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In the Hunger Games arena, the impression is that everything is recorded and televised. As well as technology enabling them to insert new features (fire, mutts, parachutes, etc.) into the arena wherever and whenever they like, the Gamemakers have cameras everywhere which are broadcasting the events of the Games to the whole of Panem. These cameras are hidden in strategic locations so that pretty much anything can be picked up and broadcast.

How about sound? Do the Gamemakers also have extremely sensitive microphones dotted about the arena so that any word spoken anywhere by anyone is also broadcast? That seems implausible - as far as I know (though I'm no expert), a mic usually needs to be pretty close to someone to be able to transmit their words clearly without any extra baggage.

The obvious answer is that the tribute costumes are equipped with tiny microphones so that everyone's voice can be picked up and transmitted on television. Is there any confirming evidence that this is the case?

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  • @OrangeDog lexico.com/en/definition/mike
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 19, 2019 at 11:14
  • 2
    Lapel-type microphones would record an unacceptable level of mechanically transmitted noise when the person was "in action"; rustling noises would drown out everything else. It's much more likely that they'd use a large number of fixed microphones, along with highly directional microphones like parabolic microphones or phased microphone arrays to allow sound to be captured from a large distance.
    – Sneftel
    Jul 19, 2019 at 11:21
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    @Randal'Thor I saw the original title and was momentarily confused because I didn't remember anyone called Mike.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 19, 2019 at 11:29
  • @OrangeDog I use correct words and correct capitalisation, so it's unambiguous :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 19, 2019 at 11:30
  • @Sneftel See, that's the type of expert knowledge I was hoping for. Probably this is obvious to some people, but I know zero about the different types of microphone and their uses in different circumstances.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 19, 2019 at 11:31

3 Answers 3

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There is no text mentioning microphones anywhere in the books. Most likely the cameras are using directional microphones, but how exactly everything is recorded isn't explained, just as how the arena works isn't explained. We know that all tributes have injected transponders, making it easy to triangulate on them even if they aren't wearing mics.

Likely, not everything happening simultaneously is broadcasted. The Gamemakers likely focus on one (group of) tribute(s) at a time - the ones doing something interesting at the moment.

However, the characters do say various sentences deemed unfit by the Capitol to each other while inside the arena. Some examples of things that the Capital probably wouldn't want to broadcast:

Hunger Games ch. 15, Rue to Katniss:

Rue's eyes widen. "Oh no, we're not allowed to eat the crops."
"They arrest you or something?" I ask.
"They whip you and make everyone else watch," says Rue.

Then Katniss ponders the things Rue tells her about District 11:

It's interesting, hearing about her life. We have so little communication with anyone outside our district. In fact, I wonder if the Gamemakers are blocking out our conversation, because even though the information seems harmless, they don't want people in different districts to know about one another.

This is just Katniss' speculations, but it suggests that some manner of censoring could be going on. Perhaps they simply don't broadcast everything said by not picking it up. Or instead of broadcasting the conversation between Rue and Katniss, they could switch to some other tribute.

Or perhaps broadcasting with a delay - we know for a fact that the show is broadcasted mostly live though:

Otherwise the berry episode at the end of the first book wouldn't have reached Panem, nor would Katniss defying the "burial" of Rue, etc. The failure to censor those events is what starts the rebellion.

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  • Regarding your last spoiler paragraph: they couldn't reasonably have cut away from the berry scene, because there was nobody else to watch! That was the climax of the Games, and they had to broadcast it. Failing to censor Rue's burial might have been a slip-up on the Gamemakers' part. In the 2nd film (I think this is not confirmed in the book), the whipping scene makes clear that "live" Capitol broadcasts have a few seconds' delay, so that they can cut away quickly, albeit maybe not quite quickly enough. Same probably goes for Johanna's cursing, if that's bleeped out in-universe too.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 22, 2019 at 8:19
  • @Randal'Thor If you refer to the whipping of Gale, it isn't broadcasted, it is just something caught on security cameras. Also, that part of Snow viewing it isn't canon, as it never happens in the books. From what we know, the Capital and Snow never even heard of it. It seems that Snow rather made the decision to get rid of previous winners based on Peeta and Katniss making everything escalate even further with their visit to District 11. After that, it didn't even help that they got married, he had already made up his mind.
    – Amarth
    Jul 22, 2019 at 15:34
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In Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, upon Jessup's death, there's a mention of microphones. It appears as though the microphones are installed in the arena itself, not put upon the tributes.

The sound of snapping bones that accompanied his landing surprised the audience, as Jessup had landed in a rare pocket of the arena with good audio - Coriolanus Snow, Lucy Gray, Jessup Diggs

In Katniss's time, it is possible that the tributes can have microphones. After all, it has been sixty-four years since Lucy Gray's hunger games. Unfortunately, as Amarth also points out, there is no mention in the books. Despite this, I will try my best to explain how either of the three below can be possible or not possible using the quotes I have to work with.

1) The Capitol has cameras with good microphones that capture the sound well.

This is possible, as cameras are repeatedly mentioned in The Hunger Games, but Katniss never sees them in the arena itself. In fact, she often acts like she is on camera, even when she isn't sure she is.

While I've been concealed by darkness and the sleeping bag and the willow branches, it probably has been difficult for the cameras to get a good shot of me. I know they must be tracking me now though. The minute I hit the ground, I'm guaranteed a close-up. So I slide out of the foliage and into the dawn light. I pause a second, giving the cameras time to lock on me. Then I cock my head slightly to the side and give a knowing smile. - Katniss Everdeen

This possibility might be ruled out easily, but Panem is set at a time after the 21st century. It is very possible that technology has become much better since then. And, quite possibly, after the first few Hunger Games, the Capitol started working on better microphones as a part of audience entertainment.

2) The tributes really do have microphones upon them that they don't know about.

I don't really know about this one. The tributes experience a lot in the arena, and the costumes they go into the arena with can be in bad condition when they exit the arena. For example, Katniss has part of her clothing burnt off when the Gamemakers decide to make the arena more interesting for the audience.

My jacket's another matter. Stinking and scorched, at least a foot of the back beyond repair. I cut off the damaged area leaving me with a garment that comes just to the bottom of my ribs. - Katniss Everdeen

3. The microphone is in the tracker.

Upon entering the arena, the tributes are injected with a tracking device. It is possible that this tracking device also has a microphone built-in so that the tributes can be heard better. The tracker also comes with the possibility of muffled or distorted sound, though. Collins gives no mention of what the sound is like in The Hunger Games, so this possibility cannot be removed.

This is just your tracker, Katniss. The stiller you are, the more efficiently I can place it. - Capitol Women who put the tracker in

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The topic of privacy and governance is strongly addressed throughout the film as we see in The Hunger Games arena that the cameras are omnipresent. Airborne, hidden in trees or other objects, allowing the game-makers and the audience to follow the tributes’ actions regardless of their location; this type of surveillance shows similarities to Bentham’s Panopticon concept. GPS trackers were inserted into the tributes’ arms before entering the arena, eliminating the possibility of them hiding from the cameras. In the scene documented in Figures. 1, 2 and 3, Katniss finds a camera in a tree she’s sleeping in; this functions as a reminder for both herself and the audience of how she and the other tributes are constantly being observed by the people of Panem. According to Flanagan, The Hunger Games instils “a metaphor for the brutality of this fictional world and it’s strict surveillance regime, as the competitors’ fight to the death is filmed and then broadcast to every home in Panem” (Flanagan, 2014, p. 142).

https://medium.com/@elskenney/governance-surveillance-and-panopticism-in-the-2012-film-the-hunger-games-e83cf88eb6a7

If you can't hide from the cameras then the suits don't need microphones.

You get what you pay for is never more true than in audio gear. Trading the Bluesmobile for a microphone wasn't a joke. If you're the Truman Show, then you can afford $10k condenser mics every forty feet.

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