The FIFA World Cup, the world’s most widely viewed sporting event, was arguably the year’s greatest showcase for professional audio products and brands in all their myriad forms, with kit from Allen & Heath, Lawo, Riedel, Sennheiser, Clear-Com, Focusrite, Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup, TSL Products, Community, Powersoft, Renkus-Heinz, DAS Audio, Electro-Voice, DPA Microphones, Systembase, Sony and DELEC all playing a starring role in the Brazilian footballing extravaganza. (See The latest from Brazil, Intelligibility foremost – sports venue loudspeakers, A&H GLD at the heart of Maracanã and the three-part Audio at the World Cup feature.)
But pro audio’s sporting prowess isn’t just limited to football: this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Winter Olympics in Sochi, Wimbledon Championships, Tour de France and European Athletics Championship in Zurich all called upon the expertise of the European live, installed and broadcast sound communities to make their matches, races and opening and closing ceremonies heard.
As an interesting aside – and testament to sport’s ability to push forward technological innovation – the Glasgow 2014 games saw a team from the BBC’s R&D department demonstrating and testing a number of its latest developments. A virtual reality trial combined existing research by BBC R&D, assisted by University College London, into 360-degree video and spatial (or ‘3D’) sound, creating what it described as “the most immersive live virtual reality broadcast to date”. The demonstration from The SSE Hydro stadium in Glasgow featured a panoramic 360-degree camera, with multi-channel sound giving a sensation of height, as well as width and length, sourced by a Soundfield microphone.
Review of the year by Chris Turner, sound designer, Jungle
What did 2014 bring us? Not more 3D TV, as anticipated. Instead we got 4k! I’m glad – not because I didn’t want to spend all day wearing special glasses, but because we don’t yet have the tools to mix in 3D. Yes, there’s Dolby Atmos, but it needs to expand into more cinemas before we can warrant the spend. 2014 did give us the exciting news that spatial surround sound was back on the map through Fairlight, an object-linked AirPan user interface that allows sound to be placed in a 3D environment using a virtual reality controller; which means I can soon mix 3D! Come back, 3D TV! We also saw changes to R128, the final word in loudness... except it wasn’t. The BBC brought us Jamaica Inn and the audience began complaining: “We can’t hear it!” Nobody knew why: the levels were right; the music and SFX weren’t too loud – unfortunately, the new trend in 2014 was just to act very, very quietly. So what are the lessons, knowing that R128 won’t save you from these mumbling thespians? Well, it seems that location recorders are now ordering retakes with more projection. How times have changed, and how fantastic that in 2014 audio is finally seen as important. At Jungle, we have said many times about how speaking to us early on in the production process is so important, and this year it happened over and over again. Thanks, Jamaica Inn!