Monday, May 02, 2011

Seeing With Your Ears

Douglas Spotted Eagle spoke about settings and compressions for streaming video at NAB 2011, and he jumped in quickly with the concept that audio is more important than the video. At first, I'm thinking that's just a throwaway line to catch the audience's attention. From my notes, here's roughly what Spotted Eagle said:

Audio is more important than video; if we see crappy video with good sound, we see good video; if we see good video with crappy sound that "looks" look bad video - we see with our ears

As he continued, I let that marinate. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Oh my God, this is why some people think RazorVision's baseball is bad.

Let me explain. For years, we have had the luxury of four-camera traditionally switched live streaming of Razorback baseball. And we've been pretty proud of that because other schools since say 2008 either didn't have any streamed baseball, or had one or just two cameras, no centerfield camera, no replay, etc.

Many folks loved it, but we'd occasionally have someone point out that the audio wasn't that great. Initially, we used nat sound and PA, we were focused on the picture quality. After a couple of seasons, we picked up the audio from the radio broadcast, but we could not get a direct connection to the board - a long story here for another day - and so it came off the air, first from an AM local station, then when the network upgraded to FM.

So we had the call of our excellent play-by-play guy, Chuck Barrett, who frankly is one of the best baseball voices I've heard - at any level. But fans still had issues. There was first the AM crackle, and even with FM, the slight delay of the signal going around the world before it came back to the video.

This year, we added a digital link back to the network to improve audio quality and the stability of the feed; but we were more focused on the video again - putting in a 3-play for more replay, TriCaster 850 for better graphics, adding a score bug, pumping up the resolution (although unable to do HD just yet at baseball).

No one, however, complains about our gymnastics or basketball like they do baseball. And at all three sports, same cameras, same people, but one big difference - direct connected and sometimes dedicated audio for the video.

If my own example isn't enough, think about this - how many times have you seen a network game where that satellite audio gets lost momentarily and they switch the the analog back-up. The picture doesn't change, but it becomes hard to watch because it's hard to listen to. And how relieved you are as a viewer when the regular audio comes back.

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