LTS Workshop Preview: DTV Audio To Be a Major Focus

This year, SVG’s League Technology Summit will kick off with four technology workshops designed to better meet the information needs of the industry. Workshops are open to all registered attendees and sponsors and will take place at the New York Hilton from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 12. Each workshop aims to create an environment promoting open dialogue, with an emphasis on solving problems and helping attendees understand new concepts and developments. Leading up to the Summit, SVG will provide an in-depth preview of each workshop: DTV Audio, Next-Generation TV, Postproduction and IT, and Remote Production.

Broadcast sports audio is high on the agenda at the sixth-annual SVG League Technology Summit on Dec. 12-13. The key presentations and panels underscore critical issues and junctures that broadcast sports sound faces in an increasingly digital landscape.

The remote truck has for decades been an extension of the studio — the studio circa 1985, anyway. Even as the plant has evolved into a networked signal path and workflow environment, the truck world is still largely characterized by analog-type patch bays and monitoring shaped by interior architecture.

An All-Digital Model
That’s changing: trucks are rapidly converging on integrated mixing and routing of an all-digital high-density signal path and workflow. The workshop panel “Evolving Production Infrastructure: High-Density Routing, Digital-Console Design, and Monitoring Environments for Remote Audio” might sound prosaic, but it represents a turning point in broadcast thinking about production-vehicle design. Discussing what next-generation remote trucks are going to look — and sound — like will be panelists CBS Sports Director of Engineering Bruce Goldfeder; NEP Senior Design Engineer Terry Kulchar; Game Creek Video VP of Design and New Technology Jason Taubman;  and CP Communications VP, Sales and Marketing, Kurt Heitmann.

Discrete 5.1 in Live Production
The same workflows will come under scrutiny during “Going Native: Discrete 5.1 Workflows and Acquisition Techniques for Live Production.” True native-5.1-surround workflows are now possible, thanks to the increased use of high-density console and routing infrastructure and embedded-audio transport. ESPN Senior Audio Producer Kevin Cleary, NBC Olympics Unit Director of Sound Design and Communications Bob Dixon, and Turner Studios Director of Audio and Studio Engineering Jay Yeary will be among the experts parsing this milestone in the evolution of broadcast sports audio.

“The transition from quasi-surround to real 5.1 requires a serious re-design of production workflows,” observes DTV Audio Group Executive Director Roger Charlesworth. “This is something that all sports broadcasters are dealing with to one degree or another. A show might be mixed in 5.1, but it also incorporates a number of elements that are in stereo, which creates a kind of hybrid-5.1 result. As we move into the next generation of true-5.1 sports broadcasts, we’ll need to find ways to simplify the workflow, by getting more of the premixed [stereo audio] sources to 5.1 in preproduction.”

He says there are obstacles to this, not least of which is the scale on which this has to be accomplished. But there are also new tools — embedded audio, high-density routing, file-based workflows — that will enable it. “We’re going to discuss those challenges and those new tools,” he promises.

Single-Unit Surround Mics
A subset of the migration to true native-5.1-surround production will include the application of dedicated single-unit surround microphones. Or will it? A regular element in the toolboxes of European and Canadian sports-sound technicians, the single-point 5.1 microphone is still a relative rarity on U.S. remote productions. As an SVG audio-technology focus on the topic outlined in October, many A1s still seem to prefer multiple mono or stereo microphones over dedicated multichannel microphones for creating 5.1 soundscapes.

It represents a division as much cultural as technical. Pieter Schillebeeckx, head of R&D for multichannel-microphone manufacturer Soundfield, who will join Charlesworth on the “Making the Case for Single-Unit Surround Microphones” panel, told SVG last month that American A1s like to focus on closeup, individual sounds, while their European counterparts prefer more-generalized, less specific ambience in the rear channels: “It’s a cultural difference, a style difference.” The panel will explore such issues as cost, availability, and deployment for this unique but important niche product.

Emphasis on Training, Legislation
The DTV Audio Group will also showcase its new Online Training Initiatives, focusing on the current Loudness Management Tutorial. Fox Networks Engineering and Operations EVP Richard Friedel and Director of Training and Procedures Steve Silva will outline the program and discuss how it will help the pool of freelance A1s stay current on new techniques and technology without leaving the field.

The recent development of both legislation and technology around the issue of loudness monitoring and measurement illustrates how increasingly linked the two realms have become when it comes to broadcast audio. That pairing will only become more prominent as legislation like the 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act goes into effect. That legislation brings such issues as music rights and alternate-language requirements to the fore, creating the necessity for addressing multichannel sound, alternate audio tracks, and critical metadata in a standardized deliverable to meet the demands of multiplatform distribution.

In a presentation titled “Harmonizing Audio Deliverable Standards in the Age of Multiplatform Distribution,” Turner Sports VP of Operations and Technology and DTV Audio Group Chairman Tom Sahara will discuss the challenges of meeting all these requirements and make the case for harmonizing standards and workflow practices among sports broadcasters.

“It’s very similar to the loudness issue in that there is convergence between government requirements and broadcast technology,” he says. But, he adds, this legislation goes beyond broadcast and includes the Internet and other delivery platforms. “We need to find better ways of distributing content across multiple platforms and develop standards for that. It’s more than just broadcast, as loudness control was. This is aimed at a much broader audience.”

For more information regarding the League Technology Summit workshops, CLICK HERE.