Toronto, Ontario, Canada – August 18, 2010… Commentators are prepared for their task at special training sessions: to cover a football match for visually impaired people while including all its aspects. Through direct cooperation with football fans during those sessions, requirements for a detailed description of the action soon become evident, leading to a step-by-step improvement of the commentary. An efficient broadcast from the stadium is guaranteed by technology from Lawo.
The broadcast-ready signal is then passed on to the ORF (Austrian national public broadcaster) by Datamatix Datensysteme GmbH. In addition, an ‘audio description’ is provided in the stadium on a VHF radio frequency, and via a live Internet stream. Blind or visually impaired people on site then have the opportunity to experience the stadium atmosphere live, while listening to the action via an earbud connected to a receiver, while others can follow the match live over the Internet, from anywhere in the world.
The idea was first conceived during preparations for the 2008 European Championship, and implemented locally, at that time, in stadiums via VHF radio transmitters. Following the tournament, FIFA left the radio transmitters in place for use by the Austrian Bundesliga (the top Austrian football league). International matches in the stadiums at Vienna, Innsbruck, and Graz followed. “The upgrade of the service to a live audio stream was taken up by the ÖFB (Austrian Football Association) and the Austrian Bundesliga, which allowed us to achieve this project,” explains Michael Kastelic, CEO of Datamatix Datensysteme GmbH. “Following our proposal, the ORF commissioned the provision of the service for the 2010 World Cup. Furthermore, all Austrian league matches in the 2010/11 season will be broadcast in dual-channel sound.”
For visually impaired people, knowing where the ball is on the pitch – the so-called ‘geography of the playing field’ – is extremely important, much more so than when they are listening to a radio broadcast. A visually impaired person can then gain a much clearer picture of the match than would be otherwise possible. “Feedback from the non-visually impaired indicates that the added information is welcome, and that the more transparent explanations of the rules are much appreciated, and make the game significantly more interesting. It is, however, important that our service is particularly designed for visually impaired people; it cannot be compared with a standard commentary. As soon as our commentator stops, a blind person can’t ‘watch’ the match any longer,” continues Kastelic.
Both the largest and smallest of Lawo’s consoles are used for the audio description. “Our Lawo products, an mc290 at the ORF centre, an mc256 in our OB vans, as well as crystal consoles in the stadiums, all provide state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge sound,” comments Kastelic. Additionally, the crystal consoles handle the exceptionally high commentator audio levels that occur when a team scores, without distortion, and the signal quality stays reliably high. Kastelic continues, “The outstandingly fast and professional support from Lawo was another plus.” The crystal console is used in stadiums mainly due to its compact size and modular fader unit: “Following extensive market analysis, the Lawo console proved to be the most flexible and powerful solution, in addition to a price-performance ratio untouched by any other competitor.”
Datamatix Datensysteme GmbH develops hardware and software solutions in the field of wireless data transmission – including consultation and support. Having been commissioned by ÖFB, the Austrian Bundesliga, and the ORF, Datamatix Datensysteme GmbH is responsible for the audio description facility at football matches in Austria.
Founded in 2003, Datamatix Datensysteme GmbH is currently operating across Europe. Offering the highest quality, its employees bring to the company extensive experience, sound know-how and innovative technology.
Lawo is a manufacturer of digital audio networking systems and consoles for a wide range of applications from small to large scale audio production in television and radio, post production, and live sound. Established in the 1970s, the company’s manufacturing center is located in the Rhine valley town of Rastatt, Germany. For additional information on all Lawo products, visit the company online at www.lawo.ca.
Photo info: The Lawo-equipped commentary booth.