Illini Basketball

Audio – Why Does it Sound so …

It’s an ongoing adventure, trying to bring you good sound & visuals.

(NOTE: I began writing this column a month ago. For today’s Arizona postgame, I’ll have Line audio and a 1080i webcam.)

I care about audio. Really, a lot.

This week, another two people complained about audio. I feel the need to respond & explain.

Old Edgy is right to be angry.

First, you’ve been conditioned. Last year’s all-Zoom presentation spoiled you. You’ve forgotten the flaws of real-world videography.

On Loyalty, user Old Edgy complained about the audio in my St. Francis Preview videos. “For a university that prides itself on its engineering skills, I can’t understand WHY these presser’s have such poor quality audio… I don’t get it…”

Old Edgy should know that it’s not the university’s video, but also that their videos have bad audio, too. We’re all trying to get it right.

On the Illini Report channel, a supportive user opined thus:

I spent three days boosting audio levels for Meet the ’22 Illini before I even started editing the video clips.

You can still spot some dropped audio, like when Omar asks Coleman what he’s going to do with his Sports Management degree. You can infer the question, but barely hear it. It’s because Omar turned his face away from both Illini Report recording devices, as one would when posing a question to someone else.

Omar behaved naturally, which doesn’t always make for good audio.

Since I began covering Illini sports, I’ve been conscious of the audio problems. Even professional sports leagues publish video (post-game Q&A, for example) where the Q part is completely incomprehensible. That never made sense to me. Without the Q, how can you interpret the A?

For years, I’ve provided shaky video content because pointing a camera toward people is the only way to improve audio content. I’d prefer that all the constituent parts are excellent. But when recording conversations, I’ll always choose good audio over good video.

I’m a radio person. I’m a musician & recording artist. I get my TV news from the TuneIn app.

I know it’s all about the audio.

Last month, I spent an hour boosting the gain (turning up the volume) on each Bret Bielema press conference. A hundred of you watched the improved “AMPLIFIED” video. Thank you! *

A few of you watched the Amplified videos. Not enough, though.

Football pressers (and everything conducted in the Memorial Stadium press box) are mic’ed in two ways. There’s the condenser mic at the lectern, and there’s a shotgun mic for media questions.

The shotgun mic is a cool technology, but it requires a human to point it toward the face of the talking person. You’ll invariably lose the first couple of words while the handler identifies the talker. If the question comes from Scott Beatty, who stands in the back (by the audio board), he’ll be quieter than Joey, who’s closer to the front.

Joey’s been getting a lot of complaints about his audio, too. It sounds just like it did in 2019, but that’s not good enough anymore. Zoom spoiled you.

Basketball interviews can be audible, but it depends on the location, how many media show up, who’s talking, etc.

If the interview occurs in a gym, the acoustics will suck, guaranteed. Comparable to a train crossing, or an artillery bombardment. Thus, the State Farm Center is better than the Ubben. But both are bad, because invariably someone will be dribbling a basketball nearby.

Bouncing basketballs spike the sine wave in a sound editor.

As basketball season unfolded, I began using various tech to try and combine great audio with great video. It’s hard.

Yes, you can have both tomorrow. But you want it now, and that’s the tricky part. Combining board audio with a live HD camera and then streaming it instantaneously is just barely possible. But so far I haven’t figured out how to zoom on the faces. There’s software that purports to do it. But it diminishes the video quality. You saw that yesterday.

Webcam software didn’t help.

SFC has two regular sound guys who work the media room. So far, only Tracy has been able to output broadcast quality audio at Mic level. Doug insists that you really want it at Line level. That might be optimal for most tech (TV cameras) and my Marantz audio recorder features both options. But my Olympus doesn’t. Mic level is the standard for laptops, too. You can trick your soundcard into processing a Line In signal, but it takes work.

And that’s the other problem with trying to provide good A/V in this gig. There’s never any time to double-check the tech. Everything happens all at once, and you’ve got to have it right on the first try. Your lifelong concertgoing experience would be significantly diminished if Sound Check didn’t exist.

That’s what’s happening with Illini press conferences. (You might think they could just leave the settings as is, once they’d got everything right. But evidently that’s not an option.)

We’re all trying to bring you good material. It’s a work in progress.

*I think it might be worthwhile to spend an hour making a hundred people happy, but Illini Football is always a source of diminishing returns. And life got busy for me. Thus, a couple hours per week for audio editing got axed from the Time Budget. Perhaps 30 of you were still interested in hearing Bret Bielema, and more particularly, the questions for Bret Bielema. I’m sorry.