Blog Post

Technology Quiets the Vuvuzela in Real Time

The aural pestilence of the vuvuzela, the droning horn employed by soccer fans at the 2010 World Cup, has become the defining sound of the event, but thanks to better computing power and software, the noise can now be (mostly) erased from broadcasts of the proceeding before they hit your screen. But the ability to eliminate the buzz around the World Cup presents an ethical conundrum for the digital age. With more computing power available, real-time image and sound processing can literally change the way we view and hear the world in ways that were once limited to magazines using Photoshop or movies and TV shows employing heavy post-production editing.

The EEtimes wrote this morning about a digital signal-processing company that sells audio equipment to major music, television and movie studios. The company, Waves, offers an extension package to reduce the B-flat tones of the Vuvuzela from broadcasts of the event in real time, without interfering with other sounds.

Waves told EETimes that it’s working with an unnamed broadcaster to help make the showings of the world Cup vuvu-free, although the demo on its site merely reduces the loud buzzing to something on the level of a few bees. The BBC has said it’s considering using such technology and today Host Broadcast Services, which provides the broadcast feed for the games, said it had redoubled its sound filters to cut down on the drone. The Inquirer has a story about a software hack translated from a German website that enables folks watching the matches on their home computers to stifle the horns.

Maybe eliminating the drone of the vuvuzela is a good use of such software, but as the tech industry perfects real-time image manipulation (and has the computing power available to adjust imagery in real time), it changes the accuracy of the images on a broadcast in ways that may be construed as unethical or at the very least, unwelcome.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Axel Bührmann

22 Responses to “Technology Quiets the Vuvuzela in Real Time”

  1. French

    The broadcaster may be Canal+, a French paid TV provider. They told this morning that they will now broadcast “vuvuzuela free” signal.

  2. No ethical conundrum here: filter it out, inform everyone, everyone will be grateful. It’s an awful sound, even worse in person, trust me, I live here.
    I have no idea why the broadcasting companies aren’t filtering it out at source, on every open microphone it appears. The picture is spectacular, why not do everything to make the sound great too?

  3. Mr_gelato

    Not really much of an ethical controversy here, unless you consider using antibiotics to cure an infection an unjustified tampering with the natural world. The key is whether the alteration is openly acknowledged so there is no effort at any kind of deception.

  4. Harold

    When you’re 56 these noises simply don’t matter cause you can’t hear them and besides if it’s that annoying simply turn down the volume. I’ve watched the World Cup in three languages so far and I get the same feeling of excitement for the game in any of the three languages sans volume. Some where we’ve lost the common practice of thought and volume control to even think of near real-time sound manipulation as the answer. You do know that before there was sound in movies they were called “talkies” and everyone seemed to do ok with that…lol.

  5. I tried to watch a World Cup game for the first time this weekend. I had to turn it off after five minutes because of the annoying drone. No wonder us Americans do not watch soccer. How do you put up with that for an entire game?

  6. Ian Kemmish

    There’s a very impressive demo from the guys at Queen Mary College who first did this, at

    Unfortunately, later in the day, Chris Cannam, who is credited on that page, appears to have posted a comment on the BBC’s website saying that, after about ten minutes of listening to the doctored signal, you start to hear the vuvuzela again. Score one for evolution, nil for Fourier transforms…..

  7. I perfect exampl eof a potentual unethical use would be filling in the crowd at an event to make the venue look more populated. Fill all those empty seats with happy cheering people… One thing perhaps for a football game, but what about when a political candidate does it to make his support look stronger???

    • Once we have the tech that enables us to manipulate audio and images in real-time one can manipulate broadcasts or live news. Imagine digitally reducing or adding the sound of gunfire in a story covering protests, or altering the number of people in a crowd.Or what if one could digitally lighten or darken someone’s skin tone while they were being interviewed on air?

      • Stace.. It is already happening, without the use of any digital technology! Just camera angles, microphone positioning, and lighting can do all the things you just mentioned.. If the intent is there, the tools are never a problem. I have seen this done and have been on location where they have achieved amazing effect with just these three things.. Shooting in a massive mall filled with shouting people, yet achieving a near-perfect empty frame with only the anchor visible, and only his voice being heard. And she always wants to be fairer than she is…so some light from the right side, and a brighter contrast setting does the job just fine…

  8. Steven

    Perfect example of how to lure people in with a fake controversy of audio-filtering being potentially unethical and then completely failing to elaborate. I’ve read high school papers with better journalism.

  9. While I think it’s great to be able to filter out the noise to at least make things a bit more enjoyable to watch or listen to. I mean we watch a game at home and won’t hear all the noise from the stands however it does diminsh the experience. But this makes the ideas in the movie The Running Man more plausable, with the idea is now “What You Get Isn’t What You See.” I think the GOP and other right wingers have been using these tactics for the past few years to propel their agenda’s or candidates. Bet half term governor Palin would like to have had that in use when she was talking anywhere at about anytime in the past few years.

  10. ABooth

    Unwelcome in the long term, but the incessant noise from these cheap horns is ruining the World cup experience and turning away new viewers.

    Is there anything good about vuvuzela’s? I think not.