Fairlight’s John Lancken: One In Five TV Productions Is 5.1 Surround Sound

By Dan Daley

John Lancken, CEO of Australian digital audio workstation manufacturer Fairlight, reckons that 20% of television productions globally are now done in surround sound, with sports broadcasts at an even higher percentage. “Now that one in five productions are done in 5.1,” he says, “the workflow and the speed of the production and postproduction processes have to increase to manage it.”

That’s at the heart of Fairlight’s U.S. market strategy: reflecting the ongoing convergence of uncompressed HD audio and video, tools like Fairlight’s Pyxis-MT can do both audio and video capture, as well as file transfer and file-format conversion via drag-and-drop file import. “Simple operation of sophisticated tools in a single, integrated package” is how Lancken sums it up.

The need for speed is illustrated by the rapidity with which broadcasters want to get sport-highlights shows together and on the air. “If you can do the transcoding on the fly, like we can, you’re shaving precious time off the entire process,” he says. “If the guy in the OB van can take in live audio as well as an HD video feed, the process is going to go that much faster.”

Aussies are not known for timidity, and Lancken is a fan of extreme surround mixing when appropriate. “I’m not hearing surround done right, or as well as it could be, most of the time,” he says. “Surround is going to have great impact on how we present and experience sports, but a lot of broadcasters simply aren’t allowing themselves to be as creative as they can with it. And the sub channel still presents a challenge in many live sports broadcasts.”

Among those that have got it right, Lancken cites the WWE, NASCAR, and the NFL for their posted shows. But live mixing still lacks some of the panache he thinks it should exhibit. “Sometimes, it’s a network’s call, and admittedly, it can be tricky to do live sports in surround. But I know it can go a lot further than it has, and it will.”

His favorite? “World soccer matches have had great surround sound, and I especially like the cricket matches on Australian TV. The players have been very willing to be miked up, and you get very intense audio when there’s a guy chucking a rock at 90 miles an hour at the batsman.”

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