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the production process. So, the same programme could be transmitted to two people and one could listen to it in stereo and the other in surround sound. BBC R&D tried this out with a stereo Radio 4 broadcast that could also be streamed in 5.1 from the Internet. In addition, object-based audio allows the user to set their own parameters, choosing to hear certain aspects of a broadcast louder than others. This is useful on both an accessibility level and a personalisation one. One example might be making the crowd louder than the commentary during a sporting event. With the right combination of feeds (and placement of microphones), the viewer might even be afforded the chance to hear a certain element of the crowd above another, allowing them to essentially ‘sit’ in a specifi c part of the stadium. A third example could use ‘perceptive media’, whereby if the programme knows something about its audience, content can then be tailored to, say, their geographical location. Sounds brilliant. Does anyone want it? Well, that is what researchers are trying to fi nd out. actors were saying. With an object- based audio broadcast those same viewers would not have been able to stop the actors mumbling of course but they might have been able to enhance the dialogue tracks in order to make them be heard above the background noise, sounds effects, music etc. “Sound is [currently] a passive experience,” says Dollin. “You get what you’re given. We don’t take into account different hearing abilities and how you might want to personalize that experience. There are technologies on the horizon that will allow you to [make some choices].” sound broadcasts to suit their personal preference.” The latter also showed a new soundbar concept that would negate the need for external speakers by pumping sound out from all sides of a TV set. “Future UHD TVs might build similar technology into the TV itself, offering consumers an ‘un-box, plug-in, enjoy’ experience with immersive sound,” says Robert Bleidt, general manager of Fraunhofer’s audio and multimedia division. “That will be much better than the soundbars of today, with no wires or external components at all [and] will greatly enhance the audio experience for a broad consumer base without complex installation and set-up.” So we know that the BBC and Sky are What is the current researching this. state of play? not There Are any manufacturers We’re challenges there to yet. be overcome are in still production and distribution, particularly getting involved? in terms of what sits inside the set- Very much so. At NAB Dolby demoed a prototype of its object-based multichannel-mixing approach which includes hardware tools and software control while Fraunhofer revealed an ‘Interactive 3D Audio System for TV’ that allows viewers to “personalize At BVE this year John Dollin, senior applied research manager at BSkyB, revealed that despite the broadcaster having transmitted 5.1 surround sound for more than 10 years - and now to 70-odd channels - the number of people that listen in 5.1 is, in his words, “still not where we would like it to be.” top-box. But there is interest. It may or may not be the way forward as far as immersive sound is concerned but what is certain is that object-based audio is worthy of consideration amongst all this chatter about the immersive nature of picture resolution. He points to the expense of owning a surround system for the home and the “aesthetic appeal” (or lack of it) when you need to run cables across the living room At the same time, viewers care greatly about sound: especially if they cannot hear it. Just take Jamaica Inn for example. The BBC costume drama was widely criticized in April when viewers couldn’t make out what the © TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 89 MAY 2014 | 47