Cubs, Fox Sports will add a ‘fake crowd’ to its Saturday telecast

(Photo by ALEX LEE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by ALEX LEE/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs and Fox Sports have added a ‘fake crowd’ against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. How does it look? You decide.

Well, they’ve done it. The Chicago Cubs and Fox Sports went ahead and instead of piping in the crowd noise? They made their own crowd–digital, mind you. I can’t imagine it not coming down to the sidewall. But see that Arizona Diamondbacks fan at the front right, standing on top of the railing? Now, I don’t know if it’s the ‘better version of Donkey Kong’ as Fox President Eric Shanks said–but it has improved.

Now, fans’ opinions have been mixed. Some want the crowd noise; some don’t. Fox Sports vice president Brad Zager says to give it a chance before you make a final opinion.

"“Sports is supposed to be an escape and when people have that escape we want it to feel as normal as possible when there’s very little normalcy, like a crowd at a baseball game on a Saturday."

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Alright, I’ll give them that. With the COVID-19 pandemic running rampant? It’s good to feel a little bit of normalcy to it. But a ‘fake crowd’ on a Saturday? I’ll reserve my judgment, but I don’t feel like I’ll like it. Sounds? That’s fine. Harry Caray’s seventh-inning stretch? I’m down with that. But the crowd? Eh. To be determined. But the 500 or so crowd animations? This could get interesting.

They can do the wave, high-fives (which is prohibited by MLB), and other animations. The system can also do they cheer for. So for instance, the Cubs-Brewers game could be pro-Cubs–or they left with a 9-1 score in the ninth-inning–both sides. It also adapts to the weather. Is it cold out? They’ll have jackets.

"“I’m loving it more and more as we progressed through each version,” Shanks said. “This has really dialed in the accuracy of the fans to make it imperceptible on the wide shots to real fans.”"

Next. Cubs will replace fans with advertising. dark

We’ll see. Fox worked on it with real-time animation and virtual production studio, Silver Spoon. They scanned all parks (except Toronto) to make it more realistic. So Fox will have four of its 10 cameras calibrated for it. As we get further in the season (60-games?), we will see if they have any more setup.