16 June 2010

Acoustics Professor of the Year

Ars Technica | Nate Anderson | Enjoy a vuvuzela-free World Cup, thanks to technology

The easiest method [to filter out the sound of vuvuzela horns from TV broadcasts] costs €2.95. Vuvuzela haters can visit antivuvuzelafilter.com, plunk down their cash, and download a 45-minute MP3 file. This must be played back during each half of a football match, preferably from a speaker right next to the television, and the 'specially designed Vuvuzela noise-cancellation sound is a wave with the same amplitude but with inverted phase to the original sound.' In other words, you get active noise cancellation.

This sounds unbelievably dodgy to us. Active noise cancellation relies on sampling ambient sound and reproducing that sound exactly out of phase with the original; the result is that the sound waves cancel each other out. This system, relying as it does on prerecorded vuvuzelas, would seem unlikely to have much effect.

Still, the UK's Telegraph newspaper tracked down a local professor of acoustics to weigh in on the idea. Trevor Cox from the University of Salford couldn't see any way that the system would line up the sound waves correctly. His advice was lower tech: 'Be Zen about it; accept vuvuzelas as part of the World Cup soundscape and pour another beer.'
Ha!  That's how you re-frame a technical problem.

BTW, is this plastic horn obsession really a South African thing? Because I remember going to international games at RFK through the 90's and hearing them all the time from Latin American and European teams' supporters, especially the Mexican fans, IIRC.

Anderson also mentions that the BBC considered broadcasting a second channel which has been passed through a vuvuzela-canceling filter on their end. That would be pretty cool.

I think sports matches should be broadcast with more audio feeds generally, though mostly because I think the announcer are usually useless. Audio streams are cheap. You could have one feed with the typical announcers we have now throwing in all the superfluous human interest garbage that they do, and another feed with actual play-by-play and analysis. Or have one general audio feed, and two other channels carrying the hometown radio announcers for each team.

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