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Television audio: the future is customisable and 3D

15 September 2015

The next generation of Ultra High Definition televisions (UHDTV) will offer not only crystal-clear images but also perfect sound, according to Fraunhofer researchers.

The MPEG-H 3D Audio standard will allow television viewers to individually customise their TV audio (photo: Fraunhofer IIS/Boxler/Schilling)

At the IBC trade show in Amsterdam this week, Fraunhofer researchers presented a TV audio system based on the recently published MPEG-H 3D Audio standard, which lays the groundwork for the television audio of the future. Besides offering immersive audio capability, this new technology allows viewers to customise the audio playback of their television or other devices.

Thanks to the new MPEG-H 3D Audio standard, viewers will be able to individually adjust volume settings for elements such as different commentators without affecting the volume of other elements, such as the stadium atmosphere.

“Users themselves are able to customise the audio playback on their home TV as they desire, whereas previously such changes could be made only by the TV station itself," says Matthias Rose of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen, Germany, which led the development. "This technology is known as object-based audio transmission. When equipped with the right speaker configuration, this new technology also allows for a true 3D listening experience at home. This really makes the viewer feel a lot more like they’re a part of the action.”

The MPEG-H 3D Audio standard offers a number of ways to transmit audio content. Individual audio channels can be transmitted directly, as is currently the case, or they can be delivered as scene-based audio signals (Higher-Order Ambisonics). Additionally, the individual elements of the audio signal can be transmitted as audio objects.

“In practice, we expect audio signals in the future to be comprised of a channel- or scene-based description of music and effects, the sound bed, and several audio objects that contain primarily speech elements,” says Rose.

This technology isn’t expected to be available to consumers for a few more years yet. It must first be standardised for general broadcast use before it can be deployed by broadcasters and installed in devices by manufacturers.


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