Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do you like television first down lines and vuvuzela blockers?

Watching an event on television is just like being there.

Uh, no.

If you are watching an event via television, the television producers do various things to enhance the experience for viewers.

One innovation - which I'm personally STILL miffed about - is the superimposed first down lines that are added to (American) football games. If you're at the stadium, of course, no such lines appear - you need to look for the first down markers on the sidelines. Television viewers, however, see this bright line that indicates where the offense has to cross to get a first down. Unfortunately, television viewers can't turn the danged lines off.

Let me cite another, possibly less controversial example. One thing that is getting a lot of press at this year's World Cup - even more than the orange miniskirts - are the wonderful vuvuzela noisemakers that fans are bringing to the games. As the BBC notes, it is loud:

The incessant drone of vuvuzelas blown from start to finish of a World Cup football match can reach 130 decibels - louder than a referee's whistle or a chainsaw at full rip.

The BBC notes that while stadium attendees can revel in the atmosphere, television viewers and radio listeners can't hear the announcers over the blare.

There are those who claim that they can produce vuvuzela-less audio. But Professor Trevor Cox, interviewed by the BBC, says that this could be a bit tricky.

"I'm looking at its wave patterns and there are at least six very strong harmonics in there. It would sound really horrible to notch these out - if one coincides with the vowel sound e, you won't be able to hear the -es in the commentary. It would sound unnatural."

However, apparently the vuvuzela noise can be reduced somewhat, even if it can't be blocked.

Now one can certainly argue that a vuvuzela-reduced World Cup, a first down-enhanced American football game, or even the common baseball view over the pitcher's shoulder are not the "real" game.

However, even if you eliminated all of these technical enhancements, all the announcers, and everything else, you still wouldn't get the "real" game. Humans have a much wider angle of vision than most video cameras, and even a wide-angle view (such as that found via IMAX, or via Disney's "Soarin' Over California") has a tinge of unreality to it.

Given these limitations, one can either opt for an experience that is as close to the real one as possible, or opt for an enhanced experience that takes the medium, and the audience's expectations, into account.

And if you want to use a vuvuzela while watching a Ted Turner colorized film, that's your choice.
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