By Dan Daley, Audio Editor, Sports Video Group
Picking up near where it left off during its conclave at the AES Show in October, the DTV Audio Group’s Audio Production and Distribution Workshop on Dec. 14 during the SVG Summit continued a conversation on object-based audio and the workflows around IP transport of audio.
DTV Audio Group Executive Director Roger Charlesworth moderated the series of presentations.
In a presentation titled “Moving Forward With Audio Personalization,” Sripal Mehta, principal architect, broadcast, Dolby Laboratories, told the audience of about 40 network and manufacturer executives and engineers that a project the company undertook with Turner Sports during the NBA’s Summer League provided a realistic test of how personalization of broadcast sports can look and sound. For 16 of the Summer Leagues’ 64 games, the audio feeds were divided into separate stems, including ambient sound, M&E tracks, and television and radio commentary, the last including home and away station coverage. These were streamed to an app on tablets and smartphones of selected users. A slider on the screen enabled viewers to create their own mixes of the various elements.
These “compositional mixes” allowed viewers to customize the presentation. For instance, by pulling back on the ambience and focusing on courtside audio, they could create a visceral, close-up experience, Mehta explained. The production, which took place in Las Vegas, was backhauled to Turner studios in Atlanta on fiber and streamed from there in an MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) format.
The event demonstrated, he said, that “personalized audio can be produced and delivered live” and that next-generation audio content can coexist with legacy content. Issues remain, however, including ways to transition between commercial and interstitial breaks and the insertion of prerecorded segments.
The migration toward audio-over-IP (AoIP) is putting new emphasis on the interoperability between otherwise incompatible networking formats. Introduced in 2013, the AES67 interoperability standard has been gaining steam this year with its integration into the Dante standard. In a presentation “Converged Communications and Program Audio Over AES67 Networks,” Martin Dyster, VP, business development, and Greg Shay, chief science officer, Telos Alliance, underscored AES67 as the “least common denominator” for network interoperability.
“AoIP will bring convergence if telecom, studio, and intercom,” Dyster said. “AES67 lets that happen.”
The Telos Alliance — which comprises Telos, Omnia, 25-Seven, Axia, and Linear Acoustic — introduced Livewire+ this year. An iteration of the Livewire standards-based AoIP protocol introduced in 2003, Livewire+ offers integrated AES67 compliance.
Predicting that AoIP will ultimately replace MADI as the transport format for broadcast audio, Shay pointed out that it’s already widely implemented in radio and that English Premier League television broadcasts are using AoIP distribution regularly. AES67 will be critical in facilitating its wider use.
“No one vendor can ever outperform a collection of them working together,” he said.
AoIP has come to the far end of the audio-signal chain. In “Exploring Native IP Microphone Technology,” Jackie Green, VP, R&D and engineering, Audio-Technica US, demonstrated a prototype of a mid-side–configured (M/S) microphone whose capsules could be remotely controlled, configured, and monitored on a network. A Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) component would allow it to be located in positions with limited access to main power, and its Ethernet cabling would permit longer distances.
Perhaps most uniquely, its status as a node on a network would allow multiple users to access it and manipulate it simultaneously, with, for instance, one user taking mostly the mid- or the side-capsule signal and another taking each in equal measure.
A-T introduced a networkable microphone, the ATND971 cardioid condenser boundary microphone with Dante-network output, earlier this year. Green told SVG that the M/S networkable microphone will continue as a prototype for now but could become a product if a market is determined.
Other presentations included a review of the Kick close-ball automation system by Jeffrey Strößner, director, global events, Lawo. Introduced to the U.S. at the AES Show in October, it uses image analysis from visual data-tracking systems to open up the faders of effects microphones around the periphery of a football or rugby pitch to keep the ball kicks consistently in the broadcast mix.
In a related development, Lawo announced that it has joined with vendors Grass Valley, Imagine Communications, Nevion, and Snell Advanced Media to form the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS), an independent trade association founded, according to the release, “to ensure that all IP solutions brought to market offer complete interoperability and are based on open standards for seamless integration into media-workflow environments.” The association’s mission is to promote the adoption, standardization, development, and refinement of open protocols for media over IP, with initial focus on VSF TR-03/-04, SMPTE 2022-6, and AES67.
Keeping Up With Video
The session closed with ruminations by SVG Chairman Tom Sahara, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports, who pondered where the rapid changes in broadcast and other media technologies are taking entertainment.
“Entertainment today is whatever you want to do at the time, and a television is whatever screen you happen to have in front of you,” he said. “The next phase of entertainment is not sitting back in the living room but transforming the experience in whichever device you choose to use.”
He noted Turner Sports’ RaceBuddy, which presaged the personalization-media platform by letting users choose which driver’s in-car audio they want to listen to. He also cited the more recent collaboration between Turner and the NBA to integrate virtual reality into games: viewers were able to see the opening-game ceremonies and the Warriors-Pelicans game itself at the Oracle Arena in virtual reality using a Samsung Gear VR headset via the NextVR portal, found on the Oculus Home app.
Audio needs to keep up to match the experiences of VR and other visual platforms, Sahara said. “We need to speed up the time frame for audio to contribute to this experience. It’s what the next generation of consumers is demanding.”