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MLB Opens Season With Installed Sound Systems Piping In Crowd Noise

Major League Baseball (MLB) is set to begin an abridged, 60-game regular-season schedule in earnest today, following months of delays resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Because social-distancing guidelines are still in effect to mitigate the spread of the resurgent virus, the stands will remain empty, potentially robbing players and viewers of live-sports excitement. This poses a quandary that would befit an experience-minded AV integrator: How can MLB recreate the energy and excitement of a thrumming crowd by using audiovisual technology? As it turns out, based on an Associated Press report posted to ESPN.com, the answer ties into video games.

Utilizing the installed sound systems in ballparks nationwide, MLB plans to play back crowd noise pulled from MLB: The Show, a video-game series produced by SIE San Diego Studio. (The studio is a branch of Sony Interactive Entertainment.) The noise, which was captured during a several-season stretch, encompasses nearly 80 reactions, cheers, murmurs and sound effects. This newly conceived approach has already been tried out, having been tested during summer camp games; further trials during exhibition games will allow additional honing. For those watching games from the comfort of home, MLB hopes the crowd noise will help replicate the baseball experience dedicated fans know and love.

Although this application is undoubtedly the most prominent instance of installed audio systems playing back video-game sound to duplicate a beloved sports experience, it’s not the first. As ESPN.com reported, both the Premier League (the highest tier of the English football league system) and La Liga (the men’s top professional football division of the Spanish football league system) used video-game sound upon returning to the field. Moreover, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is considering following suit. Discussions have begun in earnest with 2K Sports.

So, while the on-field action remains up to the MLB players, many of whom have been itching for the season to start, the crowd noise is now in the stadium sound engineers’ hands. They, along with broadcasters, which might also sweeten the audio, will make sure fans and players alike enjoy an immersive experience.

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