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The Media Technology

Digitally Filtering Out the Drone of the World Cup 602

qubezz writes "World Cup soccer fans may think a hornet's nest has infiltrated their TVs. However the buzz that is the background soundtrack of the South African-hosted games comes from tens of thousands of plastic horns called vuvuzelas, that are South Africa's version of ringing cowbells or throwing rats. It looks like the horns won't be banned anytime soon though. A savvy German hacker, 'Tube,' discovered that the horn sound can be effectively filtered out by applying a couple of digital notch filters to the audio at the frequencies the horn produces (another summary in English). Now it looks like even broadcasters like the the BBC and others are considering using such filters on their broadcasts."
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Digitally Filtering Out the Drone of the World Cup

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:23PM (#32584888)

    My TV already has a digital filter. Its called the off switch.

    • Re:I dont need it. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:26PM (#32584912) Homepage Journal
      I think that might be more accurately described as a binary filter.
    • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:56PM (#32585210)

      My TV already has a digital filter. Its called the off switch.

      So when you get angry, do you flip it off?

  • Am I the only... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aethogamous ( 935390 )
    person who doesn't find the noise annoying? (Just curious.)
    • Not so much annoying as vaguely scary. I keep looking over my shoulder for attacking wasps. :P

    • Am I the only...person who doesn't find the noise annoying? (Just curious.)

      No, you're not, I'm in the same position. I'm not watching BTW ;)

      Talk about cultural intolerance...

      Oh, but starting your answer in the title, however, IS definitely annoying ;)

      • The people bothered most by the noise is the players. They've been the ones complaining loudest. Those of us in the stands or living rooms can stuff plugs in our ears, but the soccer players can not. They say they can't hear the refs yelling-out calls, or directions from coaches. It's disrupting the game.

    • possibly, I have turned off games because of how irritating I find it and I doubt I am the only one. Noise and atmosphere are one thing, but the endless drone of those f@#$@#$ horns is just plain stupid.
    • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:43PM (#32585094)
      No, you're not. Not minding the sound is perfectly fine, but I've seen a lot of comments around the Internet insinuating that if you hate the sound of vuvuzelas, then you're a colonial racist who hates South African culture. As opposed to, say, someone who hates sounds that are really fucking annoying.

      Still, if the BBC and others are going to start filtering them, we get the best of both worlds. Nothing has to be banned, no ugly racial tensions are stirred, and we can watch the World Cup without being driven halfway to insanity. Count me pleased.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Knara ( 9377 )

        Wait, that's all I have to do to regain my status as a colonial power?

        I never knew it would be so easy.

      • by horza ( 87255 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:24PM (#32585484) Homepage

        if the BBC and others are going to start filtering them, we get the best of both worlds

        Except we don't. The players are unable to communicate on the pitch in any way, leading to the worst standard of play. As players cannot be warned when somebody is behind them, they just play safe and hoof the ball up the pitch just in case. The world's top players are being made to look like talentless hacks in dull low-scoring games. This may well go on to be the worst World Cup, and after this the Champions League finals may go on to eclipse the World Cup finals.


        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          Definitely - this has been REALLY noticeable in most of the matches I have watched. There have been a bunch of instances already where defenders miscommunicated so badly they gave up some really strange scoring chances. It made them and the general play of the match sometimes look completely confused and amateurish, until you realized that they just couldn't hear anything their teammates or goalkeeper was yelling at them...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by |TheMAN ( 100428 )
        so by that logic, isn't that like saying *I* hating rap music (in general) means I "hate" bla^H^H^H^HAfrican Americans? if they're whining and moaning about outsiders imposing on their "culture", who's to say they're not doing so on all the other 31 countries' matches? what the hell does the vuvuzela have anything to do with a italian vs paraguay match (for example)? just ban the f'ing things for all matches except for when their beloved south african team plays if they want PCness the monotony and annoya
    • It just disappears into the background for me. I wonder if it helps if you've spent a reasonable amount of time around noisy computers.
  • by LowG1974 ( 1021485 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:41PM (#32585062)
    Having not heard the sound of the vuvuzelas, I click on the link to their website. Cleverly, they listed these ALTERNATIVE Uses for the VUVUZELA:

    1. Cricket bat.
    2. Hearing Aid.
    3. Petrol funnel.
    4. Water sprayer. (force trumpet side down into water)
    5. Drinking funnel. Nuff said.
    6. 4G mobile communication
    7. Walking stick,
    8. Light saber. (Just insert a torch) as seen on Starwars...
    9. Jousting Stick (simply insert one into another.)
    10. And of coarse... supporting any team/thing you like...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:46PM (#32585122)

    Me and my friend made a Puredata patch ( to filter the vuvuzela sound. You have the ability to choose the sound also, making it more dynamic.
    check it at

  • Too much work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Al Al Cool J ( 234559 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:46PM (#32585130)

    When the World Cup started, I thought of playing around with notch filters to remove the noise, but the whole thing just reeked of effort. The human brain is actually pretty good at filtering out noise if you give it a chance. Just watch the games and don't worry about the vuvuzelas and before long you won't even notice them. I don't. It's a lot like what happens when you live next to a highway.

  • Wow, bad editing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arivia ( 783328 ) <> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:48PM (#32585150) Journal
    The BBC themselves has an article up ( about the ineffectiveness of this filter, the issues filtering out the noise of vuluzelas could cause for the coverage in general, and the rest of their own good reasons for NOT using this shim.
  • My brain filtered it out after about 30 seconds. I actually think it's slightly less annoying than the background cheering during a typical NFL game.

    • It doesn't bother me either. The buzz of the stadium lends excitement and dramatic tension to the match.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by v1 ( 525388 )

      after listening to the "before" and "after" application of the notch filter, I quickly noticed that when you removed the vuvu's, you ended up with a slightly quieter, equally annoying general sound of the crowd.

      The announcer really wasn't any easier to understand when the vuvus were removed. The audio's average level was just a little lower. (which did make it slightly easier on the ears)

      Not much of an improvement. I can't imagine them banning vuvus would have much of an impact on the game -- for example,

      • Re:Eh.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @09:09PM (#32585902)

        I can't imagine them banning vuvus would have much of an impact on the game -- for example, the crowd noise itself would be almost equally effective at preventing the players from communicating

        Actually, it is much worse than normal crowd noise - they have already shown that a vuduzela can generate 125dB from 1m. 40,000 of those things can most definitely cause a level of hearing damage that normal cheering cannot.

        I was in one of the louder indoor arenas (the HP Pavilion in San Jose) when it got over 105dB in the NHL playoffs - that was enough to cause my eardrums to literally start clipping, and a bit of pain after a while. I couldn't imagine 125+ dB for almost 2 hours straight...

  • by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) * on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:53PM (#32585188)

    Chatroulette and sports broadcasters all trying to filter out the horn on the same day?

  • by rbeattie ( 43187 ) <> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:59PM (#32585228) Homepage

    I wrote up a blog post about using Sound eXchange (sox) to filter the sound here: [] , but the short version is this:

    rec -d vol .5 equalizer 233 .1o -48 equalizer 466 .03o -48 equalizer 932 .02o -48 equalizer 1864 .2o -24 | play -d

    or from a response to my post here: []

    rec -d | play -d vol 0.9 bandreject 116.56 3.4q bandreject 233.12 3.4q bandreject 466.24 3.4q bandreject 932.48 3.4q bandreject 1864 3.4q

    After testing, I feel the parameters could be tweaked a bit more - but these definitely make a difference.


  • by ZERO1ZERO ( 948669 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:00PM (#32585242)
  • Meh. (Score:4, Funny)

    Call me when it works on Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jd2112 ( 1535857 )

      Call me when it works on Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

      My TV has a control labeled 'Brightness', but it didn't seem to help...

  • The notch filtering is probably quite similar to that developed to remove the nasal drone of Howard Cosell from football (American) game broadcasts.
  • by $lashdot ( 472358 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:32PM (#32585566) Journal

    An earlier poster wrote:

    I've seen a lot of comments around the Internet insinuating that if you hate the sound of vuvuzelas, then you're a colonial racist who hates South African culture.

    The funny thing is that the vuvuzelas are a recent introduction into South African culture. They are not only post-Colonial, they are post-Apartheid.

    The maker of the horns admits that the prototype came from the USA... []

    and this has been known in wider soccer circles for at least a year... []

    and while the plastic horns have been around since the late 90s in South Africa... []

    the current mass-producer only started up in 2001... []

    Additionally, there's the blaringly obvious notion that the vuvuzela looks nothing like the kudu horn it allegedly comes from and looks everything like a cheap rip-off of the sort of long thin horns you see draped with flags playing fanfares when kings enter in films set in the middle ages, but I suppose it's expecting a lot for everyone to think critically. Last time I checked, kudu horns didn't have embouchures, either, which is what allows the plastic horn blowers to last all game.

  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jvkjvk ( 102057 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @09:42PM (#32586218)

    I wonder how long before half of what one sees and hears in supposedly "live" TV has been digitally massaged in some manner.

    You could take out ugly buildings to make a scene more aesthetically pleasing, notch out one particular persons voice, or remove an 'annoying' five seconds of tape.

    This subtle dichotomy between actual real life and tv "real life" could widen to the point of audiences being fed the "Leave it to Beaver" version of the real. We're generally already pissed off enough that our lives don't match the fake TV shows but this could bring a whole new level of cognitive dissonance, since these are supposedly "live" evens.

    The horns are there, in the stadium. They may be annoying but they are part of the event. I guess if it turns cloudy, perhaps they can photoshop in some blue sky...


  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @09:54PM (#32586302)

    You'll have 15,000 fans all blowing Didgeridoos.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @11:49PM (#32587026)
    All broadcasters have extensive filters in their studios. It is trivially easy for a sound engineer to notch out the horns.
  • by kevingolding2001 ( 590321 ) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @06:29AM (#32588836)
    Get a brewery to start giving them away with every case of beer sold.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"