DTV Group Meets At AES

NEW YORK, NY—The DTV Audio Group, comprising television network executives, broadcast engineers and operators, and audio equipment manufacturers, met during the recent AES Convention to discuss “The Compounding Complexity of Convergence.” Four main topics dominated: the application of metadata for multi-platform delivery; compliance with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010; the transition of remote production truck infrastructures in the U.S. to high-density digital audio routing; and surround sound production workflows and single-unit 5.1 microphones.

From left, Tomlinson Holman, Apple; Jim Pace, plus24; and Jim Starzynski, NBC Universal were among the attendees at the DTV Audio Group meeting. The meeting included presentations and discussions led by representatives from Comcast, Dolby Laboratories, ESPN, Fox Networks, Fraunhofer, Lawo, Linear Acoustic, NBC Olympics and SoundField. The event was sponsored by Dale Pro Audio, Linear Acoustic, Stagetec and Wohler, and produced by the Sports Video Group.

With the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act of 2010 due to come into effect before the end of the year, 12 months after it was passed, the vast majority of TV broadcasters have already initiated loudness control solutions. “The templates are in place,” stated Roger Charlesworth, executive director of the DTV Audio Group, in his opening remarks.

Dave Higgins, VP quality assurance, Comcast Media Center, reported that of the 479 services distributed from the company’s Colorado facility, only four do not yet comply with loudness control requirements and are over 4.9 dB out. “Very infrequently we’re picking the phone up” to alert content providers that audio levels need adjusting, he reported. “The real challenge is the local operators.”

There was also discussion regarding the implementation of audio quality measures on the growing number of mobile devices to ensure a uniform user experience from TV to tablet to handheld. “It’s all television. How do we make it sound good on all these platforms?” asked Charlesworth, as the group considered the docking and streaming abilities of mobile devices through the home screen.

According to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, television broadcast content delivered over IP must include closed captions and video descriptions in certain specified circumstances. That includes archive content, not just current programming. As a result, broadcasters and device manufacturers need to work out how to comply with the new requirements.

“Consumption of media is changing. Devices can cross the home/mobile boundary,” noted Tom Sahara, VP of operations and technology, Turner Sports, and chairman of the DTVAG, of the new requirements.

“Here’s more metadata we have to start paying attention to,” Sahara added. Currently, broadcast content carries audio loudness dialnorm and dynamic range metadata in order to comply with the CALM Act.

Felix Krueckels, senior product manager, Lawo, offered some insights into routing and patching workflows in European mobile production trucks. “Everything is connected through the console, including communications,” he reported, and the operator routes everything via the GUI without any physical patching.

The U.S. has not yet adopted such a digital workflow, but Jonathan Freed, senior audio mixer, ESPN, predicted that there will soon be a generation of operators who can’t do an analog patch: “And that’s not a problem,” he said.

-- Prosound Network

Steve Harvey began writing for Pro Sound News and Surround Professional in 2000 and is currently senior content producer for Mix and a contributor to TV Tech. He has worked in the pro audio industry—as a touring musician, in live production, installed sound, and equipment sales and marketing—since November 1980.