Inside IPL’s ministry of sound
- While the players get used to no crowd and neutral venues, chants and cheers have been recreated to make viewers feel at home.
ou may have been waiting for the stump microphone to throw up gems from Rishab Pant and MS Dhoni but they were drowned in the din of a full house hosting an Indian Premier League (IPL) game. Wait, what? So what if the games are being played in empty stadia, crowd sounds sourced from contests between the teams from another time is being recreated for viewers.
Like players adjusting from playing in front of no one to 50 per cent attendance and back to empty seats, the producers too have had to improvise. Pant’s natter from behind the stumps and encouraging bowlers worked well for Test cricket broadcast. But for the IPL audience that scales new demographics, gender and age every year, canned crowd noise helps create an atmosphere viewers can’t do without.
So, even as the teams get used to another new normal -- the neutral venue experience in India --- effort has been made to create the home team experience for viewers. Well, almost. “We are adding a layer of neutral sound support to the bank of audio, this year,” said Sanjog Gupta, Sports head at Star and Disney India. “Because when you are at a neutral venue, other than the sounds of the home crowd there are lots of cheers for neutral moments as oxymoronic as it may sound. It is to bring alive this reality where no game is a home game.”
A sound bank of over 200 cheers and chants was created for players, teams and match situations. That explains why the canned cheer of Delhi Capitals celebrating Ruturaj Gaikwad’s wicket in the powerplay was subdued compared to when they got MS Dhoni to a second-ball duck.
Creating this bank took five-and-a-half months. It was first used in IPL 2020 which was played without crowd in UAE. The research work involved watching over 100 IPL matches involving almost all teams, players and situations. “The kind of cheering you have for Mumbai Indians is different from what you have for Rajasthan Royals. The cheer for Dhoni is different from that for Sanju Samson,” said Gupta. “We isolated the audio layers, broke it up into pieces. Then we re-recorded most sounds inside a studio with a certain number of fans. So, these aren’t sounds that are taken from archives. Because there was no way for us to isolate discreet audio of cheers and sounds and we wanted clean sound to be recorded.”
Two months to identify sound, another to generate it, one more month to record and a final month of rehearsals crystallised into the aural experience of IPL 2021. “Typically, we have an audio engineer and audio assistant. We added an audio producer to curate the right sounds, one who would be oriented with what happens in the game,” Gupta said.
However, conveying a stadium’s emotion through recreated sound can be out of sync with the action. In the IPL opener on Friday, the “crowd” began to celebrate Mohamed Siraj catching Ishan Kishan, off Harshal Patel. The catch was floored but the real drama came from a subsequent mix-up and a run-out narrowly averted. How do you replicate what would have been a gasp of relief or anguish depending on whose home game this was? Or, how would the response to Virat Kohli exhorting the away crowd to switch loyalties be reproduced? “Obviously the fans are going to miss watching us play. Such are the times that we are in right now,” Kohli recently said.