DTS Audio Codec Performs Swimmingly at Olympics

By Dan Daley
Olympic audio is utilizing 35 UPMAX:neo software-based upmixing systems during the telecasts. The system, a hybrid of Linear Acoustics’ UPMAX upmixing codec and a “tweaked” broadcast version of DTS NEO:6 codec, points the way for live 5.1 sports broadcasts integrating archived and prerecorded material that have mono or stereo soundtracks.
When content at the Olympics can’t be broadcast live and is recorded or edited through a system without enough channels for 5.1 sound, the UPMAX:neo processor provides the upmixing capability needed to maintain the 5.1 sound field.
The DTS NEO:6 codec, originally designed for such consumer applications as home theaters playing prerecorded broadcast content, was optimized for live broadcast applications and can make the transition between 5.1 and 2-channel or mono source material seamlessly for the listener, says DTS director of marketing Anthony Wilkins: “It’s designed to never collapse the 5.1 surround field when the broadcast goes from 5.1 to archived content with non-surround audio.”
The venture with Linear Acoustics has gone well, according to Wilkins, who expects that the use of the system at the Olympics will foster demand for it in sports and other live broadcast applications. Aside from the upmixing project, DTS is currently rolling out a technology path for broadcasters to transition from 2.0 to 5.1 transmission in a phased approach.
The focus is largely on Europe at the moment; DTS is part of the European DVB broadcast standard but not part of the North American ATSC standard. Wilkins declines to comment on DTS’s future strategies for U.S. broadcasting but notes that the Olympics is “a great proving ground” for the upmixing processor in terms of both its technical performance and heightening awareness of the need to make the transitions between 5.1 and non-surround audio as seamless as possible.
“It has to be accomplished consistently and correctly so as not to distract the viewer,” Wilkins explains. “This is what’s going to characterize broadcast-sports sound from here on: constant switching between live and archived sources. The transitions have to be transparent to the viewer. What we’re learning from the rigorous Olympics experience is going to help us create a technical roadmap and refine that capability even further.”

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