Each December, our friends at the Sports Video Group host the two-day SVG Summit, bringing together some of the top professionals in the broadcast market. The event was held at the luxurious New York Hilton Midtown hotel and drew a record 1400 people to attend!
The first (and largest) session was the DTV Audio Group meeting, of which we were a co-sponsor. After DTV Audio Group chairman Roger Charlesworth kicked things off, Jim Starzynski from NBC Universal gave an update to the ATSC 3.0 standard. Stations across the USA have begun greater implementation of it, thanks in no small part to immersive audio soundbars becoming far more numerous in households. With it being far easier for consumers to get their living rooms set up for immersive formats, it's opened the door for such content to be delivered in widespread form. He then gave some insight into what might be next in the future for TV, including new Dolby decoding, advanced multi-channel HDMI, and other enhanced features.
There was also an overview of the Consumer Technology Association, which is a continuation of conversations of loudness standards and listening formats, under the name of AES71.
Next was Steve Silva from Fox, with a presentation of "Next Generation Television Infrastructure". Stressing that today's TV innovations are meaningless if we can't personalize our experiences, he gave us an overview of how the pipeline will have to adapt, to accommodate SDI and IP for the time being, including bandwidth needs down the road. He then reminded the group that "it comes down to money", describing the budgetary concerns that stations will have to consider as changes come. Staffs at the stations will have to know more and do more, as the technology evolves.
Chris Brown from Turner Sports then came up for a segment called "Thinking Beyond Conventional Sports Sound Design". He gave us a case study of how he miked up Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson (and caddies) during their recent head-to-head matchup. Working on expressing the intimacy of the golfers that audiences don't often hear, it gave a new dimension to the game.
To address how live mixing is affected by these format changes, Christian Struck from Lawo came up to show how the miking and mixing for the various multi-channel formats can be set up to maximize output and workflow.
As more networks continue to increase Dolby Atmos live productions, it has presented numerous challenges that networks have had to meet. To discuss this topic, a quick round-up was assembled, including Rob France and Ken Hunold from Dolby Laboratories and Karl Malone from NBC Sports and Olympics. Points of interest were how NBC presented Notre Dame football in Dolby Atmos, how Dome Productions is starting to use it for select NBA games, and how this format is feeding into the 4K transmission path for DirecTV. France really drove the point home, noting that he "can't see another remote truck being built without a lot of ceiling speakers" going forward.
Dave Letson from Calrec then took us through a segment called "Console Facilities for Atmos Production", focusing on how console functions are meeting the demands of multi-channel formats. One major obstacle is a differing view in formats in different countries - 5.1.2, 7.1.2, or even 22.2! His presentation closed with ways to ease the IP transition and get workflows in motion with less stress.
Closing out the DTV Audio Group session was Brian Glasscock from Sennheiser, with a segment on beam-forming mic technology and how it can apply to immersive broadcasts. Starting with a commonly-used plan of shotguns around a soccer field, he then went on to detail how the company is trying to change the process. He detailed a few prototype concepts in which beam-forming (currently used in some of their conferencing products) can soon be brought to the stadium. Pretty amazing stuff!
The afternoon session (which we also sponsored) was devoted to one of the hottest topics in professional audio technology - the shrinking RF spectrum. With 600 MHz all but gone from usability, what's taking place? Starting things off from Scott Hewett from T-Mobile, who purchased a significant amount of the spectrum last year. The company is trying to continue being "a good neighbor" as he says, assisting in transition wherever needed. He went to display their timeline for their rollout of 5G LTE service, which was the primary reason that they purchased the frequencies.
Karl Voss, Lead Frequency Coordinator from the NFL came up next, with a segment called "Impact of 600 MHz Rollout on Wireless Operations". "The rules have changed, and so should we", he notes, stating that sometimes practicality has to outweigh convenience. He went on to describe some of what he expects from the RF situation at a ...certain major football game this February. The event is always considered the paramount of spectrum management each year, and it was interesting to hear what policies are going into place this time around.
Up next was Jackie Green from Alteros, bringing forth a key issue - with 600 MHz pretty much gone, what does that mean for the adjacent 500 MHz band? She went on to review some details of what to look out for, including repacked TV stations, cell towers, and the intermodulation and rising noise floor effects they create in this newly congested space.
The session then closed with a Roger Charlesworth-moderated panel about "Maximizing UHF Spectrum Utilization and Expanding Alternatives". The panelists included Mark Brunner of Shure, Joe Ciaudelli of Sennheiser, Henry Cohen from CP Communications, Cameron Stuckey of Professional Wireless Systems, Karl Voss of the NFL, and freelance sports audio consultant Jeff Willis. Mostly fielding questions and comments from the attendees, they discussed case studies, "wish list" items and features, workflows, and lots of other neat tidbits of info.
The second day of the summit was rife with information, thanks to a variety of panels and workshops. Topics covered ranged from AI to immersive sound, social media to content creation, and even the new exciting world of E-Sports!
Dolby Atmos and Immersive Audio
Immersive audio continues to grow, with Dolby Atmos households in the United States expecting to grow by over 40% by 2022, according to Dolby's VP of Commercial Partnerships Jeff Houle. Immersive-capable mobile devices are growing in number too - over 200 million units will be in the marketplace within the next year alone. Over 70% of smart TV's over 32 inches in the USA are part of an immersive home theater, and networks are taking notice - content in these formats have grown by nearly 300%!
Social Media's Impact on Content Production
Social Media has transformed how our society shares and digests content, and the broadcast world has surely adapted to these trends. Streaming events over services like Facebook had a record year, and streaming services such as FuboTV really hit the ground running. The NBA saw a 65% global increase in subscription in their League Pass service, and even Twitter launched a high school football series. The Dailymotion platform really took off, with an increase of over 52% in traffic. During one of the panels, these companies stressed the need for consistency across all platforms and devices, be it phones, connected TV's, etc, despite each one having different demands for viewing experience. Known as "Over The Top" or "OTT" broadcasting, it's still generally seen as an enhancement, not a replacement, of traditional TV at this time.
E-Sports: Taking the Industry By Storm
Who'd have thunk it: a spectator sport involving watching people play video games? E-Sports and competitive gaming have taken off like crazy in recent years, with attendance at arena events matching that of the NBA and NHL. Projected revenues within the next year are expected to eclipse a billion dollars, as more and more major networks are covering the events worldwide.
Not only does the infrastructure need to be the same as any other sporting event, but it also requires AR hardware and streaming rigs for the players themselves. Services like Twitch often see millions of viewers for the major events. We also got some insight into Arlington, Texas building the largest ever dedicated e-sports arena. It was interesting to hear about how it ties together so many aspects of multimedia: streaming, audio, video, VR/AR... Finally, we were given a look at how some of its practices made it into this year's MLB Home Run Derby, so it may proliferate into traditional sports even further.
Joel Guilbert reflects on the week's events: "It's always good to help keep up on the edge of sports productions with the SVG Summit, one big takeaway for a lot of attendees this year was the growth potential of E-sports, and it's integration with traditional sports broadcast."
Dale co-owner Valerie Lager dropped in for a few of the panels as well: "I was very impressed with SVG's presentation of their panels - they had a lot of who's who in the broadcast world giving some great information. It was also nice to see a lot of top names in the business in attendance, so it was very worthwhile for our company to be present!"
In a spirited virtual round table panel hosted by our valued partners at the Sports Video Group, some of the broadcast audio world's top talent convened for an online meeting discussing some of the challenges they've met in starting to get back to work in the early stages of a post-Covid-19 environment.