133rd AES Convention set for San Francisco

The role of the broadcast audio engineer and the skill set required to do that job has changed drastically over the past five years, as computer and IT-centric technology have invaded the audio mixing and signal processing environments — mostly for the better. At the upcoming 2012 Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention (the 133rd gathering), set for Oct. 26 – 29 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, a wide variety of sessions and panel discussions will focus on how engineers are leveraging these new technologies, and some traditional ones, to do their job better and more efficiently.

David Bialik, a radio engineer with CBS Radio who has been developing the Broadcast and Streaming tracks of the convention for the past 26 years, said the engineer's role has increased (and become more complicated) as advanced audio encoding, multilayered, multichannel mixing and live streaming over IP distribution have worked their way into the broadcast landscape. Today, live streaming over the Internet is nearly as important to media companies’ business (and expanding their audience reach) as the traditional TV platform.

“What we’ve seen over the past several years is the increasing importance of the computer and file-based production that must be mastered by the audio engineer,” Bialik said. “We've put together a number of informative panels that will shed light on how to do design and deploy the latest technologies for multichannel sound, facility acoustics and networked production. It’s all become critically important to how an audio engineer does his or her job and what it sounds like in the viewers’ home.”

The audio loudness mandate (aka, The CALM Act), which the government has said it will begin enforcing in December and fine delinquent content distributors, will be a key topic of discussion, as will preparing content for the different audio delivery platforms and signal processing for mobile devices. How to handle metadata to ensure a good experience will also be touched on during a panel discussion entitled "Loudness and Metadata (Living With The CALM Act)."

This later subject has come to the forefront among the broadcast industry, as more than 130 stations are now broadcasting a mobile DTV signal and everyone agrees that the initial experience consumers have with the technology is key to its long-term success.

A panel of broadcast TV audio experts, moderated by Brad Dick, Editorial Director of Broadcast Engineering magazine, will provide in-depth guidance on steps to maximize the audio performance of a mobile DTV channel. Participants include: David Layer - NAB, Dave Wilson - CEA, Jim Starzynski - NBC Universal, Robert Murch - Fox Television and Geir Skaaden - DTS.

“TV audio engineers have to consider carefully the additional audio processing required to ensure proper loudness and intelligibility in a mobile device's typically noisy environment," Bialik said. "The proper solution may be more complex that just reducing dynamic range or adding high-pass filtering. You'll have to come to the panel discussion to find out more.”

Other interesting events include: Working with HTML5; Audio Processing Basics; Listener Fatigue; Lip Sync; Troubleshooting Software Issues; and Maintenance, Repair & Troubleshooting. Of note: a radio production of "Poe A Life In Sound" will be staged live at the convention, starring Phil Proctor of Firesign Theater & Disney animated film voiceover fame. It will be produced and directed by Sue Zizza of SueMedia with sound design by David Shinn. 

Also at the convention, Bialik will be honored with The AES Fellowship Award, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to AES activities in the field of radio broadcast engineering. He joined CBS in 2011 as Project Manager in Streaming Operations and currently lends his expertise to aid local engineering maintain more than 250 streams around the country. Bialik's proactive commitment to the Audio Engineering Society in both the DC and NY Sections has been a cornerstone of his career, and he has served as AES Convention Broadcast (and Broadcast/Streaming) Events Chair for more than two decades.

For all those involved in audio production for broadcast TV and the Internet, this year’s convention offers something for everyone. There’s also a comprehensive track for aspiring audio engineering students.

Of note: The AES is making available a mobile app, called “AES Mobile Convention,” available for users of the iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and any device with web-enabled browser capability. It provides up-to-the-mintue information on the convention, exhibitors and marketing materials from individual companies.