Behold: The Devuvuzelator

In the modern world, it could be argued that the most important element of any invention is its name. And if that’s the case, there may be no finer name this year than the devuvuzelator.

It’s a response to the vuvuzela, a long horn (usually made of plastic) which is particularly popular with soccer fans in South Africa. Of course, that’s attracted worldwide attention as the country is currently hosting the World Cup. Local traders are cashing in by selling versions in the colors and national flag markings of the teams competing in the tournament.

But while it may make for an exciting atmosphere inside the stadium, it’s not gone down too well with TV viewers. The unvarying pitch is particularly annoying, and I can confirm that when using my home cinema system, the effect is somewhat like having a swarm of bees in the room for 90 minutes.

The big problem for broadcasters is the noise made by the vuvuzela (.WAV): it’s a B flat and at 230Hz, a similar frequency to the human voice. That means that mixing the audio to specifically dip the vuvuzela sound risks quietening the announcer’s voice.

However, staff at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary, University of London, have come up with a possible solution. They’ve developed a filter which simply strips out the lowest frequencies which correspond to the vuvuzela sound. This leaves the announcing intact but means the vuvuzela, while still audible, is much quieter and less distracting.

They’ve now released it as an audio processing plug-in for Windows and OS/X which audio-tech savvy users can run while watching games online. TV viewers will still have to hope broadcasters find their own solution: some which offer multiple audio channels are considering offering an alternative soundtrack which quietens the vuvuzela, but loses some of the other elements of crowd atmosphere.

And for those who love the vuvuzela — or at least enjoy other people’s disgruntled reaction — there’s already the inevitable iPhone app.

[Picture credit: Flickr user flowcomm.]

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9 Responses to Behold: The Devuvuzelator

  1. Ay c'mon white people, here in Mexico we have dealt with vuvuzelas most of our lives. People can't take them to stadiums anymore not because of "the annoying sound", but because they can be considered as weapons (which also rather stupid). Still, I can't think about a soccer game without the noise of vuvuzelas, drums, shouting and swearing.

  2. Ay c’mon white people, here in Mexico we have dealt with vuvuzelas most of our lives. People can’t take them to stadiums anymore not because of “the annoying sound”, but because they can be considered as weapons (which also rather stupid). Still, I can’t think about a soccer game without the noise of vuvuzelas, drums, shouting and swearing.

  3. "That means that mixing the audio to specifically dip the vuvuzela sound risks quietening the announcer’s voice."

    uh..what?

    The announcers audio stream and the stadium noise are already separate to begin with. Filter the crowd before mixing it with the announcers. What's so complicated about this? Put them in an isolated room to call the game if you have to.

  4. “That means that mixing the audio to specifically dip the vuvuzela sound risks quietening the announcer’s voice.”

    uh..what?
    The announcers audio stream and the stadium noise are already separate to begin with. Filter the crowd before mixing it with the announcers. What’s so complicated about this? Put them in an isolated room to call the game if you have to.

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