The broadcast and live production audio world continues to ride the ever-changing wave of these unprecedented times in this industry. With the increased comfortability of meeting in large numbers for events and conventions, our valued partners at the Sports Video Group (SVG) were back to their regular scheduled programming as they hosted their annual SVG Summit at the Hilton Midtown in New York City.
DTV AUDIO GROUP – Co-Sponsored by Dale Pro Audio
We once again had the pleasure to co-sponsor the DTV Audio Group session, alongside our friends at Audio-Technica, Calrec, Dolby, Lawo, Sennheiser, and Telos Alliance.
DTV executive director Roger Charlesworth and NBC Universal Director and Principal Audio Engineer Jim Starzynski kicked things off with a keynote that touched on a few points: ATSC 3.0 and AC-4 saw more widespread implementation, further capability for immersive content across the industry, and improvements to dialog enhancement and audio description. Starzynski closed out with a remark on standards: “Whether MPEG-H or AC-4, it’s a win-win”.
The discussions started with Carlos Watanabe, the Director of Pay TV and Streaming at Dolby Laboratories, explaining the revolution of television distribution with the use of Dolby Atmos. The production and distribution of immersive audio continues to transition with the use of Atmos-enabled TVs, soundbars, and mobile devices. Millions of viewers are brought increased surround capabilities to go along with expansive options of 4K and HDR content from numerous platforms. Wantanabe gave the examples of global sports leagues like the Bundesliga and global events like the World Cup, where Dolby Atmos and Vision are being used. It proves the quality that Atmos can bring as these premier events and leagues are using it on the world stage.
Mark Francisco from Comcast (above) discussed some of the new developments in both accessibility and personalization. This included market relevance, inclusive experiences for people with various disabilities, up to redesigning remote controls to be more inclusive and accessible.
As he reviewed a flow of audio description processes for the visually impaired, he noted that there are still some challenges with this based on some legacy delivery protocols lingering. As a fun aside, he remarked on how he watched modern TV on an old 1940s set and it still translated properly. He also went over overcoming some of the disconnects that happen with app-based streaming, most importantly when audio description availability is cut off. He covered some of the Next Gen TV / ATSC 3.0 and how it’ll allow content to be more personal and customizable. Finally, he advocated more languages per broadcast (more than 2), better dialog enhancement, and better audio compression.
James Cowdery from Dolby then came on to further the accessibility and personalization process from their perspective. Serialized ADM (audio definition model) is finally about to change to accommodate modern IP standards. He talked about the complexity of ADM requiring a number of entities to come together and work on these updates and covered some of the new profiles relating to standards like Atmos. He closed his segment by giving some case studies using the French Open and Nations League.
Why serialize ADM? Cowdery explained the ways in which it can offer diverse audio elements for different outlets and help recreate anything missing along the way. This can mean objects in immersive, multiple languages, and so forth.
Derik Yarnell from Comcast took on the next segment, “Audio Implications of Dynamic Adaptive Content Streaming”. This means coming out with the best available audio experience for personalized service.
As broadcast moves more and more towards streaming, this means no longer having ad hoc solutions to deal with ATSC rules. He detailed how dynamic adaptive streaming works and discussed the implications for audio, both positive and negative. He views ATSC 3 as an opportunity for better audio and better overall service.
Prakash Moorut from Shure was up next. As their “RF Guru”, he explained a lot of info about the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The games are expected to produce an unprecedented demand for RF, across microphones, IEMs, cameras, and so forth. With around 16% of the country’s population in the metro area, the spectrum will be very tight. Small events may require around 40 or so MHz, with larger ones eclipsing over 170 MHz. This was shown to be highly challenging when we were shown an RF scan of the greater Paris area.
The next segment, Audio Production In The Cloud, featured guest speakers Tom Knowles from Solid State Logic and Dave Letson from Calrec. Both brands have solutions in their consoles to help take advantage of these changes. Letson noted that in movement to the cloud, IFB has suffered somewhat.
Knowles then talked about some of the challenges (in both hardware and software) for getting some of the larger consoles and channel counts into the virtual world. Both of them talked about some of the challenges of busses, multicasting, and high channel counts in situations where only a public cloud like AWS is available, and how it’s hard to uphold ST2110 standards as such.
The final segment was another panel, Perspectives on Live Audio Production, focused on some of the challenges facing live events. The panelists were some top network talent: Florian Brown from ESPN, Karl Malone from NBC Sports, and Neal Roberts from Warner Discovery.
They touched on the growing topic of how to bring in younger talent into this end of the industry. Younger people aren’t necessarily aware of the tasks “behind the scenes” in event and broadcast, and need to be aware of how this relates to current trends in OTT and social media.
Another challenge is the lack of remote infrastructure (such as trucks) to cover every single event, and it was suggested that the addition of more cloud hubs can help in this regard.
The speakers also discussed some of the hurdles in creating consistent quality and creative control across TV, streaming, and OTT. There was an overall sense of “we’ll get there” from the whole panel.
They closed out the panel with the impact of IP on live events. They felt that it’s still so new that a lot of experts just haven’t gotten enough experience to truly “understand what’s happening”.
The second day of the SVG Summit consisted of sit down conversations with the top producers, directors, engineers and operation directors from some of the main sports leagues in America and the top broadcast companies that create the spectacles on television for all the fans to watch.
There were people from the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NASCAR giving their perspectives on how to continuously improve their operations and ways to keep growing their respectives fanbases. The best of the best broadcast companies like NBC Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, and CBS Sports went in depth about how they are using new technology to allow for the best possible viewing experience for the fans.
We heard from people like David Mazza, NBC Sports and Olympics, SVP and CTO, discussing the ins and outs of the production of the Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football and even the upcoming Olympic games. Mike Davies, Fox Sports, SVP, Technical and Field Operations, explaining the evolution of Fox Sports and their coverage of this years World Cup and next years Super Bowl.
Other panelists included Mark Grant, CBS Sports, TV Director, and Patty Power, CBS Sports, EVP, Operations and Engineering. They took a deep dive into their main productions of The Masters, the NFL, and the March Madness tournament that takes over the entire month each year.
There was a panel discussing the state of the industry breaking down the challenges and circumstances that everyone is facing during these difficult and unprecedented times. Explaining that through all the ups and downs the broadcast companies and sports leagues are dedicated to persevere no matter what to ensure that they can maintain the institution that is sports in this country.
The keynote speaker was ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro, who discussed the future of the sports TV industry, the numerous strategies that ESPN has in order to have success and his take on what is to come in the year 2023. It was an opportunity to hear the thoughts and ideas from one of the brightest minds in the industry who leads the world leader of sports.
Dale's Ross Lager was one of the Dale Pro Audio attendees:
"The significance of the SVG Summit cannot be under-stated by any means. This was SVG's 16th summit and saw over 1,200 professionals from the sports-production industry come together for two days. People get to learn from the best during the panels, showcases, and workshops. Most importantly this event allows for the special opportunity for people to interact face-to-face and maintain the community that lives within this industry. This event couldn't happen in 2020, and it was very restricted last year with the Covid protocols but this year, there was a sense of normalcy. The Summit brings out the best that this industry has to offer, provides so much information for people to learn from and most of all it creates a community, something that can never be taken for granted."