fake crowd noise through its ballpark sound systems during games in the shortened 2020 season, according to the Associated Press. The source of those noises: sounds captured during games over several seasons for the “MLB The Show” video game series.
All told, stadium sound engineers will reportedly use a soundboard with around 75 different crowd reactions.
From the AP:
“There was some reticence when you first talk about crowd noise in an empty ballpark because you don’t want to do something that is distracting,” said Chris Marinak, who is MLB’s Executive Vice President for strategy, technology, and innovation. “It is heard in a way that is natural with the play of the game and on field. The sounds do match what is happening.”
With this system, MLB is following the example of a number of soccer leagues that have piped in noise over broadcasts during their return to action over the last month. Here’s how it plays out on one broadcast:
Watching Bundesliga soccer and they’re pumping in crowd noise that is controlled by somebody to have the crowd noise rise and fall and react to the action. It actually is working. pic.twitter.com/NEUcKxeUQC— Fr Michael Liliedahl (@mliliedahl) May 26, 2020
The AP also noted that the KBO pipes in crowd noise, though it’s “barely audible” during games because its purpose is simply to not make games completely silent. We’ll see what volume level MLB opts to go with.
Are MLB’s crowd noises a good thing?
The sounds of a baseball and soccer crowd are quite different, so MLB fans could have a different reaction to their games.
Baseball’s default camera angle — behind the pitcher, facing home plate — will also probably make the lack of fans more obvious on broadcasts, which could make things go from comforting to eerie real quick. Then again, an empty stadium with no sounds beyond the players, coaches and umps could also be eerie. That’ll happen when dealing with a truly surreal situation.
There’s also likely a trade-off in playing crowd noises that could drown out the interactions of the players. Being able to actually hear players talk to each other on the field might have been one of the few silver linings of MLB’s situation.
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