NAB 2018

Live From NAB 2018: DTV Audio Group Seminar Focuses on Big Changes

How IP and immersive are revolutionizing television sound

Attracting nearly 100 attendees yesterday, the DTV Audio Group’s annual pre-NAB Show seminar focused on advanced audio production in a pivotal time for broadcast: when immersive audio formats and IP-based signal transport are becoming the new normal for the industry.

DTVAG Executive Director Roger Charlesworth opened the event by outlining four key drivers of the industry: the ongoing shift to IP-based production, streaming audio (and video) to both fixed and mobile devices, an audio infrastructure that’s being quickly virtualized, and a rate of change much faster than previous major technology shifts.

The two first presentations — a deep dive into the SMPTE ST 2110 suite of standards specifying the carriage, synchronization, and description of real-time separate streams over IP for professional-media applications; and Audio Metadata in Live IP Streams, about the initiative to include audio metadata for next-generation audio formats via a series of SMPTE and other standards — established both the complexity of the move to IP signal transport but also how far the process has come. The first offered a live demonstration of an immersive audio file using Wireshark, an open-source packet analyzer used for network troubleshooting, analysis, software, and communications-protocol development.

DTVAG Chairman Jim Starzynski, director/principal audio engineer, NBC Universal, discussed the activities of the CTA Working Group, which comprises experts from both professional and consumer audio resources working on loudness solutions for streaming audio. He compared that effort with previous initiatives on loudness, which resulted in solutions like the CALM Act, and the AGOTTVS AES TD 1006 recommendations.

Dolby’s Atmos/AC-4 immersive audio format received considerable attention at the gathering, with presentations covering beta outings at three stations in the Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest and its use on several aspects of the Winter Olympics, including the live broadcasts of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Atmos deployment in China and Europe was also illustrated. Closer to home, Dolby is working closely with the NHRA on its broadcast events.

Atmos is a highly developed format that is still in a learning-curve phase in such areas as microphone placement and mixing. Online modules for Atmos training, developed for Dolby by the Conservatory for Audio Sciences, are available now.

Other presentations looked at virtualized remote production, the next iteration of the at-home (or REMI) mode of forward deployment of production assets controlled from network headquarters, and Alteros’s development of networked wireless microphone systems, underscoring how pervasively networking has penetrated audio systems.

NBC Sports and Olympics Director, Sound Design, Karl Malone offered a graphic and sonic look back at a very successful Winter Olympics broadcast, for which more than 2,400 hours of programming — including 108 hours of HD feeds —produced by 2,000 production technicians (many of whom had just flown in from working on NBC’s Super Bowl broadcast). Malone’s droll presentation focused on the equipment used for the undertaking, from numerous Calrec consoles to wide use of Lawo’s VSM platform, but also revealed how they were seamlessly integrated between South Korea and NBC’s Stamford, CT, plant.

In the final presentation, a panel of five representatives of networks and content producers discussed how the next round of audio technology is being integrated into workflows and how it is influencing the relationships between broadcasters and creatives, with immersive-audio formats becoming parts of the storytelling process.

“This is one of those moments,” NBC’s Starzynski told the audience, “when we all have to hit a home run.”

Calrec, Dale Pro Audio, Dolby, Lawo, and Plus24 Sanken sponsored the DTVAG event. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) is an associate sponsor.