Nugget of Knowledge: Audio in sports

Like a sitcom laugh track, golf brought in fake bird calls

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Television sports coverage hates silence, so what does it do for golf tournaments?

Everything is so quiet, but CBS several times tried to add a bit of sound and thought no one would notice. In this case, birds chirping.

The sports department added some bird noises at the World Golf Championship NEC Invitational in Akron in August of 2000. CBS had tried putting dishes of bird feed near its microphones but picked up nothing, so it ran audio tape of bird calls.

CBS also played taped bird calls during the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky and the Buick Open in Warwick Hills, Michigan that year. The network thought no one would notice, but plenty of bird call fans did, calling CBS to wonder why they were hearing bird calls from birds not native to Akron or Kentucky or Michigan.

CBS ended the practice when the network broadcast the Masters in 2001. It told reporters, “The bird calls you will hear will be live and indigenous to Augusta, Georgia,” the home of the Masters.

This fake sound is par for the course. In 1996, the Olympic games’ sound engineers taped the sounds of rowers at a practice session then played it back during the real event. During the games themselves, the sound of TV helicopters and speed boats alongside drowned out everything else.

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