Saturday, 1 December 2012

how to synchronise channel nine's TV cricket coverage with ABC radio commentary

Like many Australians, I woke up this morning hungover—and therefore ready to watch some cricket.

I was prepared for an enthralling day's play.  Ricky Ponting would soon be due at the crease, and across the land, millions were tuning in to Channel Nine to farewell the former Australian captain in his final test match over an illustrious seventeen-year career.


I made a stovetop coffee and settled into the couch, watching what I hoped would be the first of at least thirty Ricky Ponting highlight packages over the course of the day.

But I was soon shaken from my happy stupor.  Barely had the cricket begun when Channel Nine decided to show off their newest bright idea—a live cross to a magical, touch-screen betting desk where some nitwit in suit and tie (so you can trust him!) yammered on about gambling odds for five minutes. 

This was just not cricket.  "Punter" he may be, but I do not want to hear what the gambling industry thinks of Ricky Ponting's chances of failure.  Where were my highlight packages set to emotional radio hits?

Moreover, I had seen this magic desk before!  Unless my eyes deceived me, Ian Healy sat behind this very same table of sorcery during segments in the Adelaide test, where he would madly poke and swipe at the tabletop in order to convince us that it was actually him bringing statistics and replays up on the TV screen, rather than the editors and production crew that have capably handled this task for the last few decades.

Things grew increasingly insufferable.  As the lunch break drew near, Mark Taylor saw fit to discuss remote-controlled helicopters for the third or fourth time that day, informing us of Bill Lawry's head-scratching belief that a grown man can fit into and pilot one of these devices—much like Mr Burns and his "Spruce Moose" in The Simpsons' casino episode.  I needn't remind anyone that only one of these occurrences was actually amusing.


And as always, the chance of finding pure nonsense behind Ian Healy's "analysis" of the match was roughly identical to the chance of finding chocolate behind an advent calendar.  Luckily, my fortunes were about to change—thanks to some unintended interference from my stomach and my television.

Hungry for snacks, I had gone to the shops during the 40-minute lunch break, and returned to find my TV as mute as a fish.  Having obtained this TV from the side of the road during my local hard rubbish day, it's not surprising that it has several bad habits, this particular one being that it sometimes refuses to provide me with any sound whatsoever. 

Usually a quick on-and-off solves this problem, but today, no amount of button mashing or switch flicking would return the warm sound of willow knocking on leather to my cricket pictures.

I needed a solution, pronto.  I had often heard of people muting Channel Nine and listening to the far-superior ABC radio commentary instead.  I tried this—but the pictures and audio were well out of sync.  This would not do.

So I fixed it.  And here's how.  Tell your friends. 

STEP ONE

Download and install this program: Radiodelay, by DaanSystems.  It's free, small, and very easy to use.

STEP TWO

Find an audio cable with a male jack on each end.  They're pretty cheap to buy if you don't have one.  As pictured below, I used a guitar lead with a 3.5mm adapter attached to each end.


STEP THREE

Mute your TV.  Phew.  Get your radio and tune it to the ABC—alternatively, get your smartphone, tablet, or similar and stream ABC radio online.  Then, use the audio cable to connect the radio to your computer's microphone input.  Don't put the radio too close to the TV; you may get interference with the radio signal.


STEP FOUR

Open up your computer's mixer/audio control.  We'll need to check your microphone settings.

A quick lesson for those who want it: there are two basic ways in which you can affect the level of sound that comes through your microphone jack.  You can change the input of the jack (ie, how loud the computer "hears" what comes through the microphone), and you can change the output of the jack (ie, how loud the computer repeats through its speakers what it "hears").

You should make sure your microphone input is selected and turned up enough so as to "hear" the audio coming in from your radio.  However, you should make sure that your microphone output is either muted or set to its lowest setting.  We don't want your computer repeating the radio audio just yet.


STEP FIVE

Finally, open up the Radiodelay program.  As the ABC commentary will be ahead of the TV pictures, we need to delay the audio coming in through your computer's microphone input. 

Press play in Radiodelay (you should now begin to hear the radio through your computer's speakers) and then experiment with moving the delay slider until your pictures and sound match up.


Personally, using Melbourne ABC 774 as my audio, I set the delay to 4.8 seconds if watching the cricket on Nine, and 4.4 seconds if watching on GEM.  This lines the audio up with the pictures near-perfectly!

Keep in mind that these delay numbers might be very different for you.  For instance, they may change if you are:

  • listening to a different ABC station;
  • using streaming internet radio rather than broadcast radio;
  • watching via your Foxtel box rather than over free-to-air; or
  • living in a different place.
And there you have it!  Rather than let your living room suffer the gruesome sounds of gambling tie-ins, vitamin commercials, and head-numbing "memorabilia" spruiking (I'm really not sure why this one hasn't sold out after three years and counting), you can instead indulge your ears in the ABC's delights: descriptive and succinct ball-by-ball commentary, in-depth analysis from a great bunch of cricketing brains, and of course, during breaks in play, the inimitable wit and laughter of Kerry O'Keefe.

Or you could stick with Channel Nine, and listen to Ian Healy continue his one-man rage against phoney Twitter accounts.

Up to you, really.

7 comments:

  1. The picture in step 3 looks like watching cricket in the 90's. No wonder you think listening to the radio is so good, you don't stand a chance of seeing anything on that tiny screen. Buy a flat screen.

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    1. Nothing wrong with cricket in the 90's. If I squint very hard at this TV, I can almost picture Glenn McGrath with the ball instead of Mitchell Johnson.

      The effect is ruined on a flat-screen.

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    2. Mitch didn't do too bad in the first innings of the Boxing Day test today. Thanks for the tip, this works beautifully in Adelaide on 11.3 sec delay.

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  2. Nice one, thanks. You'd have to imagine there are digital radios out there now with pause/play functionality? That might be the easiest of solutions although getting the timing right might be far from easy. Still, anything's better than promos of The Block and betting odds "analysis".

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    1. Cheers! Yeah, I imagine you could trial-and-error it with a digital radio, might be tough hitting pause at the right time, but it'd involve less cables... I didn't bother hooking up my rig this evening, and in return I was rewarded with Tubs talking about Pokemon.

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  3. i know this is old, but you are totally wrong about the touch screen. i worked on the broadcast and the hosts did indeed activate what you saw. i'm not saying it's a good idea, but, you were wrong

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    1. Fair enough. That's still pretty astounding though -- seems like a fair bit of effort to build that touch screen functionality for no real resulting benefit.

      Still, it could be worse. God help us all if Bruce McAvaney ever gets near a cricket coverage desk.

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