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Behind The Scenes: 1 Man Creates Crowd Noise For Sporting Events


Major League Baseball starts tomorrow. There will be no fans, but it will sound like there are. NPR's Melissa Block explains how these prerecorded chants are already in play at European soccer games.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: From Declan Rice, an absolute stunner.


MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: That's what Premier League soccer fans heard this weekend watching at home. But now let's go behind the scenes and meet the guy with his fingers on the pulse of the match.

ADAM PERI: Checking where my fingers on the launch pad.

BLOCK: Adam Peri sits alone in a tiny booth at Sky TV in London. He's the one punching crowd sounds from his technicolor audio console into that Premier League broadcast. It's West Ham against Watford.

PERI: Making sure West Ham chants are nice and loud.

BLOCK: And he's got an array of dozens of clips to choose from...

PERI: Oh - bit of a push, so I'm just going to trickle in a bit of whistles.

BLOCK: ...A smorgasbord of chants and cheers, whistles and boos.

PERI: Giving it a bit of a boo...



BLOCK: On his soundboard, the booing button is labeled with a frowny face.

Now, if you're a sound guy like Adam Peri, mixing in all those elements means you're part DJ...

PERI: Yeah, yeah - definitely.

BLOCK: ...Part conductor...

PERI: We're conducting our orchestra of crowd effects.

BLOCK: ...And part clairvoyant.

PERI: I am trying to anticipate what a player might do next. And in a way, I guess I'm - like, I'm reading their mind.

BLOCK: Because that's the trick - you've got to put yourself on that field. Imagine what could happen before it does so you can react in a flash.

PERI: When you really get into the zone, you're living and breathing the game, feeling confident enough to use any sound that is available to help tell the story.

BLOCK: The crowd sounds that Sky TV uses are all real, recorded at actual soccer matches in years gone by. They're supplied by the company EA Sports, which uses them in its FIFA video game.

PAUL BOECHLER: This is only meant to be better than no crowd at all.

BLOCK: And as authentic as possible, says EA Sports sound designer Paul Boechler, who explains their sound library is super specific.

BOECHLER: There's things like oh reaction for a save...



BOECHLER: ...Oh reaction to a miss.



BLOCK: There's motivational applause that grows and swells around the stadium.


BLOCK: They've got taunting whistles for an especially despised player...



BLOCK: ...And a tidal wave of boos.



BLOCK: But Boechler says if you're listening to broadcasts of Spain's professional soccer league, La Liga, you're not going to hear boos or jeers.

BOECHLER: The Premier League is doing negative reactions, but La Liga is actually not. La Liga is going with a much more positive reaction focus overall.

JORIS EVERS: Correct. We're focusing on the positive sides of this.

BLOCK: Joris Evers, La Liga's head of communications, says of course none of this is normal. It's just the best solution for these abnormal times.

EVERS: But ultimately, it's not the same. And also, from our perspective, you know, we want to try to get real fans back in the stands as soon as possible.

BLOCK: Now with these soccer matches, the crowd sound is not piped into the stadiums; it's only added for broadcast. Baseball will have it in both. And some teams will be filling the stands with cardboard cutouts of fans willing to pay for a virtual seat in the ballpark.

Melissa Block, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
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