Though the next NFL season will proceed with its kickoff being only days away, it’ll look quite a bit different than past seasons, and you already know why. The pandemic is still underway, particularly in the US, and social distancing remains a key way to reduce the spread of the disease. For obvious reasons, packed stadiums aren’t an option right now, meaning there won’t be many people cheering.
Depending on the location, NFL games will take place in stadiums that either have a drastically reduced number of viewers or stadiums that are entirely empty. Fans will be watching the games at home this year, and though it’ll be a bit strange seeing all those empty seats in the background, the League is working to ensure the overall viewing experience isn’t too different.
NFL Films is gearing up to supply venue-specific audio recordings of fans cheering, the goal being to replicate the sounds that would be heard if the stadiums were full like usual. The decision to use prerecorded audio was inspired by viewing the first week of German soccer, which was totally silent due to the lack of fans.
The experience was deflating; the lack of cheering takes the sport from one of social gatherings and excitement to one that feels eerily abandoned and uncomfortable. Audio engineers will be used at each NFL game this season to replicate the sound of a full stadium, according to Bloomberg, pointing out the obvious benefits of using stadium-specific recordings.
Because each game features different teams, the chants and cheers heard in the crowd will vary and often include things related to the specific teams. It would obviously be strange to hear Browns fans barking during a broadcast of an Eagles game, for example, so the only options are tailored audio or generic audio…and the latter would no doubt grow old and repetitive quickly.
Meanwhile, fans attending games will also hear pre-recorded audio to simulate the social experience — and, the report notes, to prevent them from eavesdropping on team plays.