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28 l January 2013

broadcastfeature Pushingthe

As HD, 3D and UHD jostle for position, extended surround sound looks set to be part of future TV systems.Kevin Hiltonlooks at whether broadcast is driving the need for more sophisticated sound capture

BROADCAST HAS always laboured under an image of workaday practicality compared to its supposedly more glamorous distant relative, the cinema. Audio in particular reflects this. Despite producing inspired engineers and talented operators, TV and radio sound have lived in the shadow of film with its seat-rumbling, loudspeaker-shaking, multi- tracked aural extravaganzas. But now broadcasters are seeking to get back on an even footing with the movies. TV is also adopting 3D but is looking to go further with a fully immersive home experience, as embodied in the FascinatE (Format-Agnostic SCript-based INterAcTive Experience) project (see box, page 29). Higher definition formats going beyond current HD are another contender. In both cases true spatial audio, with height as well as width and length in a sound picture, is a major factor in creating a new form of TV viewing. Surround sound formats like Ambisonics and microphones such as those produced by SoundField, Holophone and Core Sound, have the potential to come into their own as broadcasters look at ways to acquire sound for more elaborate video systems. Gary Elko, president of MH Acoustics, developer of the Eigenmike surround array, says broadcast audio with realistic spatial play-back is “becoming interesting”, as broadcasters want to “do a better job” than systems that relied on parametric derived information. Elko feels better acquisition does not necessarily need surround sound, with post-processing of mono or stereo recordings to dynamically spatially change a mic beam pattern. “For surround they [broadcasters] have some home-brew systems, academic developments and Ambisonics,” he says. “Current Ambisonic systems are only capable of first


The Holophone H2 Pro was used during the first HD broadcast of a National Hockey League game

“Sport is what drives a lot of innovation in broadcast, but people are now looking at 5.1 for ENG (electronic news gathering)”

Pieter Schillebeeckx, SoundField

order eigenbeams. These are too wide for higher resolution playback systems, so there will be a need for higher order, or more, directional mic arrays.” Ambisonics was invented by

mathematician and recording engineer Michael Gerzon in the early 1970s to go beyond both stereo and the quadraphonic systems of the time. As part of this work Gerzon developed the ‘Soundfield’ microphone, which was initially manufactured by Calrec but later by a company bearing the name of the product.

A SPORTING CHANCE Just before this year’s IBC, SoundField was bought by TSL Professional Products Limited (TSL PPL). SoundField’s head of R&D, Pieter Schillebeeckx, is still with the company, focusing on

product and brand development supported by TSL PPL’s R&D and product management teams. Schillebeeckx sees the growing

use of 5.1 for live TV, particularly sport, as a “second coming” for the format but acknowledges there are more immersive technologies to come. “Sport is what drives a lot of innovation in broadcast,” he says, “but people are now looking at 5.1 for ENG (electronic news gathering). More viewers expect 5.1 sound now and ENG could make a difference.” The Core Sound TetraMic is also based on Gerzon’s original Ambisonics patents, most of which are now in the public domain. Company founder Len Moskowitz is not convinced that broadcasters are behind the search for more sophisticated

ways to capture sound, saying it is intimately connected to how consumers are using sound. “The market is very varied, with people listening on iPads but others have very elaborate home theatre systems,” he comments. “Listening is done in mono as well, so broadcasters have to address all these potential targets.” Moskowitz feels 5.1 is not as

widespread as might be thought and says the majority of listening today is still not surround. “So many people listen over headphones or earphones,” he says, “so if you’re thinking surround for personal listening then binaural should be included in that as well.”

FILMS ROUND AT YOUR PAD The rise of the smartphone and tablet as a way to listen to music and watch films and TV has drawn the attention of both big, established companies, including Dolby, and new start ups, such as Dysonics, founded in 2011 by academics formerly at the University of California, Davis. In broadcasting the BBC has included binaural for headphones in its research into spatial audio at its new R&D labs in MediaCityUK, Salford. Jonathan Godfrey, chief

executive of Holophone, agrees that the audience is now ahead of broadcasters and expects more than just two channels for its audio. “Consumers have already embraced 5.1 as an accepted, standardised format,” he says. “It’s now up to content creators to deliver a rich, immersive experience that faithfully translates environments from the point of capture to the viewer at home.” Holophone recently announced a new series of single-channel microphones for stage performance and studio recording but is still best know for its surround sound technology. Its current surround range includes: the H2-Pro 7.1, H2-Pro 5.1, H3-D, H4 Supermini and the Portamic 5.1 and Pro models. Schoeps offers a variety

of options for surround, from the double M/S rig featuring a front-facing cardioid or supercardioid ‘mid’ microphone, a figure of eight ‘side’ mic and a rear-facing directional mic, to the KFM Surround, based on the KFM 360 sphere. Sanken has a single entry in this category, the WMS-5, which it claims was the world’s first five-channel surround mic in one casing. A relative newcomer to the

surround mic market is DPA, with its 5100 mobile unit. The company’s chief executive, Christian Poulsen, identifies two trends in surround today:

DPA’s 5100 with 4017 shotgun mic

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