The Sound of Sports

Being a fan of 99% Invisible, I learned of this amazing radio documentary, “The Sound of Sport,” produced by Peregrine Andrews for Falling Tree Productions and broadcast, originally in 2011, on BBC Radio 4.

It is an incredible look (or listen) into the art of capturing all the sounds of sporting events. Just as we’ve progressed to HD video, sound too has evolved to bring the viewers closer (and sometimes right into) the action.

“The Sound of Sport,” delves into what it takes to cover these live sports. It is presented by Dennis Baxter, a sound engineer and designer. Dennis is truly one of the “wizards behind the curtain,” when it comes to live sports coverage.  Hearing his insight into his work is incredible. Also featured is Bill Whiston , Sound Supervisor for Wimbledon Tennis (et al). I was fascinated to learn how they mic a tennis match – it really does take you right onto the court. The show also talks with sounds designers of sports video games and sport-related movies & how they have been influenced by and, in turn, influence live sports coverage.

If you are at all interested in the fields of sound, mixing, live production or even just how deeply you must go to bring viewers into an event, then you should give the show a listen – preferably with headphones – it is an aural treat.

Do you notice editing?

{Ok, so this post isn’t so much for you professionals out there, but there’s something in here for you to consider.}

Over my years of editing, I am always amused to discover that huge numbers of viewers and listeners of all kinds of media, are not aware of the editing and manipulation that is done. All media is edited, crafted & manipulated. Its all about manipulating your audience and the journey you take them on with your program. We cannot get around that fact. We pros live, eat, and  breathe this stuff. We can flip on the discretionary ear or eye and detect the edits as we watch. Sometimes it can’t be seen at first glance, but we can dissect the construction by going back and re-listening/watching closely. Fortunately, we can also flip it off and get lost in the story we are taking in.

But there are lots of people out there who are not aware this goes on. I was reminded of this recently when I revisited an On The Media piece done by the late John Solomon a few years ago. John’s piece brings to the fore, the very issue of editing and manipulation in this insightful look into what goes on behind the scenes to create the coverage you hear on NPR. He has some interesting things to say about listeners and their perception of what goes on:

Yet, is there a small sin of omission? NPR may not be actively misleading listeners, but we all know that they don’t know how we create the cleaner and more articulate reality.

[and this bit later on]

Ironically, television is usually seen as the news medium with artifice, while radio is viewed as more authentic. NPR’s Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin believes trust in television news has declined in part because viewers see it as over-produced entertainment. Is it possible that the fact listeners are unaware of how much production is involved has helped retain their trust in NPR News?

The very concept that consumers of media are not aware of being manipulated is very fascinating to me. The points Solomon covers in the piece about NPR don’t solely apply to public radio. You can easily swap out radio for any other media.

Another “how the sausage is made” look into how media is created occurred in the brilliant Radiolab. Making the Hippo Dance was a Podcast short that explored how the show is pieced together and how they go about transferring very dense, science material to the listening audience. Studio360 also often covers editing in their program.

A more irreverent look at what goes into making television programming is “The Screen Wipe‘s Guide to TV. Charlie Brooker and crew go into all that goes into making TV. It can be a bit racy at times, but its hilarious and so spot on. Also check out his Newswipe series for a scorching look at covering the news.

As media creators, we should always keep up with new techniques and technologies, but we should also keep in mind that there are scads of people out there who don’t know what it takes or don’t care what it takes and just want to be entertained or informed or whatever.

Smooth Credit Rolls in After Effects

{I’ve been looking for something like this for years. Thought I’d share it in case you might be looking for the same thing – B.}

Step-by-Step to create a smooth credit roll in After Effects

1. Grab a copy of the project template. Smooth Credit Roll Template.aep

2. Grab a copy of the Credits you need to roll. A Plain Text file will work best.

3. Rename the After Effects Template to your project’s needs.

4. Open in AE4 or higher.

5. In this project there are two Compositions to deal with:

5a. Text Layer – This is the comp where you will put the text. More on adjusting it in later steps.

5b. Roll – This is the comp that actually produces the credit roll. Nothing should be adjusted in this comp – except the length.

HOW DOES THE ROLL WORK?

The combination of these two comps in conjunction with an expression. The expression computes the length (in pixels) of the text layer. It then divides that length over the time of the roll and moves the text so that it only moves up two scan lines per frame. This control over the movement prevents the roll from flickering and allows for it to move smoothly. Fortunately, you do not need to mess with the expression at all. The expression was found on a Creative Cow Forum post by Kevin Camp of KCPQ – (http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/2/951001#951080). Take a look at that post or peek at the expression itself. Kevin put a nice set of instructions into the expression about how to get it working.

6. Edit the text in the Text Layer Comp. There are no animation keyframes in the Text Layer. The best thing to do is adjust the font size and leading so that the entire roll fills the layer as much as possible (see picture to left). Make small adjustments (a point here, a point there, etc.) Since you’re adjusting over a large layer, even small tweaks can make a large difference. If you need to include logos or other elements in the roll, they can be pasted into the Text Layer Comp at this point as well. Take care when adjusting the size of the Text Layer, the size it currently is seems to be in the sweet spot for about a 29-second roll. Making the Text Layer shorter or taller could affect the time that the roll takes to complete.

7. Once you’ve edited the text to fill the Text Layer comp, you can switch over to the Roll Composition and take a look. You should be good to go for rendering. Choose your codec and output. IMPORTANT NOTE: You must choose to output with Fields turned on if you are going to an interlaced output (ie. 29.97, 59.94)

8. Render it out

TWO POINTS OF CONSIDERATION:

– Generally, even at 100%, the Roll Comp will look like crud when played back on the computer display. You will only see the smoothness when displayed on a broadcast monitor using a Kona, Decklink, etc.

– Time of the Roll does not always use all of the length in the Roll Comp. Because of the math, there are only certain durations that work out correctly given a certain pixel height of the Text Layer. What happens is that the formula for moving the layer causes it to come out correctly at a time that is shorter or longer than the exact duration you may want. If you scroll through the text in the template you will see that the final element scrolls off the screen at about 28-seconds. This time is calculated the actual length of the Text Layer and how tall it is. Changing the height of the Text Layer will affect the time when the roll completes – sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. Be careful when adjusting the height of the Text Layer.

Outside the Box…

I’ve been meaning to post this for a bit & tonight, I realized I needed to…

Outside The Box T-Shirt Graphic, c. Life is Good Shirts

Megan got me this shirt over the summer. I really like it. It is just so appropriate to how I approach life or at least try to. It is also a perfect shirt for me, the video guy, because media production is about so much more than the little box that makes up the T.V. itself.

I’m hoping it’s also a little bit of motivation for me here at buttonpusher.tv. I’ve got a few things up my sleeve that I think will definitely be outside the box. Stay tuned.

BTW, you might be able to order your own version of the shirt at Life is Good