IPL 2020: The uphill task of introducing crowd sound during match broadcast

Sanjog Gupta, Star India’s newly appointed Head - Sports, talks about the challenge of introducting crowd sound during the ongoing IPL edition.

Sanjog Gupta,Head - Sports, Star India   -  Special Arrangement

One of the biggest talking point of the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) ongoing edition is the crowd sound that’s introduced into the broadcast to make up for the empty stands due to the pandemic. Admitting it was one of the biggest challenge the broadcasting crew faced ahead of the tournament, Sanjog Gupta, Star India’s newly appointed Head - Sports, was pleased with the manner in which his team has tackled the issue.

“The (biggest) challenge was: how do you design IPL viewing experience in such a way that it doesn’t look like a compromised version of previous editions of IPL. The last thing that we would want is for a viewer to log on to IPL and say: “yaar, isme woh baat nahi hai (something’s missing here)”,” Gupta told Sportstar from a biosecure bubble his organisation has created for 450 employees in Mumbai, in addition to 300 personnel in UAE. “We would like to believe that we have overcome in mounting this IPL.”

Just like cricketers, even sound engineers, appeared to have taken some time to get into groove as far as adjusting decibel levels of the crowd chants. According to Gupta, not only did the broadcaster create a library of sounds based on the team, the players and the situation, it even introduced an audio producer to take care of the sound.   

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“The sync between the striker - the audio engineer who pumps the sound - and the non-striker that’s audio producer was a problem. The second problem we tackled was at times, when a ball is hit in the air, you don’t know whether it’s going for a six or into hands of a fielder. So we created an additional feed only for the sound engineer where he could see the entire field,” Gupta said.

“When the ball goes in the air, he knows before anyone else whether there’s a fielder coming under it, so he curates the sound accordingly. These were some of the learnings over the first three weeks where we evolved the sound to really suit the situation.”

With two of its top honchos suddenly exiting the set-up, Gupta has been elevated as the Head of Sports in the middle of the IPL. Besides dealing with the pandemic, he would also have to figure out a way to devise a strategy in dealing with renewing the broadcast rights cycle for the Indian Premier League and the International Cricket Council (ICC). Gupta played safe when asked about whether he foresees correction in the bid amount for the forthcoming cycle.

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“It’s too early to say and this is a conversation we should have once the IPL is over because in the middle of IPL, it’s not appropriate to discuss this but I am happy to have this conversation once the tournament is over. It’ll be unfair for the Board, our partners for me to comment on when the tournament is on,” he said.

With the financial challenges across industries as a fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak, uncertainty lingers over the Indian sport scenario. In fact, there are fears that it may have caused to irreparable damage to non-cricket franchise-based leagues in India. While Gupta said it will have “massive impact”, he didn’t see it as an insurmountable challenge.

“Massive impact, for sure. It’s at different levels. The great thing is the bullishness on sport continues to be there, which is seen in our partnership in conducting the ISL with Reliance, as FSDL, which will start on November 21. That is in my opinion would be as challenging and as big a collective endeavour as the IPL is,” he said.

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“It just goes to show the commitment that certain organisations including Star and Reliance have towards sport in India. Till the time we are committed… it’s not going to be a permanent impact but there’ll have to be an acknowledgement that the ecosystem has been disrupted at various levels. It will have far-reaching impact. Having said that, if organisations are committed to sport, which a lot of organisations are, it is not an insurmountable challenge.

“It is a challenge which should be taken head on and there’s no reason to believe that we will have necessarily gone too far back into the past as far the progress we had made is concerned. We can pick up from where we left, at least the leagues which were growing than continue on that trajectory with the right impetus and the right intent behind them. I think the sports ecosystem in general will have to re-calibrate in response to this shock to the system. It will definitely have an impact but I don’t think it’s an insurmountable challenge.”

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