NBC Plans to Pump Up Olympics Audio for Sled-Heads


Hardcore luge freaks, are you holding on to your skin-tight unitards? NBC has announced that for its coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, it’s firing up surround sound that’ll make the luge and bobsled events sound as loud and crisp as NASCAR on Fox.

Coverage of the Olympic trials begin next week, 100 days early–when NBC does land sports coverage, they really dig in.

The number of viewers with surround-sound-capable TVs has been steadily increasing over the past few years, especially now that the U.S. has ditched analog TV for good. This winter marks the first time all viewers in the U.S. will be receiving the Olympics broadcast in digital form, which means every American will have access to surround sound audio, provided their TVs are capable. “All the major sporting events boadcast on the major networks are using surround sound technologies now,” says Bob Dixon, director of sound design for NBC’s Olympics coverage. “It’s becoming the norm.”

The 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy were mostly broadcast in stereo. TV audiences could still hear the whooshing sounds as bobsledders and skiers skidded past the cameras, but viewers probably wouldn’t call the experience transportive. Conversely, with surround sound, “You can get the feeling that you’re there at the event,” explains Dixon. Upgrading to surround hasn’t been easy. Much of the recording can be done with traditional mono and stereo microphones, such as those supplied by Ohio-based Audio-Technica, but the mixing process is completely different. Dixon says the Olympic coverage probaby won’t be 100% discrete surround sound until 2012, but the 2010 winter games still promise to take viewers on an auditory, feet-first trip.

Photo: USA LugeEW