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ATSC to Review Audio Proposals for 3.0 Standard

WASHINGTON — The Advanced Television Systems Committee announced that it has begun its technical review of three detailed proposals for a comprehensive audio system that will enable immersive audio, both in the home and on mobile devices via the ATSC 3.0 next-gen broadcast standard now in development. The ATSC 3.0 standard—which will not be backward-compatible with previous versions—is designed to take advantage of advances in IP and RF to provide advanced performance, functionality and efficiency.

The three audio proposals were submitted by Dolby, DTA and an alliance consisting of Fraunhofer, Qaulcomm and Technicolor. Dolby says its proposal is based on the Dolby AC-4 next-generation emission codec. Dolby AC-4 was published as an international standard by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in April 2014 and is a successor to AC-3, offering the ability to deliver channel-based and object-based audio.

DTS is basing its proposal on the DTS:X codec, which is a successor to DTS-HD. DTS:X includes “support for key elements, including both audio channels and objects, advanced loudness and dynamics management, device and environmental playback processing, and is integrated with DTS’s Headphone:X technology,” according to the company, which adds that “90 percent” of home AV receiver and surround audio manufacturers have agreed to launch products supporting DTS:X this year.

The proposal from the Fraunhofer/Qualcomm/Technicolor alliance is based on the MPEG-H Audio standard, a “holistically designed suite of functionalities built around a highly efficient core audio codec,” according to the alliance. To recreate the “immersive audio effect,” the standard proposes to use “channels based and/or sound scene-based technology in combination with audio objects.”

The three audio standards will be tested this summer with the goal to establish the ATSC 3.0 Audio Systems Candidate Standard by the fall.

"ATSC 3.0 audio testing is expected to be the first in the world to examine immersive audio for a next-generation broadcast television standard,” said Mark Richer, ATSC president. “Immersive audio functionality enables high spatial resolution in sound source localization in azimuth, elevation and distance, and provides an increased sense of sound envelopment throughout the listening area."

In addition, ATSC 3.0 audio "personalization" will include enhancements to the control of dialog, use of alternate audio tracks and mixing of assistive audio services, other-language dialog, special commentary, and music and effects. The ATSC 3.0 audio system also will support both the normalization of content loudness and contouring of dynamic range, based on the specific capabilities of a user's fixed or mobile devices and their unique sound environments.