Monday, July 11, 2011

"Enhanced Audio" Has TV Viewers Buzzing


Since the "Wide Open" coverage from Daytona was done, TNT came back with another special feature for Saturday night's first Sprint Cup Series race from Kentucky Speedway. It was called "enhanced audio."

Here are some quotes about this special feature:

TNT Countdown to Green host Lindsay Czarniak explained the audio-enhanced coverage: "We are using special affect sound by bringing you something we call 'Inside Trax Enhanced Audio.' We’ve added 40 microphones all along the track walls, through the turns and down in pit road to get you closer to the action on the race track.”

This from a TNT news release:

The network’s exclusive prime time coverage of the race will be a special audio-enhanced telecast with 40 additional special effects microphones placed in multiple positions around the track, including pit road, the front and backstretches and the turns, to boost the listening experience for NASCAR viewers.

On average, TNT uses approximately 50 microphones for their race coverage on a track this size. The network also will utilize increased audio from in-car communication between the drivers and race crews and will continue to mic-up select crew chiefs and their teams through Inside Trax which will provide fans with inside access to the sounds and strategy of racing.


Once the race got underway, another element of the "enhanced audio" not mentioned by TNT was made apparent very quickly. That element was silence.

During restarts, pit stops and other select times that the special effect was used, the announcers stopped talking. This is nothing new, as other Sprint Cup Series TV networks have segments called things like "Crank It Up" to feature the sounds of the track.

What was different with TNT was that these segments were frequent and often seemed to cost viewers valuable information. Pit stops seemed to be especially tough for some fans to digest when all that was heard was the sound of air guns, engines and tires.

The pit reporters were given an opportunity to update the field once the stops were done or just after the race returned to green, but it certainly was a very different viewing experience. It quickly showed the importance of getting information in a timely fashion.

The pauses from the announcers led to an awkward feel from the trio in the booth. It certainly wasn't the type of flowing conversation-style commentary we have come to expect from Adam Alexander, Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr.

NASCAR fans also had NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy available to them during the race. This online video and audio component features 4 in-car cameras, 2 battle-cams and views of the backstretch, pit road and corners. Several of the cameras have only the sound of the cars as the audio provided to users.

In TV, the actual sound of the sports event is called "natural sound." Nat sound is the short version used by folks in the business. The process of mixing the nat sound with the announcer audio and other playback sources is the job skill that keeps good remote audio mixers working nationwide.

Whether it is the sound of sneakers under the backboard in college basketball, the pop of a fastball into the catcher's mitt in baseball or the grunts and hits in an NFL game, today's sports TV fan has come to expect the entire audio experience.

TV viewers in our live race chat asked if this was just a gimmick for the last two TNT races. Others were upset that the "enhanced audio" portions seemed to be tied to the director showing in-car cameras almost exclusively. One late arriving fan wondered if he had stumbled into an IMAX movie.

As the race went on, the trill of "enhanced audio" seemed to be gone for many. There was a rush to find the local PRN station for a full audio feed from the track's radio partner. Folks on Twitter started trading online apps to get PRN stations.

All of it seemed to come down to one simple thing. NASCAR fans like to be informed. Not informed only about the race leaders, but about their favorite driver regardless of position. The search for information other than the ticker at the top of the screen was perhaps made a bit more difficult by the announcers and their periods of silence.

There is no information yet as to whether the "enhanced audio" feature will return for New Hampshire. That is the final race in this season's TNT package. ESPN then takes over starting in Indy at the Brickyard and handles the final seventeen races.

We welcome your comments on TNT and the "enhanced audio" experiment at Kentucky Speedway. To add your opinion on this topic, just click on the comments button below.

32 comments:

Adam Wood said...

This could be considered TNT's version of Crank It Up from FOX, only TNT did it in other segments besides restarts and the occasional pit stops.

Personally, I liked it. Sometimes I think it's good for the announcers to stop yaking. We've reached a point where if you play your cards (and your TV remote) properly you can see more pre-race coverage than race coverage. NASCAR RaceDay, Countdown to Green, and ESPN's NASCAR Now combine to 4 hours of pre-race coverage.

Because of the lack of announcing, I thought that Kyle Busch got a speeding ticket when they went on board for his pit stop since it seemed that everyone was done with stops. Turned out he was the last to pit.

I think this can work, but maybe not for quite as long as they went. I never timed one of the segments, but 3 minutes would be a good maximum in my mind. Come back to announcers for the final pit stops so every one knows right away they're done and we can hear about penalties.

Anonymous said...

The TV announcers can easily impart all of the information they have without having to talk every second they are showing the race. I loved being able to hear the cars and the scanners without the constant chatter.

Sally said...

Once again, television has tried to substitute gimmicks for coverage. I could do without the 'enhancements' if I was given more complete information about the actual race, and more than the top 12 cars were covered. I'm tired of having so little information when I try to follow a race on TF. When I attended races, I didn't have a scanner, but had no trouble following the flow of the race because I could see then entire track, and every car racing on it. I didn't need specific info from pit reporters because I could actually see for myself. When I'm not allowed to see (at least occasionally) what is happening with the 'other 31 cars' on the track, the race ceases to keep my attention.

Nature Boy NC said...

Personally, it was the worst racing telecast I've ever seen. The "enhanced audio" is fine every once in a while, but TNT went waaaaaaaaaaaaaay overboard with it last Saturday night. The times when commentary was needed was when TNT decided to use the audio.

Ir42nate2bhere said...

I give TNT credit for trying something new, but to me it was not how i want to watch. TNT asked beforehand on twitter to send them reactions to their broadcast, and I trust they will react to them and reviews from sites such as TDP and the like. (maybe silly me for that belief). Part of the problem for TNT is they do only Cup races, no support races to try these ideas out on. ESPN does these experiments occasionally, but they can try them out on lesser events, not the A level games or events.

OSBORNK said...

The silence of the booth along with the cameras not showing us the race at the same time made for useless TV coverage. Since I was getting about as much information as I was getting watching the commercials, I wondered why I was watching the "race" at all.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the extra audio. By the way TDP, i read early twitters during the race about the traffic uh -oh's. Did the TV crew ever mention it during or after the Race, or were they probably under orders, NOT to mention it? Once again, I think the people who cover the sport, are too close to the people who run the sport.

GinaV24 said...

Since I don't watch any of the pre-race shows any more, I didn't know they were going to use this new toy until I read it on JD's live posting. So when I first tuned in, I didn't know what was going on.

I use trackpass and the scanner feature (so I can follow my driver) and RB (boy am I going to miss it when TNT is done), too, so I was able to get the information I wanted without relying on the tv coverage.

Although I think the natural sound feature was an interesting concept, TNT overused it and didn't use the pit reporters enough to cover the race. I don't like Adam Alexander as a PXP announcer, but between the overuse of the cameras and the non-use of the booth to call the action, it made what was a pretty boring race even less interesting to try and follow.

The various audio and visual toys should add to the broadcast, not annoy the viewers at home.

Jayhawk said...

Worst. Television. Coverage. Ever.

James said...

Rarely can the knowledgable fan get much from the dumbed down coverage we have been fed in the post expanding era! It was refreshing to see and hear about a "new" venue, not so "new" as new ownership. The booth guys need direction as to what the focus should be, and the TNT folks need to remember that in the old days the lack of a good crew can not make up for technology. This is a simple sport, that is its heritage, that "everyman" can maybe do it. That has been totally lost on the cameras inability to follow the booths storys. Its almost like the race gets in the way of a good broadcast! If I wanted a tech lesson I can go to Radio Shack. TNT has been recognized as a group not afraid to change things up, but this enhanced coverage with sounds of the track is nothing more than FLUFF to make up for a disfuntional director and producer. Once again, how can NASCAR continue to allow this to go on. For me, the split screen commercials are more important than the sounds. When the decision was made to try a split screen for commercials the responce from the planateers was fairly united, they liked it. It got rave reviews and was noticed by many colunms and stories. Like a bell, you can not take a ring back! Anything less than continuous coverage with a split screen for commercials is unacceptable. Once you do it right, fans are not going to accept anything less. So, instead of another gimmick, work on commercials and camera angles. To me that is ENHANCED COVERAGE. Anything less, unacceptable!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, nothing has changed with any of the Networks. The Truck and NNS broadcasts are always reasonably low key with an emphasis on the basics. It's with the Sprint Cup races where all the over blown hype and gimmicks surface. I really appreciated the silence at times during Saturday nights race. They need experienced people in the Production Truck regarding Nascar racing. It couldn't be more obvious that it currently doesn't exist anywhere with the Networks covering Sprint Cup.

The Mad Man said...

If TNT put as much effort into the commentary and race coverage as they did into the audio gimmick, we might have seen a race we could actually enjoy.

robbiejr said...

I remember a time years ago when one of the networks tried broadcasting an NFL game from start to finish with NO talking at all from the booth. Just the sounds of the game. Best I remember it didn't go over very well. But that was a football game. I think it's worth a try on a NASCAR race, if you include the "enhanced audio, which on my sourround system sounded great. I just got tired of muting the sound during all those commercial breaks. Someone needs to give it a try and see what happens. I for one would love it.

And here's an interesting bit of info which pretty much sums up the coverage last Saturday night...

Total number of commercials consecutively shown during one of the longest commercial breaks CawsnJaws.com has recorded (since starting to do these reports in 2006): 13

KoHoSo said...

The result on Saturday night was terrible. However, maybe it could be done better or to a lesser extent so we could get the proper combination of the feel of being there while still knowing what in the heck is going on.

Despite my severe complaint about the Kentucky telecast, at least not knowing what was going on through the field was not accompanied by DW's endless blather, thus still making what TNT tried better than any Fox Cup Series telecast this year.

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with NASCAR Sprint Cup racing and broadcasters? Every time perfectly normal, sane, experienced television people get their hands on a Sprint Cup broadcast they go absolutely crazy. Why? What's the deal? Does NASCAR direct these fiascoes? Or does it happen independently of NASCAR and Daytona is powerless to stop it? WTF! Make it stop so I can go back to watching a race once in a while. Please.

West Coast Diane said...

Enhanced audio? How about some enhanced video....please. Wide shots. Show the racing, not just cars up front. Booth, provide real information on everyone, at least once, even if they are just pulling off the track. Stop wasting time with bumpers in and out of commercials. What happening to cutting from commercial if a caution comes out. Once upon a time that used to happen.

Maybe I would watch broadcast TV, instead of using HotPass.

MRM4 said...

I liked it. It was almost like being at the track. I thought it made it easier to see what was going on because you didn't have an announcer saying something that may or may not have applied to what was actually on the screen.

A prime example was on Kyle Busch's final pit stop when he told the crew to add some tape to the car. The crew member didn't have time to do it and the frustration oion his face said it all. That would have been overlooked had a reporter been yapping while they show the pit stop from atop the grandstands.

I've followed NASCAR since 1975. I don't need a pit reporter to tell me a driver is taking 4 tires, getting fuel of fuel, and making a slight air pressure adjustment. The announcers are needed, but for crucial information and updates to stragedy or something new teams are doing.

Wisconsin Steve said...

Kudos to TNT for once again having the guts to try something different. I am personally torn on this subject - hearing the pit reporters during the stops would be nice, but they usually say the same stuff anyway ("4 tires and Sunoco fuel for xxxxxx. He's down and away!")

Maybe a good compromise would be to turn up the background audio during stops so that the reporters could be heard as long as they were yelling loud enough. Also: instead of playing random music (are you listening, ESPN?), let the natural sound of the track guide viewers in and out of commercial breaks.

Anonymous said...

Instead of hearing what was happening on the track the first 3-5 laps of a restart we heard...inside...inside..inside..still inside...inside you...inside...22 inside...inside...still inside...yeah, that's what I what I want to listen to.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mind it in itself, but didn't like the effect that the audio had on how they covered the race, since it was not better, but worse. I didn't even care enough to turn on my speakers, which I ordinarily don't (I don't have the full-on surround sound, but I could have made it better.) In my mind, nothing is ever like being there except being there. But it was like they were so busy playing with their new toy they forgot the basics of letting viewers know what was going on.

anon 9:59...it was mentioned briefly during the TNT prerace. But not the magnitude....not a 'it's backed up for 10 miles in every direction' type of mention.

You know, I find this somewhat comparable to the Superbowl seat fiasco, which was discussed at length before, during, and after the event (bigger event, but much fewer people involved). But the NFL doesn't control the networks in the way that NASCAR apparently does.

Barry Roland said...

Look, I like the ebhanced sound. But you cant hear the announcers when they say something u want to hear. Dont feel bad the other broadcasters do it too. And I hate it there as well. I want to be able to understand those announcers when they talk, not hear the engines moaning. Barry

Roland said...

My biggest problem was that the "enhanced sound" wasn't enhanced at all. Audio wise it sounded like any other race. I got a killer surround sound and the "enhanced sound" had no special effect. Maybe it was just me, but there were other people complaining about this issue during the live blog.

I loved the idea of it. Im all for announcers shutting up and letting the natural sound come through. I would love a broadcast without announcers, with the info about pit stops and strategy put in graphics. I have no use for 90% of the booth analysts between the 3 networks anyway.

Not only was the "enhanced sound" lackluster, but the delivery was stupid. This is the part that TNT messed up. You cant balance natural sound and have regular annoucing to the extent that TNT tried to do Sat night. Fox gets away with it because crank it up is only for a couple laps. If they want to try it again their gonna have to pick one or the other, and make sure that the sound is actually enhanced.

I dont need pit reporters during green flag stops. All they say is "4 tires and fuel, down and away" which is what I can see with my own eyes. What they are needed for is relaying information about strategy and adjustments on upcoming pit stops, as well as updating if the team is having problems. TNT didnt let the pit reporters do this job. When cars came into pit I had no idea what adjustments were going to take place. That part was really frustrating

Another thing that I think isnt getting any attention at all but is really P*****g me off is the full screen replays during green flag racing. Do a split screen with the replay in the big window and the racing in the small one. I can not believe weve got split screen commercials before split screen replays. Not only do they miss the incident, hence the replay, you miss whats going on during the replay. This is so frustrating. Not to mention that they take down their 15 minute long ticker for each replay. Between that and the nonstop commercials and Sprint crap I never saw the ticker cycle through once. Pathetic. What a sorry broadcast. Im so dissapointed in TNT. Im their biggest fan and they treated us like crap saturday night. Im still mad about it as if you couldnt tell

Anonymous said...

My biggest complaint is the bumper cam, roof top cam and in car camera shots just totally taking away from us seeing the competition. Whoever thought a real fan wants to see those angles and not the actual racing has no idea about the fans and what they prefer. Yes, some may want those views, but isn't watching a race supposed to be about watching all the competion and being able to scan the whole track and show every driver since they all have at least one fan in the tv or live audience. I did not mind the enhanced audio when I could see more than just KB and 1 other car at the time.

GA Red

Jonathan said...

I didnt like it. No flow to anything. they used and abused the in car cam so much I almost gave up... what with 10 laps to go we had an in car cam for one lap and then the sprint logo thing even my dad said what are they doing???? lol

If yourgoing to crank it up once in a while do it... its a breath of fresh air when it happens right but you cant go the first 4 laps into one of the most hyped races out there without saying anything. I dont know just very strange I think TNT gave this little thought... decided to throw some graphic on the screen and just turn some mics up. or go to an in car camera for 2 laps with out saying anything... too me thats the easy way out make it fun, have the director do somthing to make it interesting.

Like the fact there trying somthing new but if your going to do it at least do it right

Palmetto said...

I still don't know what I was supposed to be learning from those in-car shots of Tony Stewart's helmet and hands.

If I want to replicate what I'd hear at the track, I'd put on my headphones and turn on MRN. This type of broadcast may be what starts me doing that at home too.

longtimeracefan said...

Re: TNT's Enhanced Audio, loved it, good job guys/gals. Bringing a new perspective to the everyday ho-hum. Keep it up TNT. Will be sorry for RaceBuddy departing after next week. Sad.

Sophia said...

I am just not a fan of gimmicks whether it's too much graphics on screen or in car/bumper cam over use RUINING the perspective of the races. I also find the change in sound annoying switching from pack race sounds to an individual buzzing sound of in car cam. I've noted this over the years as I've watched LESS NASCAR races due to in car cam coverage, but even having tv on in background while doing other things? The in car cam sound interrupts the normal race sound imo, but few understand my point I guess.

TNT seems to be off their game this year with the wide angle camera use we all loved. I also used to really enjoy the booth with Wally & Kyle chatting, laughing & getting excited about the race. Didn't feel that between trying to watch TNT & Flipping over the the Reds game.

Heck if I'm just going to see one car on the screen at a time, I remember enjoying the days on SPEED when they showed qualifying and you have Steve Byrnes & Larry Mac making THAT fun. I felt the guys on SPEED loved the sport even during quals or practice. I never got the feeling from ESPN & TNT covers no extraneous NASCAR stuff.

But it seems we can't have just simpler times in racing anymore.

NASCAR should just cut the gimmicks, pull back and give us wide shots & let us enjoy the pictures. Having a great booth would be great but I've said it before & will say it again, great views of the race makes me much more forgiving for whatever the booth is not giving, information wise

I know realize this is all the POWERS that BE telling everybody what to show or say or not say on tv. EVERYBODY is always cross promoting things in sports, not just NASCAR but everybody. Sigh...But this gimmick overload is just a shame.

I always enjoyed the TNT break from the other guys for the better camera views...not gonna happen this year.

Maybe i'll just give up watching the races & stick w SPEEDS Sunday night shows & Start DVRing NASCAR Hub. I miss hearing Steve Byrnes but my house mate watches tv when it's on & is always recording tons of shows & things overlap.

But the NN never drew me in & still does not & I miss being in touch with the SPEED guys voices.

Still wish they'd have brought back inside Cup on Monday nights. That was a great show once upon a time.

WickedJ said...

Maybe im all alone but if there was a race with no commentary and like only incar audio i'd quite enjoy it

iirc BBC has the option to watch F1 without commentary

Andrew said...

This type of coverage will revolutionize how we watch the sport.

TNT has some details to work on and fix, but this was a great experience. I had a blast watching.

More sounds less talk said...

We got 6 minutes from TNT with
no talking. And still some fans
" were crying - because they didnt
know what their fave driver was
doing. ""

"Really ? How about the ever
present scroll at the bottom of
the screen .. showing where the
drivers are running???

IMHO anything that will give us
LESS ADAM MUCH LESS ADAM ...
is a good thing.

but dont worry the folks will
still talk their asses off in the
booth..

They often call me Speedo said...

Things I would do instead of listening to Adam
Scrape finger Nails on
chalk board. Listen to lawn mowers
sit next to cryjng babies on the
airplane .. and finally...listen
to Mikey ( close call )

Forty6 Truck said...

I loved it. When they started doing it I literally said out loud "This is cool." Hearing the RPM variations in the engines, the crew chiefs calls and then the drivers going through the gears coming off pit road when the stops where complete was very nice. Less announcers talking on any telecast is a good thing in my mind.