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DTV Group Advanced Audio Summit

July 17, 2017

Mapping Out The Future of Broadcast Audio Standards.

On July 12th and 13th, a group of what may be the largest collection of nation's premiere audio mixers for sports TV who have ever been in the same place at the same time gathered in Detroit for the DTV Audio Group’s Advanced Audio Summit. On July 13th a very full day of presentations, panels and discussion commenced.

Attending the summit on Dale's behalf were Technology Development Manager Joel Guilbert and Senior Director of Broadcast Sales Joe Prout.

Read on for Joel's summary of the event:

Broadcast Audio Standards - Where Are We Going?

Tom Sahara, VP of operations and technology for Turner Sports, kicked the day off with a discussion on the importance of creating a personalized experience for the viewer via multiple audio streams for mobile broadcast. While only 1 video source can be present, multiple audio essences can be presented for audiences to truly personalize their experience. The takeaway: “More engagement = more jobs!”

Greg Shay, the Chief Science Officer of the Telos Alliance, next had a presentation on “AES67 and the way ahead” It was great having one of the true fathers of AES67 describe its pedigree. He touched on the new SMPTE2110 embracing AES67 as its audio carrier, and future opportunities for AES67. A statement of his that was mirrored throughout the proceedings was “WWITD (what would IT do)” This made for a good viewpoint for audio engineers to approach the new networked world we are starting to live in.

Tim Carroll, the senior director technology of the office of the CTO at Dolby, had a rousing overview of audio metadata over the years, its shortcomings, and its ultimate importance in the next generation of audio formats. It was stressed that object based audio REQUIRES metadata, and metadata is mandatory for anything beyond simple static presentations going forward. Dolby AC4 and new codecs have advanced features like real time leveling, but these features need metadata to function. He finished his time with an overview of how important the cinema concept of “B-chain” calibration is to truck based engineers - having proper Room EQ, speaker level and delay compensation applied to audio monitors in all environments leads to better mixes for all.

Next up Ben Cochran, product engineer for Audio Technica US, helmed a lively discussion with A1s about what and how networked mics could be deployed, and what features would be beneficial. He opened a lot of eyes about what the next generation of microphones could bring to the table.

Jim Starzynski, Director and Principal Audio engineer for NBC Universal presented an update on the ATSC3.0 standard. Highlights were the US rollout, AC4 specified for use in the US. The ATSC3.0 main objectives are personalization, and enhanced surround support. The best personalization efforts could be approached separating M+E and dialog objects for the user to determine their own best combination.

Sean Richardson, Executive Director, Principal Audio Engineer for Starz Entertainment, spoke about Atmos production for premium TV, and had a insightful overview of the steps leading from the creative content production, through in house QC, distribution, and consumer products handling the Atmos. The ever growing distribution opportunities for Dolby Atmos was eye opening- players such as VUDU, Starz APP, DirecTV, Xbox One (with 17 million devices in the US currently, 35M worldwide) Comcast and Netflix.

Rob France from Dolby spearheaded a panel on Dolby Atmos Immersive audio for European football, featuring Ian Rosum, the Managing Director of Video Sound Services, and Richard Williams, Audio Guarantee, Telegenic. These two are the primary players in the Atmos mixing of live soccer and boxing events on BT Sports in the UK. They described the evolution from the initial 8 IBC EU soccer games mixed in Atmos, to the 2 games a week mixed in Atmos that BT Sports now airs in the UK.

The panel described how they used a similar mixing configuration as if mixing in 5.1, but used ambisonic microphones for the height channels in soccer, and how they added some of the PA system, announced and ambisonic microphone feeds to add height for the boxing matches. 

Experience the Atmos Sound

After a lunch break, there were Atmos demo sessions featuring a 7.1+4 array of JBL 7 series, and calibrated using JBL's Intonato controller. Representatives from Dolby showed some of BT Sports (UK) recent Atmos projects - soccer and boxing matched mixed live in Dolby Atmos, and the Dolby technology that enabled these mixes without adding layers of additional complexity for already overworked mixers.

Touching on the RF Spectrum Saga

Jackie Green, president and CTO, Alteros and Karl Voss, the frequency coordinator for the NFL, presented information on the upcoming “Wireless Spectrum Crunch” Karl Voss added an element of urgency when outlining what he described as “Transition Phase Zero” where new owners of the spectrum can start using their purchased spectrum in areas where no registered TV channels or devices are present, after giving a 120 day notice. This in essence means that the 2020 cut-off date of microphones in the 614-698MHz area is in reality as early as October 2017, as T-Mobile have already sent these 120 day notices to registered frequency holders.

After the repack, Voss described the remaining spectrum as “50MHz spectrum in a 10MHz bag” and implored engineers to re-evaluate their wireless usage. Putting static talent on wired mics among other topics were proposed.

Green spoke about very recent FCC changes (some occurring on the day of the event) and the decreased spectrum in the 500Mhz band as as the repack of the affected stations in the 600MHz range are relocated to the 500MHz area. All in all, an eye opening (and potentially terrifying) look towards the RF future.

Dave Missall, Manager Customer Development and Application Engineering for Americas, Sennheiser, spoke about their microphone offerings, in the digital realm with Neumann Solution D and Sennheisers digital series, as well as the Ambeo, and upcoming SBADeux beam forming microphone. The SBADeux mic, used on air with HBO boxing, drew much interest from the A1s present. Expect to hear a lot more of these on sporting events in the near future!

Innovations in Mixing and Production Workflows

Luke Smith, North American Sales manager, Waves, described the waves Soundgrid platform use with standard broadcast boards, and spoke about Waves plugins for surround, noise reduction and DTS partnered up and downmix options.

Jefferey Strossner, Head of Sales for the Americas for Lawo, presented “Automated Mixing in Live Sports Productions” Lawos unique Kick system, uses ball tracking data provided by a ChyronHego system to intelligently ride microphones placed around a stadium to follow the ball in a smooth fashion. The utilization of this system for American sports such as hockey was brought up to some warm reactions in the crowd, including Tim Dunn, senior audio engineer of NBC, who mixes the NHL Stanley Cup final games among others.

Hearing from the Experts

The end of the day was dedicated to 3 panels. The first panel "Evolving Production Infrastructure",  featured Paul Bonar, VP Engineering, Game Creek Video, Karl Malone, Director of Sound Design, NBC Sports and Olympics, Jeffery Strossner, Lawo, and Tom Sahara of Turner. Are we actually moving to IP Audio? and How fast (if so)? were the main topics of discussion, touching on how more and more deliverables are being requested, and how IP technology can help engineers create these new many deliverables.

Steve Harvey, the West Coast editor of Pro Sound News, moderated a panel featuring Henry Rousseau, Senior Operations Manager/ESPN Remote Productions Operations and Glen Stilwell, Audio Operations manager for PAC-12 networks. They spoke about the challenges and techniques of handling over 400 events annually using in-house remote production (REMI).

The final panel of the day, moderated by Karl Malone of NBC Sports/NBC Olympics, featuring Fred Aldous, audio consultant and Senior Audio Engineer for Fox Sports, Greg Curry, Senior Audio Engineer for YES Network, Tim Dunn, Senior Audio Engineer, NBC Sports, Scotty Pray, Senior Audio Engineer, ESPN, Ed Soltis, Senior Audio Engineer CBS Sports and Pat Thornton, Senior Audio Engineer, Turner sports (that’s a lot of senior audio engineers!) evolved into a very lively discussion on the value of mentorship, education and what can be done to foster the next generation of audio engineers, especially being inclusive to females.

And to think, that all happened in one business day...

With such a wealth of information and such an "A-list" of top names in the industry offering real-world experiences and tips, it was an overall great display of the broadcast industry's direction and solidarity. Many thanks to our valued friends at the Sports Video Group and to the Westin Hotel for making this event possible.

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