AES Discusses Audio’s Future

The Audio Engineering Society’s 57th International Conference, held March 6-8, 2015, took as its theme the future of audio entertainment technology, focusing on delivery via the cinema, television and the internet.
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Brian McCarty, co-chair, AES 57th International Conference
Hollywood, CA (March 10, 2015)—The Audio Engineering Society’s 57th International Conference, held March 6-8, 2015, took as its theme the future of audio entertainment technology, focusing on delivery via the cinema, television and the internet.

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Encompassing issues of acoustics, the challenges of low frequency reproduction, loudness, processing, personalization, and the many and various immersive formats, the three-day conference was aimed squarely at the Hollywood community. The convention attracted more than 150 audio professionals to the flagship Dolby Atmos-equipped screen at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood, CA.

Running from 8:00 a.m. to well past 5:00 p.m. daily, the convention delivered far more information than can be summarized here (a more detailed report will appear in PSN May 2015). Happily, Brian McCarty, chair, AES Technical Committee for Digital Cinema and Television, and the conference co-chair (with AES past president Sean Olive, director of acoustic research at Harman International), conveniently summarized the convention as it drew to a close.

The numerous immersive formats were discussed in great detail over the weekend, from ambisonics and binaural to channel-based schemes such as Auro-3D, the object-based systems being produced by Dolby Labs and DTS, as well as the hybrid MPEG-H standard. The plethora of formats gave rise to a humorous meme, the concept of a “magic renderer” capable of parsing any scheme for production, monitoring, QC and playback purposes; in fact, such a renderer is likely going to be essential if immersive formats are to advance.

With so many formats in play, presenters returned time and again to the need for standards, from production to playback, and the work currently being undertaken to develop them. “That’s one of the areas where the AES can participate: organizing very well-monitored listening tests to understand what we need to do to make better product,” said McCarty.

As McCarty noted, many panelists pointed to the personalization of content and the virtualization of immersive formats to headphones—principally through streaming services—as offering tremendous and immediate potential. “We’ve seen many different techniques for developing and delivering these immersive standards and other audio formats to the headphone market,” said McCarty. “We need to start putting production workflows in place to deal with them.”

Dolby Atmos-encoded movies started to become available on Blu-ray Disc late last year and the ATSC is currently developing the next generation broadcast standard, which will include immersive delivery, but streaming services are already bringing binaural and multichannel surround to the home and mobile platforms. “I think we need to be aware that streaming is the future of a lot of our distribution and we need to maintain our vigilance so that we get the same kind of attention that the picture side gets when standards are being developed for streaming,” McCarty said.

Louis Hernandez Jr., chairman and CEO of Avid Technologies, presented the opening keynote, offering his company’s vision of the future for the music market. The economic model is broken and the industry is in transition, he said, and Avid believes it can address the inequities, ensuring that content creators are fairly compensated through new technologies, such as metadata tagging.

Audio Engineering Society
www.aes.org