Thursday, February 12, 2004

Squeal, Crash, Boing!

That's what TV viewers in Phoenix heard on KPNX Tuesday as Bishop Thomas O'Brien was testifying in court. He's accused of a deadly hit and run accident.

According to the AP:
According to the general manager of station KPNX, it was a mistake. An employee accidentally allowed the sound to be heard from a commercial that would have aired at that time, had it not been for the special coverage of the trial.

And the commercial was for a chiropractic clinic. Viewers heard the sound of tires squealing, and then a car crashing -- followed by a cartoonish "boing!" sound.

Before you roll your eyes and say, yeah, wardrobe malfunction, let me offer a similar example of how this could happen.

About five years ago when I was working for KRGV-TV in the Rio Grande Valley, we broke into regular programming one election night for a bulletin. This required stopping down a tape right after the end of a commercial, because the programming would resume on the tape right after that commercial. The ad happened to be a Burger King spot which included several cartoon sound effects of "chomping," incluidng one big bite right after the words, "If you ask us, it just tastes better."

We thought we had stopped down the tape exactly in the right place. Turns out we hadn't. So when we finished with our news bulletin, the audio guy potted up the sound from the tape deck, and we had master control start the VTR again. What viewers heard over the two anchor's faces was that last cartoon "CHOMP!" from that commercial. It looked and sounded hilarious.

I've also known some goofy audio operators. One at another former station kept several sound effects cartridges around just for grins when he was running sound checks. So it wasn't unusual to hear weird screams, or sheep bleating to a tango on the studio speakers before the noon news. Another audio operator had a cart with the "We are go" sequence from Apollo 13 that he used to play for a little motivation whenever we were getting ready to do a show.

It's all in fun, but God help you if it gets on the air.

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