Now ITU recommends 3D audio format for broadcasters, but BT favours Dolby Atmos

posted on Friday, 23rd October 2015 by Steve May

4K  Broadcast  Dolby Atmos  3D Audio 

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The ITU has rubber stamped an object-based immersive audio format for broadcast use. Dubbed Recommendation ITU-R BS.2088-0, it’s being suggested that the system will “create a listening experience that is closer to real life.” Improved audio has been a theme of many of the industry conferences on UHD broadcast standards, with a number of standards, both open and proprietary, championed.

The ITU says its recommendation “will facilitate the production and exchange of advanced audio files by allowing a single file to carry a complete audio programme containing audio samples as well as metadata for any combination of object, channel and scene-based audio.” The new file format is based on the existing RIFF/WAV file format. It’s envisaged that it would be used alongside 4K UHD broadcasts – “further blurring the line between physical reality and virtual or digital simulation.”

The audio standard brings with it advanced functionality, with viewers able to select their own menu of services. This could include setting language and dialogue levels and selecting different aspects or sections of programming.

“The ITU global standard for immersive audio sets an important step for an exciting new age of ‘sound’ for broadcasting,” says ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “The advanced audio systems will provide additional features and performance well beyond those available today.”

However the ITU recommendation is far from a done deal. Currently the only broadcast 4K service in the UK comes from BT. Jamie Hindhaugh, COO for BT Sport and BT TV, told Inside CI, that it is looking at the possibility of adopting Dolby Atmos as a 3D audio platform.

 “Audio is the forgotten part of the TV production chain,” he says. “Dolby Atmos offers a level of personalisation and sense of presence that we haven’t heard before. We want our broadcast to be your ticket to the game. We think that high-end customers will want 5.1.4. It’s not going to be for everyone, but as part of our more premium product offering it will really enhance the experience.”

Suggested functionality that BT could offer includes control over commentary and crowd noise. Viewers could control the volume, turn off the commentary completely, or opt for local radio commentary.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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