AES programming for broadcasters hits on all cylinders

While most attendees to the Audio Engineering Society’s 127th Convention are focused on the trade show floor’s new product offerings, the society’s mission to advance the science of audio by informing and educating takes center stage in the technical sessions, with workshops, tutorials and technical papers across a broad spectrum of advanced topics.

Broadcast programming Chairman David Bialik has assembled a formidable range of sessions for this year’s Broadcast and Media Streaming Audio Conference. “Interest in the broadcast sessions has increased every year, and we had more people wanting to be on the panels than ever before,” Bialik said. “We have a quality and breadth of topics from every aspect of broadcast audio, including the growing importance of streaming media. I really believe these sessions should be a destination for broadcasters attending the show.”

Bialik, who has been organizing the AES broadcast programming for more than two decades, has put together an eclectic program for 2009. “We try to address every element of broadcast audio, starting with facility design and going from production of a show through process, transmission and reception in the home, as well as one historic broadcast-related event. And I think we’ve accomplished that again this year,” he said.

Bialik believes the Friday morning “Studio Design and Acoustics” session will be especially interesting, because it will be presented as a mock-trial type of case study. “John Storyk and I worked to pull this together,” he said. “We’ll have a mock client present his needs, and our panel of experts will literally create this facility in a real-time multimedia presentation. It’s going to be really cool.” The panel will include experts in facility design and integration, including architects, contractors, HVAC, electricians and systems integration, who will attempt to meet the client’s needs while working around the problems inherent in site selection and budget limitations.

Digital audio will be covered in depth. The “Innovations in Digital Broadcasting” session will examine the DTV conversion, radio for the deaf, IPTV and receiver technology. Among the panel members is Chris Scherer of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, who will talk about SBE certification, which for the first time will be offered during AES with no preregistration required. “SBE certification is really an important innovation for broadcast engineers,” Bialik said. It’s really the only exam that quantifies a broadcast engineer’s knowledge, and management is really looking for that.”

Digital audio topics will continue on Saturday, with sessions “Digital Audio Networks in the Studio” followed immediately by “IP Audio Out of the Studio: Connecting Anywhere.” The digital audio networks presentation will focus on technologies, deployment and workflow for both audio and control data, with panelists from Logitek, Wheatstone, Telos-Omnia-Axis and Harris. The IP audio session will focus on content originating out of studio, addressing the growing need to connect mobile devices and remote computer-based sources to the studio ecosystem in today’s “anything, anywhere” environment.

Another forward-looking session is on mobile TV and will take place at noon Saturday and will be led by Jim Kutzer of PBS. This session will present the latest developments in the coming creation of a mobile DTV broadcast standard. The Open Mobile Video Coalition, broadcast and consumer equipment vendors and the Advanced Television Systems Committee are nearing the completion on this standard. Trials and testing are underway, and many stations are moving on to implementation. This presentation will be a topic overview that also addresses where we are heading in the next year.

Another broadcast-specific session will be “Audio for Newsgathering,” which will address the capture and transport of live and recorded audio from remote sites and how the world of ENG has changed in recent years, with an eye on emerging technologies and the phasing out of certain older methods.

This year’s historical session will be “Significant Technical Contributions of RCA Corp.,” which operated out of the company’s famed Princeton Laboratories from about 1930 to 1985.

The consumer broadcast experience is examined in the Sunday sessions, with “The Lip Sync Issue,” “Listener Fatigue and Longevity,” “Audio Processing for Internet Streaming” and “Loudness and Audio Processing for Broadcast.” All these issues require the broadcaster to address technical requirements at the production and/or broadcast stage to ensure a seamless viewer experience without complaints.

Broadcast production is another natural topic, and this year’s programming doesn’t stint in this area, either. The “Production of a Soap Opera” panel will look at the audio challenges of capturing and mixing a network soap opera, from initial setup and capture through post production. Panelists from “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” will share their experiences and techniques in this fast-paced, demanding environment.

On Monday morning, the world of the Foley artist and how to record and mix in this rarified world will be examined in “Sound Effects: Recording and Mixing for Different Media.” Everything from microphone selection to surround-sound recording and mixing will be addressed, including a practical demonstration of using SFX in sound design.

Overall, it’s clear that David Bialik and the AES have left no stone unturned in providing a rich, information-packed program for the broadcast audio community. To the extent possible, related topics are presented on the same day, often back to back, and all broadcast sessions have been arranged without overlap so that attendees won’t have to decide between broadcast topics.