NAB Perspectives: Dolby’s Power on Mobile-Device Distribution

Jason Power, senior director of marketing for broadcast at Dolby, happily points to some great-sounding audio for drama and sports thundering from a home-theater setup in Dolby’s booth at the NAB Show. But rather than the screen, it’s the Nokia N8 mobile phone that he wants you to notice. It’s fitted with Dolby Digital Plus, otherwise known as DD+ or Enhanced AC-3, which can support up to 13 full-range audio channels at a coded bitrate of 6.144-Mbps peak, well beyond Dolby Digital, the previous platform that helped launch 5.1 for television broadcasts.

Dolby Digital Plus is intended to do the same for mobile-device distribution of content, including sports content, Power says: “The goal is to get a great entertainment audio experience to go anywhere the user goes, into any device, anywhere, anytime.”

At the show, Dolby is demonstrating the compatibility of Dolby Digital Plus with streaming services, such as Vudu and Motorola set-top boxes, as well as the Nokia mobile phone, which connected to the AV system via an HDMI dock.

Sports is already a major content type for streaming services, and broadcast’s reliance on 5.1 means that surround audio has to migrate to the streaming environment as well. “What’s different is that streamed content, audio and video, are scalable,” Power says. “Using Dolby Digital Plus, the data can be scaled to the data rates available on each device. That takes the guesswork out of preparing the content for streaming and means that it can give the simplest devices better audio and it can be scaled to a virtually lossless extent for higher bandwidth environments.”

The most unusual application for sports so far? Streaming a darts match in a venue kitted out as a pub in HD with full 5.1 sound, he says. “That’s really dropping the viewer into the middle of it.”