Audio at IBC Supplement 2012
brought to you by
September 2012
Tim Davies: broadcast sound engineer
News and product releases
The business of free-to-air TV
Dolby Atmos in action
We are proud
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controlled systems of monitors. The acoustical features of SAMs can be optimized with software calibration
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Visit us at IBC • booth 8.D61 • hall 8.
CRAFT
Tim Davies
He’s an ex-BBC engineer who went freelance and is now an
in-demand mixer for major broadcast events. DENNIS BAXTER
caught up with him at the London Games.
T
he first time I met Tim Davies was during a monsoon in Kuala Lumpur
in July 1998. At that time he had been a staff audio engineer at the BBC
with close to 20 years professional experience under his belt. We hit it off
immediately and began a personal and professional relationship that has
spanned two Commonwealth Games and several Olympics — including the London
Games. More than a dozen years ago, Tim knew that the days of large numbers of
staff technicians at the BBC were limited and even applied for redundancy as early
as 2000. It took another eleven years for it to happen, but Tim is finally a full time
freelancer and, as he says, ‘I have never been busier’.
I knew Tim was talented to have risen to the top echelon at the BBC but at
the London Games I was able to discover just how much. At the end of the final
Olympic equestrian event, I was able to catch him and ask him a few questions
before he was off to another job.
What attracted you to sound and how did you get into the television
business?
I knew what I wanted to do when I was 13 years old. My dad was a professional
musician and one day I went to a studio session with him and thought I could do
that recording better.
I spent the next several years preparing myself for a career in sound. I played
guitar in bands, I operated PA systems for other bands and at school, anything
working in sound.
I was 19 when I applied to the BBC, Olympic Studios and a couple of other
places, but it was taking a long time to get anything. Then, on the same day, I got
offered two jobs — one was with Olympic Recording Studios and one was with the
BBC. With Olympic I had to start the following day, and with the BBC it started in
six months time, so I said yes to both.
I worked at Olympic for six months and then went to the BBC because I could
earn twice as much money for half as much work — it seemed like a better career
path at the time. In those days, if you were at the BBC, you had a job for life – it’s
certainly not that way anymore.
In October 1978, I went to the BBC school at Evesham for three months. It was a
remote BBC studio built during WWII that was to be used in the event other facilities
were bombed. During that period, I learnt about all the equipment and technology
in the broadcast chain, basic physics and science. That period indoctrinated me into
the BBC with a proper foundation in broadcasting. After that, you specialised in a
vocation — one could choose audio, camera, or lighting. I was assigned to a sound
crew and every week for nine months I worked on shows and had various audio
tasks I had to perform. There was a little blue book that had to be filled out every
week and when I got to the end of it, I was a soundman.
September 2012
How important was the BBC school
to your success? Are audio schools
like SAE or universities adequately
preparing students to enter
broadcasting? What skills do you
think are critical to be successful in
broadcast audio?
I think Evesham was incredibly important
— it gave me a foundation in sound bar
none. It was so ingrained in me as to the
proper way you are supposed to do things.
I think new people coming out of the
universities are very keen and very bright,
but the universities are not teaching the
students the right things. They are not
teaching current practices, they are not
even teaching the simplest things like fault
finding — the process of starting at the
beginning and working your way through
a signal chain to find the problem.
Also personal relationships are incredibly important and getting along with the
crew. And there’s preparation. Consider the weather today… we have had some
seriously rainy days but the microphones kept working throughout. Planning the
equipment you need. Simple things like microphone stands and mountings are as
essential as the microphone.
The critical skills are having the technical knowledge, the practical knowledge
and, when it gets to my level, the artistic skill of mixing.
In your opinion, is mixing an art or science?
I have thought about this for awhile. Mixing is an art. Before you start, in your
head you have to have an idea of what you want the finished audio to sound like
in order to have something to aim for. You have to have an audible vision and then
it is just a matching process. You waggle all this stuff around and tweak all of this
till it matches what you envisioned. Up here — in your head — you are seeing
excellence and you have to push yourself up towards that. It is as simple as that,
isn’t it?
Do you see mixing sports as being musical?
Kind of, but it is sort of like painting rather than musical, painting an audible
picture. I can tell a whole story with sound effects and background sound without
ever seeing a picture. Radio Theatre.
Do you balance your mix for perspective or entertainment?
Entertainment, definitely. When the horse goes right past the camera lens you will
hear that intense close sound and I like that. People expect so much more. You go
to the cinema to be entertained and the sound is a key element. Games are beyond
heightened reality. It is total fiction, it is virtual.
What is your opinion of sound augmentation?
During the last Dressage Event with all the loud music, I was trying to dig out any
natural sound. I wish we had prerecorded some of the horsey noises to help it a little.
It is perfectly alright for a film to Foley everything so why not me? I do not have
any ethical issues, but you can get caught out like in golf.
resolution
43
CRAFT
Describe your sound design at the Equestrian
events.
We had a surround audience, five microphones [one
Audio Technica AT4050ST and four AT4050a) around
the audience in the classic left, centre, right, surround
field but pretty widely spread, they were in the far
corners of where the audience were and that was the
basis of the soundfield.
Everything else was pointed into the middle, was either
stereo across the front if it was a fixed stereo position or
most of the mics were mono, they were nearly all radio
mics dotted around the jumping, absolutely smack down
the middle.
We were putting microphones right in the fence, it
is totally unnatural sound, it sounds amazing but it is
totally unnatural. Nobody in the house at horse jumping
hears that sound except the horse and the rider — everyone else is sitting 50 yards
back. Microphone in the right place is the most important thing, then you have
MAS
S
IVE
C
A
P
A
BILI
TY
ARTEMIS, FROM CALREC.
SMALL SIZE…
to put enough of it in the mix to make it sound real, or
heightened reality, because the closer you get the more
heightened reality you get.
Finally, it is very hard aggressive mixing, but subtle,
so you don’t hear me mixing. Additionally, what I try to
do with the effects stems is that I imagine I am mixing
in the commentary, so I try to leave space in the middle.
If I fill up the whole mix with effects, someone will duck
it down and not get the full effects, they are going to
say that it’s too loud and just fade it out and talk over it.
If I leave space for them to have the commentary in
the middle and the effects around it, it is a much better
end product.
What is disappointing about television sound?
I can produce a super surround sound mix in the OB Van,
because I am sitting in the middle of the sound with good speakers, but by the time
it gets to Joe Blow’s living room, none of the speakers are in the right place and
most peoples’ houses have only two speakers which
are often built into the TV set. You cannot deliver to
the public properly what I hear in the OB Van control
room, so my mix will always be wrong. That is what
disappoints me.
Putting Sound in the Picture
Broadcast audio is changing.
Today’s broadcasters require
more elegant ways to control
their increasing channel
count, interact with other
sources on the network and
have clear, concise status at
their fingertips.
With the same levels of
reliability for which Calrec
are world-renowned and a
remarkably intuitive control
surface which still manages
to pack in enormous
flexibility, Artemis uses
Bluefin2 DSP to deliver
enormous resources in a tiny
package. Able to operate
at multiple sample rates,
Bluefin2 equips Artemis with
up to 640 channel processing
paths, and its internal 8192²
Hydra2 router turns the
console into a powerful
networking tool.
The world’s most successful
broadcasters rely on Calrec
consoles.
Hard working, rugged,
powerful and operating in
highly organized networks,
Artemis provides much more
for far less.
2
calrec.com
Resolution_Artemis_142x194.indd 1
44
ARTEMIS
resolution 19/01/2010 16:58
Are you thinking backwards about the signal
flow and what do you take into account?
At the end of the day, you have to think about your end
product, that is what I am employed to do, to create an
end product. I have to think about how it sounds in the
home and how to make it sound the best — but also
how the sound gets there. You have to remember that
the sound goes to some places where there is not going
to be someone there actively mixing. They are just going
to run it through a compressor or push two faders up and
go have a coffee. Unfortunately, it is a reality isn’t it?
It was kind of easy when it was stereo. Most people
had stereo TVs with slightly tinny speakers, so your
mix profile tended to be like this [Tim draws a U-shaped
profile in the air.] You were fairly meaty on the bottom
and top end because the home speakers didn’t do that,
so it evened out and you ended up with a fairly flat
frequency response. It sounded a bit odd when you
listened on the hifi, but it worked well on the telly. And
I used to love having a domestic telly in the OB van so
you could listen on that and hear what it really sounded
like. It is just like domestic speakers in a studio. The old
mono telly speaker was a great thing, now we have
dozens of them.
Is this what is slowing down the growth of
surround sound?
The home is part of the problem, but in reality,
sometimes good surround sound is quite difficult to
achieve. I would far sooner listen to good stereo than
poor surround. Additionally, some people have the
perception that surround is more expensive. I don’t
think it is more expensive. It may cost them a couple
more microphones, but most OB vans are digital and
surround capable.
I think a lot of sound people are scared of the
downmix, because within the technology the downmix
is done in the set-top box. If someone doesn’t send the
right metadata, you have got an entirely different mix,
which is not what I was listening to or wasn’t what I
intended. That is the real problem — downmixing.
What has changed about television audio?
It is perhaps equally relevant to ask what has not
changed. The faders are still the same even though
how they work underneath has changed. But the actual
process of mixing hasn’t changed, it has only gotten
bigger. My ears haven’t changed, and at the end of the
day, all I am doing is wanging faders up and down. What
really hasn’t changed is that you still have to listen.
September 2012
CRAFT
What has changed in the last 10 years is the
implementation of digital technology. Digital mixing
consoles permit repetition and recall to get back to
exactly how you left it. Remote digital stageboxes with
good microphone preamps have certainly improved the
sound. Before, the amount of copper you have in play
would suck out the top end.
How critical is microphone placement?
It is always a compromise, often there is really no place
else to put the microphones. For example, if you have a stereo microphone on the
side of a camera lens, you haven’t got stereo anymore you have right and a bit of
reflective right. You have to get the microphone on top.
A stereo mic is great in a fixed position, but once you start panning your mic it
no longer becomes valid stereo. The idea about stereo is the sound moves around
the image, it doesn’t move with the picture. If the camera sees something on the
left, you should hear the sound coming from the left speaker. If the camera pans,
the sound comes from the middle and no longer is a valid stereo image. I definitely
like fixed stereo microphones where the cameras move around my sound image.
What do you see in the future of sound?
You mean 22.2? Would your wife allow 24 speakers? Mine wouldn’t!
Is it that necessary to have 22.2 to create or recreate the experience?
No, I don’t think so. The thing that interested me was the height information —
now that was interesting. I didn’t like a lot of what I heard. The surround bits were
just surround, but the height information relative to the screen was interesting.
At the end of the day, if people are experiencing what is on a little screen with
all this sound information, it doesn’t really work. It just becomes illustrative radio.
Didn’t you go freelance several years ago?
I applied for redundancy after Sydney in 2000, but BBC Resources wouldn’t let me
do it. Eventually, BBC Resources was sold off in 2006 and everyone went to more
freelancers with a few staff.
I couldn’t have picked a better year to go freelance … but ask me next year. n
ON AIR 24
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September 2012
resolution
45
NEWS
Audio Shorts
brought to you by
Monday 10 September
Time: 09:30 — 11:00
Emerald Room
Immersive audio: the next dimension
This session examines the important
roles that accurate time alignment and
the placement of audio objects play in
delivering an immersive experience. It
also explores how sophisticated signal
processing is employed to create a sense
of reality in a 22.2 sound system, from
speakers and headphones.
Speakers
Kristina Kunze: Audiovisual coherence of
3d multimedia scenes.
Mitsuo Okano: New equipment for 22.2
multichannel sound production and
reproduction.
Gabriel Solsona: Everything you always
wanted to know about coherence and
time alignment.
Monday 10 September
Time: 11:30-13:00
G102-103
The digital radio experience:
case studies on going digital
Programmed by WorldDMB, the
global industry forum for facilitating the
adoption and implementation of the
DAB family of digital radio standards,
this session provides a comprehensive
overview of digital radio. It features new
case studies presented by leading digital
radio experts implementing innovative
business models for digital radio,
presents unique and new business case
scenarios for digital radio collected from
across Europe and Asia Pacific region,
and provides an exclusive preview on
new models and functionality of digital
radio receivers coming onto the market
in the next 12-18 months.
Chair:
Quentin Howard, director of technology,
British Forces Broadcasting Service, UK.
Participants:
Patrick Hannon, VP corporate
development, Frontier Silicon, UK
Joan Warner, CEO, Commercial Radio
Australia
Matt Deegan, creative director, Folder
Media, UK
Christian Sülz, communications and PR
manager, Deutschlandradio, Germany
Bernie O’Neill, project director,
WorldDMB, UK.
46
TSL and DK alliance
TSL Professional Products and DK-Technologies have
announced a strategic technology partnership. As part
of the relationship, TSL will offer product solutions for a
variety of markets, beginning with the broadcast industry.
‘ TS L i s d e l i g h t e d t o b e c o l l a b o r a t i n g w i t h
DK-Technologies, as DK has demonstrated true innovation
and reliability when it comes to bringing new audio test
and measurement products to
market,’ said Chris Exelby, MD
of TSL. ‘With our combined
knowledge, we’re looking to
develop some exciting new
ways of managing audio across the broadcast chain
that will streamline present production needs while
anticipating future trends.’
‘By combining our knowledge and resources, we are
confident that we can provide more efficient workflows
to not only broadcast, but to theatre, music productions
and AV installations,’ said Andy Page, UK director,
DK-Technologies.
DiGiCo makes IBC debut
Having developed
broadcast-specific
feature sets for a
number of its SD
Range of digital
consoles, DiGiCo
is exhibiting for the
first time at IBC and
showing its SD7B,
SD10B and SD11B
consoles.
The SD7B has the
routing capacity,
processing ability and user interface to
form the heart of complex broadcast audio
productions. The worksurface handles 996
simultaneous optical, plus 224 MADI, 24
analogue and AES-EBU connections, along
with 128 buses (each with full processing in
mono, stereo, LCR or 5.1), 32 matrix buses
and 32 32-band graphic equalisers. Multiple
operator use is easy and to 100 physical faders
can be accessed with the addition of EX-007
Expander Units.
The SD10B provides
a blend of features,
perfor mance and
flexibility at a lower
price point with many
of the features of the
SD7B. The SD11B is
a compact 19-inch
rackmount or table
top mixer with 16
mic preamps, eight
line outputs and two
mono AES I-O with
the option to connect a DiGiCo D-Rack to the
Cat5E port. This provides a remote I-O rack
frame with an additional 32 mic inputs and up
to 16 outputs.
DiGiCo is showing the newest ‘supercharged’
version of the SD9 live mixer. The SD9 is a
complete, integrated system, which includes
the mixing surface, a D-Rack digital stage
interface and Cat5E digital multicore, with the
additional ability to simultaneously record 56
channels direct to multitrack software or DAW.
Audio-Technica for broadcast
Audio-Technica
shotgun models
from the company’s
Broadcast &
Production
microphone
range include
the BP4071L
(at 21.22-inches
among the longest
on the market) and
the BP4073, which
weighs less than 100g for pole or minicam
use. The design of both models results in
directivity comparable to microphones up to
50% longer and with low self-noise.
The BP4001 cardioid dynamic interview
mic is tailored for clear speech reproduction
and provides isolation from handling noise.
The BP4002 omni shares the BP4001’s
floating back
cavity assembly for
identical handling
noise and acoustic
performance.
Audio-Technica’s
true diversity
wireless systems
range from the
affordable 2000s
Series to the
flagship 5000 Series
and deliver solid performance and flexibility.
The ATCS-60 infrared conference system
delivers signal security when compared to
UHF systems and versatility and ease of use
thanks to its wireless delegate microphone
units, Conference Manager software and
ATCS-V60 modular, retrofittable voting
system.
resolution Timecode-aware
loudness meter
Trinnov hopes to become a main player
in the metering market with a new version
of its metering suite SmartMeter V3.
This features major improvements and
functionalities including the long-awaited
timecode synchronisation of Loudness/True
Peak measurements allowing for the realtime logging and consistent Loudness/LRA
measurements at all stages of the mixing
process.
Furthermore, SmartMeter V3 supports an
unlimited number of user-defined sources
with independent Loudness/True Peak
measurements. Because of these features,
users no longer have to manually pause,
resume or even restart measurements. Every
Loudness value is stored and time-stamped
throughout the session. Projects can
therefore be paused, shared on a network
and resumed in other studios.
CEDAR Audio
broadcasts
CEDAR is inviting people
to find out why
organisations like
the BBC, ITV,
ITN, Channel
4, Channel
5, Sky Sports,
ZDF, Abbey Road,
Sony Pictures, Universal,
Skywalker Sound, Deluxe, and others rely on
its technology every day.
Aside from the new DNS 8 Live there’s the
DNS3000 and DNS1500, and the CEDAR
Studio suite for Pro Tools, which is derived
from the CEDAR Cambridge system and
includes the DNS One plug-in, Adaptive
Limiter and Debuzz and Declip processes.
The only online resource
dedicated to broadcast sound
lineup
the voice of audio in broadcast
v2.3 2011
lineup
THE VOICE OF AUDIO IN BROADCAST
V3.1 2012
lineup
the voice of audio in broadcast
v3.2 2012
HD and 3D at the Champions League
Stuart Bruce — exotic location recordist
Sky Studios Harlequin 1
Dolby’s new standard for video reference
Audio jobs for the visually impaired
Hugh Robjohns and Barry Fox columns
Reviews
News
Audio opportunities with DSLR
MADI – interface for the masses
Hugh Robjohns and Barry Fox columns
Reviews
News
Broadcasting from the beach
Why microphone specifications matter
Hugh Robjohns and Barry Fox columns
Reviews
News
www.onlineup.info
T H E VOI C E O F
A U D IO I N B R O A D C A ST
September 2012
more
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NEWS
Audio Shorts
Miranda loudness
Miranda Technologies’ Intelligent Audio
Loudness Correction (ALC) end-to-end
loudness solution includes monitoring,
logging and correction using real-time
processing during the playout workflow.
Intelligent ALC uses information fed from
a broadcaster’s traffic system to identify
whether content has been corrected
already — and dynamically avoids the
unnecessary processing of content that
has already been through loudness
correction.
The end-to-end solution uses segmentaware loudness monitoring and logging,
which has been added to Miranda’s
Kaleido series multiviewers and is used
in conjunction with Miranda’s iControl
system. It can accurately log the average
loudness per segment, enabling easy
creation of detailed reports at a later
date to meet compliance and reporting
regulations.
Emotion shows
eFF Audio
D i g i t a l
workflow
experts
Emotion
Systems’
eFF Audio
is a software
application
that automatically analyses and fixes
audio loudness violations in file-based
media, now with MXF functionality as well
as multiple language UI support.
eFF Audio is an audio normalisation
and loudness compliance tool for media
files. Its software delivers accurate
measurements against predetermined
parameters; generates a detailed file
error report; and repairs files to meet
established criteria. Despite complex
compliance requirements, eFF resolves
loudness problems while remaining cost
effective.
‘As file-based delivery becomes
widespread, the use of MXF based
broadcast workflows has increased
significantly. And although MXF is,
rightly, an extremely flexible format, it
means that there are few hard and fast
standards, which can lead to issues of
interoperability,’ said Emotion Systems
CEO MC Patel. ‘eFF Audio is, however,
largely agnostic to those issues and has
been tested with a comprehensive range
of MXF files where it unwraps, measures
and fixes audio files, then reinserts
and rewraps the fixed audio without
changing any other essence. One of the
key features of eFF is that its results are
100% accurate, repeatable, and above
all, dependable.’
Applications for eFF include MCRs
as well as non-linear video editing and
on-line finishing suites.
48
Genelec SAM and App
Genelec is introducing Smart Active Monitors (SAM)
which adapt to their environment and optimise the
performance of the monitor system for the engineer.
The SpeakerAngle app for iOS devices helps
users to correctly set and match the angling (toein) of stereo and 7.1 surround sound speakers.
Co-developed by Genelec and mobile apps company
AudioApps, onscreen speaker icons move as the
actual speaker is rotated, while number boxes below
each speaker icon continuously display the angle of
the speaker. The number boxes also change colour
to let users know when their speaker is angled within
industry recommendations and when it is angled
to the same degree as the other one in the pair.
Detailed information screens provide a tutorial on
speaker angling, as well as step-by-step instructions
for using SpeakerAngle.
DK-Technologies Celebrates 25 Years
D K - Te c h n o l o g i e s i s
celebrating its 25th
anniversary at IBC and will
mark the occasion with
an anniversary range of
meters branded with new
colour schemes and an
anniversary logo.
Founded in 1987 by
its current CEO Karsten
Hansen, DK-Technologies
has notched industry
firsts that include: the first
to introduce standalone
audio metering products
that could be sold as
individual units; the first
5.1 surround meter (the
MSD 600C MkI); the first
visual display technology
(JellyFish) to show stereo
audio signals in an easy to
understand format; the first
surround sound display
technology (StarFish) to
show an image of acoustic
audio levels as they
are experienced by the
listener; the first to offer
four waveform monitors in
one box (the PTO760M);
and the first to develop a
remote unit for a waveform
monitor (the PT0700-R) so
broadcast engineers on
location can see the same
audio and video display as
engineers in the Master
Control Room. DK was also
first to launch a small and
portable handheld audio
meter range (the DK Meter)
that offers compliance
will all known loudness
recommendations (EBU
R128, ATSC A/85, ARIB,
ABC, AGCOM 219 & ITU
1770-2).
Merging solutions
Merging’s Horus offers broadcasters the
efficiency of networked audio devices
with additional benefits of lower power
consumption, reduction in rack space and the
elimination of other items in the audio chain.
Horus becomes an IP node on a Ravenna
network and allows routing and control of the
I-O capability of the convertor. Horus contains
high quality microphone preamps, AES-EBU
and MADI conversion in both directions
with remote control of all parameters. This
scalable solution has applications across the
industry from the simple location recording
and mastering to major broadcast facilities,
OB vans, live sound and large installation
projects.
The MXFix Audio Compliance Server now
runs V2.0 software and adds R-128, A/85 and
tomorrow’s BS.1770-2 compliance. This faster
than real-time batch file solution is designed
to enhance broadcast and postproduction
Quality Control workflows.
For those who want to leave the dynamics
alone, a 2-pass normaliser based on the
popular Merging Final Check module
has been added as standard. Channel
routing is now included as well as a CrossWrapping feature that allows MOV<->MXF
for compatible codecs (IMX, XDCAM-HD,
DNxHD, DVCPro etc.). Options for Jünger
Audio’s Level Magic software and Surcode for
Dolby E integration make MXFix a one-stop
shop for audio for picture compliance.
Wohler audio metering
Double eco power distribution
Bryant Unlimited’s Power
Distribution Unit PDU 114PEA
has a microcontroller-based
design to reduce energy
otherwise wasted within the
power distribution unit. The
PDU 114PEA features 14
IEC outlets, each with an
associated bicoloured LED
to show outlet status. A great
many PDU products have
mains LEDs using resistors
to drop the mains voltage
to supply the LED, throwing
away 99% of the power within the PDU itself
as heat. In the PDU 114PEA, a dedicated
bespoke power supply is used to reduce the
power consumption of the LED circuit to less
than 0.5W, whereas typical products fitted
with mains LEDs consume 10W.
A Neutrik powerCON inlet connector is
used to give an overall current capacity of
20 amps and a mating inlet plug is supplied.
Each outlet is rated to a maximum of 10
amps, fitted with a 3.15 Amp antisurge HRC
ceramic fuses as standard.
To avoid damage caused by high fault
currents, these units are wired internally and
do not put power across cheap PCBs. The
new PDUs are available in two versions: the
PDU 114PEA fitted with an on-off switch and
the NDU 114PEA fitted with a neon indicator,
for secure applications.
resolution Wohler is showcasing the ContentProbe
compliance recorder and AMP1-16M audio
monitor.
The AMP1-16M dual-input SDI audio
monitor offers high-performance monitoring
of embedded audio in two 3G/HD or SD-SDI
streams. The 1U de-embeds and provides
metering and monitoring of any or all of the
16 audio channels in the selected 3G/HD
or SD-SDI stream. It offers a clear display of
levels and other information using 2.4-inch
LED-backlit LCD displays, enabling one-touch
monitoring and summing of any selected
pair(s) to built-in speakers, headphones, or
XLR balanced analogue outputs.
The monitor offers remote access for
setup and storage of user-defined presets
via Ethernet and USB connections; gain
adjustment/trim on individual audio channels
with the ability to assign channels to either
or both analogue outputs as well as select
or deselect channel pairs; pass-through of
both SDI inputs; and reclocked output of the
selected monitored SDI stream.
September 2012
NEWS
Headset mic options
Among the products
f r o m D PA i s a n
expanded d:fine
series of headset
microphones and the
d:facto vocal mic. ‘With
so many television
p ro g r a m m e s n o w
being delivered in
High Definition and
5.1 surround sound, demand for high quality microphones
for broadcast use has never been greater,’ said Christian
Poulsen, DPA’s CEO.
The d:fine headset microphones are easy to fit and provide
presenters and guests with a discreet microphone solution.
d:fine is available in directional and omnidirectional options,
in single or dual-ear designs and with long or short booms.
They adjust to accommodate any ear size and head shape
and can be mounted on the left or right side of the head and
are available in black, beige, brown, and lime green. They
accommodate a range of accessories, including windscreens,
power supplies, and adapters or cables with fixed connectors.
The d:facto handheld vocal mic bridges the gap between
live stage performances and studio recordings. It has high
gain before feedback and there’s an inbuilt 3-step pop
protection grid.
Trilogy adds digital interfaces to Gemini
Trilogy Broadcast has enhanced its Gemini IP intercom
system with the latest additions taking advantage of
Gemini’s ability to carry programme-quality audio over
its High Speed Link (HSL) and adding AES and MADI
interfaces.
The new digital audio interface handles MADI
and AES signals in any combination and provides an
interrupt capability and stereo to mono mixing. A key
application is to be able to strip out audio channels to
send to an intercom device, for instance to put a remote
commentary feed onto a studio presenter’s earpiece. The
configuration includes the ability to mix the programme
feed with talkback, to duck it or to mute it. Because
Gemini maintains 20kHz audio quality it can even be used for programme audio routing if the standard path fails.
ACTION.
Oratis innovations
Delec is presenting a range of new
products and features for its Oratis
intercom and commentary
systems that include two
Oratis boards. The
party-line interface
connects belt
packs from other
m a n u f a c t u re r s t o
Oratis and the Dante
interface enables remote devices
from other vendors to be addressed
directly, such as mixing consoles, audio r o u t e r s o r
monitor speakers.
A partnership with Intracom enables smart phones to
be connected as virtual subscriber units in Delec intercom
systems and full HD video-streaming to the booth for
commentary systems.
‘These new products and features make our Oratis systems
even more flexible,’ said Donald Dilocker, Delec founder and
CEO, about the co-operation, ‘and they demonstrate once
again why Delec is well known for innovation in intercom and
commentary systems.’
MKH 8070 Long Gun Microphone
Capturing the Moment.
The MKH 8070 is in a league of its own. Its excellent
directivity and off-axis linearity make it your ideal
team member for major broadcast and sporting events.
An HHB range
HHB Communications is highlighting a range of audio
products for OB, live production, postproduction, playout
and archive by demonstrating a range of MADI, audio and
loudness metering, measurement and correction tools, in
addition to a selection of
portable audio recorders,
b ro a d c a s t c o n s o l e s ,
loudspeakers and
microphones,
Avid Pro Tools
s o f t w a re a n d
hardware and
Mogami cables.
September 2012
AWARDS
NOMINATED
2012
www.sennheiser.co.uk
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It will reliably capture that magic moment from a
distance with a true and natural sound, even under
the toughest sonic and climatic conditions.
Part of the flexible MKH 8000 series, just add
the MZD 8000 and it is a digital mic.
17/07/2012 14:21
49
NEWS
Audio Shorts
Radio-Assist 8.1
upgrade
The latest version of Netia’s Radio-Assist 8
range of digital audio automation software
offers the same robust array of tools for
streamlined end-to-end multimedia
production, broadcast, and publication
workflows, along with an integrated musicscheduling application and video editing
capability. Users can access both new
features from a single user interface.
NETIA’s Radio-Assist family of digital
audio software programs covers each part
of the production and broadcast workflow,
allowing users to record, edit, or prepare
a playlist. In addition to new browsing
and publishing tools for full multimedia
functionality, the software features tools for
acquisition, sound-file editing, commercial
and music production, newsroom
systems, scheduling, multicasting, and
administration.
Radio-Assist 8.1 will allow users to
leverage built-in music-scheduling
functionality. With music management
tools integrated into Radio-Assist 8.1’s
FederAll playlist preparation module,
users will be able to automate playlist
generation according to preset criteria,
business policies, and a wide range of
intelligent options for sequencing music.
The video editing tool now available
within the Radio-Assist 8.1 interface
complements the software’s Snippet and
Snippet+ audio editing tools. Offering
a convenient editing solution, this
enhancement addresses the growing
demand for radio broadcasters to provide
video via their online portals. This simple
and easy-to-use editing tool is available
through the same GUI as the Snippet tool,
providing familiar utility that allows staff to
produce video clips with very little training.
Bel 16 Channel 3G HD
Audio/Video Monitor
Bel has a 2U audio/video monitor and
de-embedder with Dolby decoding
called the BM-AV2-E16SHD. It features
16 bargraph meters mounted alongside
a 5-inch video display. Inputs include a pair of autodetecting
3G/HD/SD SDI inputs (with loopthrough)
and 10 analogue audio inputs (channels
one and two are provided with two
summing inputs each) and 8 AES-3id pairs.
The detected audio inputs are displayed
via the 16 LED bargraphs. Selected audio
channels are also provided as AES-3id and
analogue outputs on the rear panel. Two
versions will be available, one with Dolby
decoding and a second without.
50
Sonifex talkback control
Sonifex’s CM-TB8 is a talkback
control unit
providing
8
channels of 4-wire
communication,
housed in a 1U
enclosure. It has
connections for a headset on
5-pin XLR and microphone/headphones
on XLR/stereo TRS jack, with the current selection
indicated on the front panel. The gain
setting for each input type can be
individually set between +6dB and
+68dB allowing for a wide range of
microphone type and +48V phantom
power is also available.
Talk level adjustments can be made
using the front panel +/-12dB rotary
control. A level limiter automatically
adjusts the microphone gain if the signal
level exceeds a preset level, and the
current talk level is indicated on the
front panel when it exceeds 0dB and
+8dB.
The CM-CU1 is one of the new additions to the Sonifex range of commentary
products offering the same quality and specification as the CM-CU21 but with a
feature set tailored to single commentator applications. It provides a commentator
position with a line-level input and has an individual commentator output, with an
additional output providing a mix of commentator and line input audio.
The line input can be configured to remain present at the mix output even if the
commentator is off-air, making it useful for routing crowd effects or prerecorded
material to the programme feed. Its presence in the commentator’s headphones is
also configurable to suit the application.
Four talkback output channels, with a built-in limiter, are available to the
commentator and they can be linked to provide simultaneous operation. Activation
of one or more talkback channels removes the commentator audio from the main
output until all talkback channels are deactivated.
Jünger introduces M*AP
Dynamics specialist Jünger
Audio’s M*AP is the latest
addition to its *AP family of
audio loudness processors.
It combines an audio monitor
controller and a loudness
measurement device in
one unit and is designed
for quality checking 5.1
and stereo programmes.
M*AP can be used for live
monitoring and also to ensure compliance
with government regulations on loudness.
The unit has alarm signals that alert the
operator when preset loudness thresholds
are exceeded and these can be delivered by
GPOs and SNMP traps, which carry actual
loudness values. Loudness measurements
can be performed over a long run or
over a fraction of a programme, or both.
These measurements can be triggered
by automation systems via GPIs or via the
network or manually by buttons of the X*AP
remote panel.
M*AP also offers functionality for acoustical
QA and has eight speaker outputs that
allow A/B checking of stereo compatibility
of a surround downmix through alternative
speakers, as well as via LR front speakers.
For no extra cost, the M*AP’s SDI board
acts as an embedder as well and comes with
video delay to compensate for audio delay.
M*AP also has a built-in Dolby Metadata
generator and an optional Dolby decoder
that allows users to decode Dolby-E,
Dolby-D (AC-3) and Dolby Digital plus
(E-AC-3).
‘By incorporating 3G, HD and SD auto
detection, M*AP gives users the option
of dealing with all 16 channels of SDI
embedded audio at the same time,’ said
Peter Pörs, MD of Jünger Audio. ‘This means
that you can listen to one programme while
permanently logging the loudness of two (5.1
+2 mode) or four (4 x 2 mode) programmes.
It is also possible to send further embedded
programmes to M*AP’s AES outputs to feed
a third party instrument for analysing and/
or display.’
resolution DirectOut upgrades
DirectOut has new firmware for the D.O.TEC
Andiamo and Andiamo 2. The free upgrade
extends the convertor functionality by a
Matrix Mode that offers signal routing on
a per channel basis. The upgrade package
includes the newly developed Andiamo
remote software for access to the audio
signal routing matrix, configuration of the
system fan control, remote control of all
system settings, and monitoring of system
state (including display of temperature).
Remote control via USB and MIDI over
MADI expand the range of applications of
Andiamo over long distances.
Flexible IP Audio
Codec
Digigram’s CALL/LE is a cost-effective,
versatile audio-over-IP (AoIP) codec for use
over standard Internet connections such as
DSL lines, WiFi, and 3G. Designed for realtime AoIP contribution applications requiring
end-to-end 24-bit full-duplex audio quality,
this codec offers a symmetric RTP mode
that allows for quick setup of full-duplex
connections over the Internet, without any
challenging NAT issues or the need for SIP
infrastructure.
Focusing on ease of use and ergonomics,
the device offers quick profile creation for
audio and network formats, as well as fast
configuration via a web-based interface.
IQOYA CALL/LE also provides seamless
interoperability with Digigram IQOYA
V*MOTE, V*CALL, IQOYA *MOBILE, or any
third-party IP codec supporting symmetric
RTP- and N/ACIP-compliant streaming
formats.
Digigram’s FluidIP audio transport
technology ensures a robust connection
with efficient management of jitter, packet
loss, clock drift, QoS, and FEC, and the unit’s
low latency and superior error concealment
capabilities deliver exceptional quality. Hardware reliability is provided by the
codec’s industrial, fanless, non-PC-based
design, which delivers power consumption
of under 11W. The only online resource
dedicated to broadcast sound
www.onlineup.info
T H E VOI C E O F
A U D IO I N B R O A D C A ST
September 2012
NEWS
Volicon Observer V7.0
Loudness Management Batch
Version 7.0 of Volicon’s Observer transport
stream (TS) MPEG transport stream logging
and monitoring system has been enhanced
to accommodate ASI, QAM, 8-VSB, and
DVB-T MPEG TS interfaces, and to provide
improved system density for HD and SD
programmes.
Observer 7.0 allows users to log MPEG
transport streams continuously, as well as
monitor A/V content including BS.1770-2
loudness and other correlations of data and
video. Additionally, Observer 7.0 allows
users to stream and export content to all
stakeholders in the media enterprise.
The Observer Scout logging and
monitoring solution is equipped with
loudness monitoring. The loudness
monitoring module allows users to handle
loudness complaint issues quickly and
efficiently, while troubleshooting loudness
issues as they arise including BS-1770-2, EBU
R128, and ATSC A/85 compliant loudness
monitoring.
Nugen Audio has expanded its range of loudness correction tools with Loudness
Management Batch (LMB) version 1.4. A complementary tool to Nugen’s VisLM
and LM-Correct plug-ins, the LMB processor delivers network-based automated
loudness processing of large numbers of audio and video files, without requiring
user intervention.
LMB operates faster than real-time on batches of files, saving time and preventing
human error. For streamlined processing of video, LMB can automatically de-mux
video to analyse the audio content without changing the original file. LMB’s Watched
Folders automate the processing of files, and optional command-line operation allows
for full integration into existing asset management systems and procedures.
New features in LMB 1.4 include de-interleaved file handling for the simultaneous
consideration of multiple mono files in stereo to 5.1 configurations with user-definable
file suffix identification. LMB 1.4 introduces a pass tolerance window for file analysis
and correction, allowing existing audio within tolerance to pass without correction.
LMB’s summary and logs now have a user-definable log frequency that specifies the
time interval between selected parameter log entries, and optional corrected file
suffixes can now be added to output files to assist with file identification in unified
I-O folder setups.
Audio Shorts
Nugen ISL
Nugen Audio’s Inter-Sample TruePeak Limiter is designed for the control
of peak levels in audio signals from
mono through to 5.1. Unlike traditional
approaches to limiting, ISL offers a true
brick-wall solution, measuring intersample peaks and allowing the user to
define the true-peak limit of the audio
output (rather than the more traditional
threshold control at which limiting
begins to take effect).
ISL is based on the standardised truepeak algorithms of ITU-R B.S. 1770 and
related standards, and is suitable for the
control of audio for postproduction and
broadcast applications. True Peak limiting
can also be used to ensure that downstream codecs (mp3, AAC, etc) do not
introduce distortion into the signal. While
ISL has been designed for limiting relatively
dynamic high-quality audio, it can also be
used to hard limit and reduce dynamic
range considerably if this is required.
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20/08/2012 12:57
51
BUSINESS
Free to view?
NIGEL JOPSON looks to TV’s next generation, and reflects on what
Britain’s free-to-air channels may look like in future.
L
ast year BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: ‘We should be able to run
an outstanding public service broadcaster on a budget of £3.5 billion. It is
a privilege to be funded by the public through the licence fee. This privilege
should neither be abused or taken for granted.’ That’s a big budget — more
than is spent on the UK national road system (£3.1bn) — or more than the UK
Police and Fire Service combined. BBC1 is the most expensive channel to produce,
costing £1.1bn a year, while BBC Four is the cheapest, at £54m. By way of
comparison, Sky TV’s total investment in programming over the last twelve months
was £2.298bn. Sky TV is working toward spending £600m on UK-sourced original
production in 2014 (up from £380m in 2011) and C4 will spend £455m on original
production in 2012.
Lord Patten’s comments came after the UK TV License fee, which funds the BBC,
was frozen at the end of 2010 for 6 years at £145.50 per household. As 2011
ended, the corporation announced a headline of £700m in savings by 2016 plus
2,000 future redundancies. BBC2 — a channel once famed for its innovative science,
drama and arts — emerged as the major loser after the BBC commissioned a report
entitled Delivering Quality First. Archive shows were allocated 56% of the BBC2
schedule, new programmes mainly appear in the evening, and prime time repeats
increased by 3%.
In 2007, after the previous Labour government removed the link between TV
licence fee increases and inflation and asked the BBC to fund a scheme to support
the national digital TV switchover (Resolution V8.2; Digital Britain), the BBC Trust
set execs a target of saving 3% of expenditure between 2008 and 2013. At the
end of 2011, the National Audit Office found the BBC was on course to exceed its
52
target of saving £487m a year by 2013 but questioned whether ‘the target set was
sufficiently stretching’. Although the BBC has always maintained that it does not
chase ratings, the NAO report revealingly stated that around 27% of the savings
came from ‘switching funding from content which is less popular with audience to
higher performing output’.
Until ITV was launched in 1955, the BBC was the UK’s only television broadcaster,
so it was required to transmit a broad schedule of entertainment, news and
educational shows: it was the only game in town. The corporation itself is operated
under the terms of a Royal Charter, first granted in 1927. A key section in the current
(2006) charter states: ‘Its [BBC’s] public purposes are: sustaining citizenship and
civil society; promoting education and learning; stimulating creativity and cultural
excellence; representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities; bringing the
UK to the world and the world to the UK; and, in pursuing its other purposes, helping
to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and
services, and taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television’. It is very
hard to understand how programmes like Homes Under the Hammer, The Voice,
The Great British Bake Off or quiz shows like Pointless fulfil this charter. We are no
longer weary workers requiring light entertainment from a Bakelite box with a single
knob: 54.35% of the UK viewing population pays for multichannel TV from Sky,
Virgin Media or BT Vision. Last time I looked there were 28 alternative, commercial
channels — not including shopping channels — available on Freeview.
The self-perception of public broadcaster responsibility has changed over the last
20 years. It has somehow become an article of faith that ratings are the ultimate
arbiter of a TV programme’s worth. A free-to-air commercial network has a clear
duty to its shareholders to deliver maximum consumer eyeballs (for advertisers) by
selecting popular programming. Public service broadcasters nowadays have no such
agenda — indeed the BBC itself has the clearest of mandates to commission exactly
the type of programmes which may not cater to a populist appetite — yet public
broadcasting executives seem to believe gaining audience share somehow justifies
bigger budgets. The responsibility to society has been upstaged by an ambition to
deliver higher ratings.
If we want to point to a time in the history of the BBC when it started to measure
itself in terms of ratings, I’d suggest September 1984, when Michael Grade (his
uncle Lew Grade of ATV and his father a booking agent for some of the top names in
show business) became Controller of BBC1, later becoming Director of Programmes
in 1986. The BBC was under pressure from the Thatcher Conservative government
and a demand to raise the licence fee to £65 had been turned down. The BBC miniseries, The Thorn Birds (1983) was being compared unfavourably with ITV drama
offerings Brideshead Revisited (1981) and The Jewel in the Crown (1984). The BBC
was derided in the popular press for being boring and costly, but Grade took the helm
of a demoralised BBC1 with the mantra that ‘quality and popularity are not mutually
exclusive’. Grade moved ratings weak-point Panorama to a late time slot, and
brought Terry Wogan and new sitcom Eastenders in at 7pm. He then engaged in a
game of scheduling chess with ITV, moved Eastenders to 7:30 and cutting Wogan’s
over-run into ITV’s popular Coronation Street, which pulled in 17m viewers, and saw
the BBC's audience share ratchet up to 50% for the first time in three years. It’s hard
not to assume the same sort of mindset still dominates when you hear TV folk talk
and when each shiny-floor show on a commercial station is matched by an identikit
version on the BBC.
But times and technology have changed something dramatically — not just the
resolution September 2012
BUSINESS
multichannel pipes of satellite, cable and internet but also the manner in which people
watch TV. YouGov’s new syndicated Smart TV tracker has revealed just over one in
four (26%) of Britons spend more time watching TV through on-demand services,
such as iPlayer and YouTube, than they do watching
traditional linear broadcast TV. Most importantly, 53% of
18-24 year olds who watch a smart TV have abandoned
linear TV altogether, as have 51% of Smart TV owners
with pre-school children.
Dan Brilot, YouGov’s media consulting director, said
the data was evidence of a paradigm shift in TV
consumption. ‘We are observing a huge growth in
on-demand consumption,’ he said. ‘TV 2.0 is all about
consumers, rather than schedulers, deciding what to
watch and when. The next generation who are growing
up with the internet’s new mode of serving and searching
content will increasingly focus their viewing attention to
on-demand services.’ Adoption of Smart TVs in the UK is
still relatively low at 10%, but is expected to double over
the next 12 months. According to ABI research, ‘Connected
TV penetration’ in North America and Europe is expected to
increase to 50% by 2017, with Blu-ray penetration increasing
from 25% to 76% in 2017. Most Blu-ray players are now sold
equipped with Ethernet network connectors. Indeed, this is
how I watch VOD movies, iPlayer, Youtube and manage
movie subscriptions via my internet router, Blu-ray player
and HDMI connection to the big screen.
In July 2012, ITV CEO Adam Crozier
announced the completion of a successful trial
of its new Pay Player in 5,000 homes, and
the expected general launch of the service this
autumn. Initially only available on computing
devices, ITV's seven-day catch-up TV service
will continue to remain free and contain ads. But
we can see which way it’s going: ITV first began
investigating micropayment systems in 2010,
after linear TV ad-sales had taken a battering.
Users will be able to access 1,000 hours of
archive TV and film content — the ITV Player contributed to a 24% increase in
online, pay and interactive revenues to £47m in the first six months of 2012. Traffic
rose 20% year-on-year in the first half to 217m streams, Crozier said that one of the
most interesting statistics is that 95% of the new growth in usage of the ITV Player
comes from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Meanwhile, BSkyB has launched its internet VOD service Now TV, aiming to
take the fight to Netflix and LoveFilm, offering subscriptions for £15 a month or
individual films from 99p to £3.49 per view. A typically bullish rollout will see Sky
Sports content including Premier League, cricket, rugby and golf before the end of
the year, as well as channels including Sky1, Sky Arts and Sky Atlantic. Concerned
about slowing new sign-ups for its satellite service, Sky is aiming to break out
beyond its pay-TV roots and target the 13m UK households who are wary of costly
subscription packages. BSkyB intends to deploy Now TV rapidly to other devices
including iPhone, iPad, Microsoft Xbox, and PlayStation 3. It will also be available
via YouView, which combines Freeview with on-demand content via broadband.
YouView is a £299 set-top box, dubbed 'the next generation of Freeview',
launched in July. Backed by entrepreneur Lord Alan Sugar, who came on board in
2011, the service was initially due to be launched in 2010 but was hampered by a
series of technical issues and content-provider disputes. Users will be able to pause
and rewind live TV across 100+ digital channels and will also have anytime access
to terrestrial TV programmes for up to seven days. It’s basically a 500Gb PVR with
twin tuners, a box that Sky once swore it would never support. Launched rather
late, but perhaps just-in-time for late-adopters who prefer simpler appliances — or
over 55-year-olds — only 14% of whom apparently watch TV on demand on their
Smart TVs.
It’s always possible to find a TV pundit or Emeritus professor who’ll insist that
linear TV is still the thing … and maybe even provide a statistic or two to show
how we’d be disenfranchising a worthy and vulnerable sector of the population if
we changed anything. There’s a surprisingly large corps of the TV-elite who suffer
more from inertia than they’d have us believe their viewers do. Consider this: over
24m people — 42% of the entire UK population — watched at least 15 minutes of
the London 2012 Olympics on the BBC Red Button service. This is a button fitted
on every UK remote, which operates a drop-down menu with special Freeview
content. 42% watched despite the fact you could access the 24 live channels through
traditional programme guides on both BSkyB and Virgin Media. Freeview homes got
up to two extra channels in SD and one in HD. Aaron Scullion, executive product
manager for BBC Future Media, said: ‘Though BBC Sport has had a Red Button
September 2012
video service for some years now, we needed a new interface for these Olympics.
The existing service carries six channels but we needed to carry up to 24, via an
interface that viewers would understand instantly.’
Give people access to the right tools and compelling
content, and half the population wants it and can work
it. Considering the huge amount of technical work
some very savvy people have put into the Beeb’s web
presence, I was interested in how the Olympic Red
Button content was done. ‘In the past, Red Button
applications have had a bespoke production process,
separate to that used for BBC Online,’ Scullion revealed.
‘On this occasion exactly the same content was going out
online and on TV, so we were able to share production
tools across both services, and drive the application from
the same data services as online. This means time and
schedule information is created once by BBC Sport staff
and updated simultaneously across Red Button, online,
mobile and Connected TV. This saves money and
ensures complexity is kept to a minimum.’
The old two-tiered system of funding British TV,
invented 50 years ago -- public funding through
the licence fee for the BBC and advertising sales
for ITV -- is still working today … just. But can
it continue to work in the future? ITV is already
developing its own PPV model. The BBC’s charter
is up for renewal in 2016, and Steven Barnett of
the University of Westminster reckons it will be
‘the most difficult Charter renewal the BBC has faced in its
90-year history.’
Renegotiating a new Charter and a new licence fee
settlement will be a semi-public process for the new director
general, George Entwhistle, who in the interim will have to
reorganise Worldwide (which has revenues of more than
£1bn and profits of around £155m), integrate the World Service with the UK news
operation, and maintain morale while shedding 2,000 staff. I’d like to vote for more
buttons, online content that no commercial channel will fund, and for the BBC
not to spend my money in bidding wars (£22m on The Voice) with commercial
channels for me-too programmes. n
resolution
53
CRAFT
Atmos in action
Dolby’s JULIAN PINN discusses the crucial narrative role of audio in
film-making and the creative possibilities that Dolby Atmos opens
up for directors, sound designers and rerecording mixers.
U
S physicist and acoustician Harvey Fletcher was one of the great
innovators of early stereo sound for films and as he remarked more than
70 years ago: ‘It doesn’t matter how many channels there are, provided
you can give the illusion of there being an infinite number’ [1]. With
remarkable prescience, Fletcher acknowledged the enduring challenge faced by
every sound designer and mix engineer today: that of precisely mirroring what’s
happening on screen — and beyond it — with a small, finite number of fixed point
sources in the auditorium.
The process of film-making is a grand illusion. Audiences are keen to suspend
disbelief if they’re rewarded with an immersive, emotionally engaging story.
Cinemagoers are remarkably tolerant of all kinds of directorial tricks, sleight-of-hand
and short-cuts — as long as they don’t shatter the fictional space that’s been created.
Audio for picture is an illusion in itself. Multichannel sound lets the director
and editor heighten tension as an unseen assailant moves stealthily
around the building. It can transport audiences into the melee of a combat
zone or into a restaurant, where the off-camera chatter of other diners
provides a backdrop for the dialogue on screen.
The importance of audio in manipulating the audience’s emotions
cannot be overstated. The idea of ‘feeling’ visuals through sound is
expressed by Academy Award-winning sound designer and editor Walter
Murch (American Graffiti, The Godfather Part II and Part III, Apocalypse
Now, The English Patient). In an interview with Peter Cowie, Murch agreed
with the supposition that sound represents as much as 50% of the total
experience when watching a movie. ‘What happens is that when we hear
a sound, we don’t hear it consciously. But it has an effect on us, and that
effect we sort of reprocess and render into an attribute of the visuals. It’s
very rare that an audience will hear sound for what it is. Usually what’s
happening is that the sound is conditioning and colouring the way we’re
perceiving the visual.’
Cinema sound is invisible, literally and figuratively. It’s transparent
to the audience, maintaining the role of a solid supporting actor until
something goes wrong — a sudden timbral change when an actor’s voice
moves off camera, a snapping branch that seems to come from several
places at once, rather than a single point in space. Even seemingly small
sonic anomalies can destroy the illusion that the director is trying to
sustain.
Traditionally, the apparent positioning of a sound source in a film — whether
it’s dialogue, a gunshot off-camera or the all-round roar of a waterfall — has been
simulated by panning it between a small number of channels, each corresponding to
the physical location of a speaker (or group of speakers) in the theatre. However, there
are fundamental challenges with this approach that sound designers must deal with
as a matter of course.
54
Loudspeakers don’t have infinite dynamic range or an infinite frequency response.
It’s hard to recreate the intimacy of dialogue whispered into the lead talent’s ear from
loudspeakers that are situated 10 metres away from the listener. And in real life the
striking of a match comes from a single point source, not from an array of speakers
along the side wall of a cinema.
Worse still, every movie theatre and every dubbing facility is different. The number
of speakers, their physical location, their power handling capacity and their frequency
response is effectively unique to that room. The physical separation between L and R
speakers could be 2m or 20m — depending on whether you’re in an edit room, a small
preview theatre or a 1,000-seater screen. All of this makes it effectively impossible for
the director and sound designer to have total confidence that their creative vision is
recreated accurately and consistently, wherever a movie is screened.
So the constraints of a channel-based approach to mixing, with a limited number
of sound sources in the auditorium, means that audio postproduction has inevitably
been an artful compromise. ‘In the old days of 5.1 and 7.1 systems — particularly
when you come off the screen with sounds — what you’re aware of is this sort of
imprecision of the surround sound field,’ notes BAFTA and Academy Award winner
Ian Tapp, rerecording mixer at Pinewood whose credits include Slumdog Millionaire,
The Woman in Black and Johnny English Reborn.
A totally new approach to cinema sound mixing, Dolby Atmos circumvents
the inherent imprecision and
inconsistency of channel-based
systems. By rendering a collection
of sonic ‘objects’ via a large
number of separate speakers
in the auditorium, it gives the
convincing illusion of there being
a near-infinite number of channels
throughout the hemisphere…
all the way around you and all
above your head.
For the first time, the recording
mixer doesn’t have to worry
about where speakers are placed
in the theatre. With Dolby Atmos,
they can focus purely on locating
each specific sound to match the
director’s intention. Nor do sound
designers have to worry about
how a sound changes as it moves
off the front speakers and into the
surrounds. The system takes care
of level/timbre matching and bass
management, ensuring a smooth, seamless transition as sounds move realistically
around the auditorium, without disconcerting jumps in tone or level.
Another big surprise is the ease with which Dolby Atmos can be integrated into
existing workflows, without placing additional overheads on mix teams. Dolby is
working with leading DAW and console manufacturers to integrate other technologies
with the Rendering Mastering Unit (Dolby RMU). This allows X/Y/Z coordinates
and other positional attributes of each object to be easily recorded in the system’s
resolution September 2012
CRAFT
automation and built up naturally. This integration lets
Dolby Atmos marries today’s familiar
mix teams continue using the interfaces with which
channel-based mixing with the versatility
they’re already familiar, taking full advantage of their
of dynamic audio object–based mixing in
chosen automation system’s plus points.
an approach that gives total control over
Dolby Atmos also provides an optimised experience
placement and movement of individual
in every cinema by virtue of the way the soundtrack
sounds within a theatre. With Dolby Atmos,
is mastered and delivered to the cinema. This allows
music, dialogue, ambience, effects and
the soundtrack to be rendered to account for each
other audio events are handled as up to 128
individual cinema’s size and shape as well as speaker
separate 24-bit audio streams (channels
type and placement. This not only means the soundtrack
or sound ‘object’ elements). Each object
is optimised for each cinema, it also allows flexibility when
is accompanied by metadata, including its
designing the exact speaker placement.
X/Y/Z co-ordinates within a hemispherical
This same technology can also be used to easily create
space at a certain point in time.
deliverables such as 5.1 and 7.1 versions, allowing
During playback, Dolby Atmos renders these audio objects according to their positional metadata, using the most
distributors to forget about the costly headache of carrying
appropriate speakers that are present in the auditorium. Sounds can be rendered to an individual speaker if desired
multiple format inventories. With Dolby Atmos, the era
to create highly position-specific effects or they can be rendered across arrays of speakers to create ambient or
of ‘package once, distribute anywhere’ has truly arrived.
diffuse surround effects. They can also be panned smoothly through a large number of separate speaker positions
The flexibility and creative control that Dolby Atmos
to create a fluid sensation of physical movement around the auditorium — even overhead.
brings is being explored by a growing number of movieDolby Atmos eliminates the complexity of dealing with multiple versions and keys. A single DCP allows playback
makers who are using the system as a powerful extension
that’s tailored to each cinema’s setup — even theatres without Dolby Atmos installations. The system is already
of the traditional multichannel mixing process. ‘What
showcased at more than 20 locations around the world and the first theatrical release with a Dolby Atmos mix is
this new technology gives us is a much more precise
Disney-Pixar’s Brave that premiered in the US in June.
localisation of the sounds,’ notes Ian Tapp. ‘Also, one of
the very interesting aspects for me is the scaling nature
and way the technology applies to different auditoria, from a small art-house theatre
colour, zoom effects, Steadycam, 3D, multichannel sound — that change the rules
up into a big multiplex.’
of engagement between director and audience. As Cortés notes, these innovations
‘[With Dolby Atmos] we’ve gone from having a limited but quality surround to a
quickly evolve from ‘novelty’ status to being another tool in the film-maker’s armoury.
full range, full level surround and the addition of our overhead speakers,’ says Mike
‘At the end of the day it’s always about story telling, and everything you use is a
Hedges, supervising senior rerecording mixer at Park Road Post Production in New
tool. You’re trained to create a certain emotion in the audience — maybe you want
Zealand. ‘To me, that has been a long time coming.’
to surprise them, or take them somewhere else. You can use those tools in a very
‘I think it gives us a whole new level of creativity,’ concurs Park Road’s senior
destructive way, which is always a risk. If you get fascinated by the tool itself, and you
rerecording mixer Gilbert Lake. ‘We’re getting the audience involved and pulling them
don’t remember that it’s a medium, and you think that it’s a goal in itself.’
into the picture and into the experience of watching a movie.’
Cortés predicts a similar trajectory as the new system is gradually assimilated into
The central narrative role of sound in the cinematic experience is further underlined
the film-maker’s arsenal. ‘What I find fascinating about Dolby Atmos is that it’s a very
by director, producer and screenwriter Rodrigo Cortés. The award-winning creator of
natural next step. So it’s easier to get what you want. It is a huge jump… but you don’t
2010’s Buried has evaluated Dolby Atmos with test scenes from his latest release,
feel it that way. It’s just something logical that you adapt to very quickly.’
the paranormal thriller Red Lights that stars Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver.
The director also sees the system as being a useful next-generation audio solution
Cortés was initially tempted to audition the system with noisy, action-packed set
for a wide range of movie-makers. ‘It’s valid for every kind of genre. It’s not good just
pieces but he soon found himself drawn to exploring the possibilities of Dolby Atmos
because it’s spectacular. It’s good because it gives you more accuracy so it’s easier to
with subtler scenes focusing on dialogue, ambience and incidental sounds. A séance
get what you want.’
at the beginning of the movie allowed him to place sounds with total precision,
‘Any tool that we have and can use to create a better storytelling experience and
adding a heightened emotional dimension to the scene. ‘I’m pleasantly surprised,’
create that emotional, visceral, excited reaction in an audience – that’s what it’s all
says Cortés, whose directorial roots lie in sound design and music production. ‘You
about,’ states sound designer and supervising sound editor Erik Aadahl. ‘That’s why
start thinking differently because you have total control of every side of the theatre
we like stories and that’s why we go to the movies. I’ve been thinking about [Dolby
— which affects even the narrative in terms of mixing. Now you have the possibility
Atmos] and designing material to play in this format, and I’ve been realising more and
of controlling it in a very subtle way: you can be more subtle because you have more
more that this is like an instrument now. In the beginning, we’ll just be cracking the
control of nuance.’
surface of what this format can do.’ n
Cortés welcomes the extra spatial resolution that Dolby Atmos affords, seeing it as
Reference
a significant step forward from current multichannel systems. The evolution of cinema
[1] Harvey Fletcher, The Stereophonic Sound-Film System. JSMPE, October 1941.
has been shaped by a steady succession of disruptive technologies — widescreen,
T*AP
D*AP
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loudness
under control
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C8000
www.junger-audio.com
[email protected] • phone 030 677721-0
September 2012
EBU R128
ITU.1770/-2 ATSC A/85
resolution
IBC 2012, 10 D20
55
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