With the broadcast and live production audio world emerging from the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were excited to see our valued partners at the Sports Video Group host their first SVG Summit at the luxurious Hilton Midtown in NYC in two years. This health protocol-responsible event brought together some of the industry's top professionals for meetings, panels, and workshops devoted to what is happening next in these unprecedented times.
DTV AUDIO GROUP - Co-Sponsored by Dale Pro Audio
We were once again proud to co-sponsor the DTV Audio Group session, alongside our friends at Shure, Telos Alliance, Plus24 (Sanken and Brainstorm), Calrec/DiGiCo, Dolby, and Lawo. The event was hosted by DTV executive director Roger Charlesworth.
THE PREMIUM AUDIO CHALLENGE
Broadcast technology legend (and new Broadcasting Hall of Fame Inductee) Tom Sahara kicked off the curriculum, talking about some of the broadcast world’s new trends. The Work From Home (WFH) initiatives led to many organizations resorting to better audio infrastructure while remote.
His main points were a lot of data-driven observations on how Covid promoted major changes in consumer trends. Subscriptions to streaming and satellite services jumped 12.4%. Consumer audio devices also boomed throughout 2020, with a 35% rise in premium headphones/earphones and immersive sound bars. Home Theater systems in the >$1000 price range even grew over 30%, and smart speakers (such as Alexa) also rose 32%.
Sparked by younger generations, OTT content on mobile devices saw a huge success worldwide, and that trend expects to grow around 20% in the next 5 years. This has fostered a seismic shift in how networks view programming, ad revenue, and future salient features.
He lastly remarked that continuing to provide a personalized, immersive, premium experience should be seen as the norm moving forward.
SCALING UP ATMOS AND ACCESSIBLE AUDIO PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION
The next segment, hosted by Charlesworth, featured Jim Starzynski (NBC), Neal Roberts and Tim Carroll (Dolby). It covered how recent events such as the Tokyo Olympics were covered in UHD and 4K, complete with Dolby Atmos.
STREAMLINING EDIT WORKFLOWS TO SUPPORT LIVE PRODUCTION IN ATMOS
This segment, led by Warner Media Studios’ Brian Rio and Lane Crouse, covered the creation of quick-turn Dolby Atmos content in ways that don’t have to be complicated. They went over the changing field of competition, and what they’re being measured against, such as feature films. The mission is to elevate live sports to cinematic standards, while keeping things simple. Based around a 5.1.4 configuration, this allows for quicker rendering, as befitting the rapid-fire nature of live sports. It also increases compatibility across production environments and ease deliverables getting into producer’s hands.
APPLYING AI TO LIVE IMMERSIVE AUDIO PRODUCTION
AI has found lots of uses around the world, and live sports is no different. Salsa Sound CEO Rob Oldfield took us on a tour of some of the new things his company has been developing. Like these other markets, AI is best used as a way of automating workflows in production. Whether assisting with miking and mixing, finding / compensating for errors in the stream, auto classification of inputs, or suggesting how to process input signals, it’s potentially a huge time-saver. Further applications of AI can even include advanced metadata and tracking information.
NEW SPECTRUM CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
No workshop on audio these days is complete without a discussion on RF spectrum, so Shure’s Prakash Moorut took to the stage. Calling spectrum “the lifeblood of wireless”, he began to go over what’s next now that the 600 MHz transition is complete. The UN has instituted new rules for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to address better cooperation across borders for this purpose. This is imperative as further RF bandwidth may be up for auction in similar fashion around the globe. The 2023 WRC (World Radiocommunication Conference) will meet on this matter.
He then covered possible alternative bands for wireless should this happen, such as VHF or above-UHF frequencies (i.e. the 3GHz band), with some of the ups and downs of each. He concluded with stressing the need for manufacturers to advocate keeping as much UHF open as possible for long as possible, while still looking for ways to evolve.
STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
The second day of the summit kicked off with a panel on the "state of the industry" for the broadcast world. Moderated by SVG's Ken Kerschbaumer, the panelists consisted of Bob Carzoli from Program Productions, SVG Chairman Mike Davies of Fox Sports, and Josh Stinehour of Devoncraft Partners.
The general feeling is that with the changes Covid has brought upon broadcast, technology's prior underinvestment was revealed. "Don't do more with less, do more and get more" was a resounding statement. They offered some retrospect on what sports production professionals went through during the pandemic, especially people working in "bubbles", and programs to assist with mental health, wellness, and more.
With 2022 having a lot of planned events (which will hopefully take place), there's been an alarming concern for human resources - the last 18 months saw a large decrease in industry professionals thanks to Covid. There has also been cost increases of putting on events of as much as over 200%, so this is also of importance.
SHIFTING NEEDS OF BROADCASTERS
The remainder of the day was spent with a series of panels that reviewed how national networks, regional networks, and league-based networks/OTT outlets handled the changes Covid brought about, and how they may affect the post-pandemic landscape. Rapid delivery, personalization, immersive experiences, and integration with online betting platforms all remained highly imperative.
On top of the workshops and meetings, it was also great to see some our vendor partners exhibiting on the floor, meeting some familiar faces for the first time in nearly two years. We saw our friends at Shure, Solid State Logic, Sennheiser, TSL Products, and more.
Our team of Joel Guilbert, Joe Prout, Ross Lager, and Eric Eldredge were present at the event. Joel was pleased at the turnout: "It was great to see all the familiar (albeit masked) faces of the sports production world at the Midtown Hilton again. Since this group last gathered the whole production environment has shifted multiple times, and it was interesting to hear high level perspective on how technology leaders approached these challenges, adapted and thrived."